2020: A year of opportunities (for me)

I know that this year people’s lives revolve around COVID-19 and the economy. Some have made it, some have not (my deepest condolences to those affected). As for me, I’ve gained a lot of opportunities to be directly involved in causes that I am passionate about. Before this, I was just somewhat of an observer to issues and causes that have garnered my interest and attention. I have always wanted to become a part of a movement or an organization to mobilize a cause. To be honest, I have had it with merely posting or tweeting stuff online and reading about it in books.

This year I had the opportunity to participate in ‘Parlimen Digital’. Submitted my application, and got selected to become a ‘Digital MP’. I met a lot of people who have the same passion for politics and policies as I do. What transpired from there is that I get to be a volunteer for Undi Sabah, in conjunction with the 2o20 Sabah state election, to mobilize youth political participation in Sabah. I was also invited to become one of the panelists for the Undi Sabah Summit, a week before the Sabah state election, to provide my insights as a Sabahan youth who is working as a teacher. In addition, I had the opportunity to co-write a chapter for a book on Sabah politics focusing on political participation among youths in Sabah and mobilizing it through the Undi Sabah movement. It will be released sometime this year I think.

Apart from that, my team (Belia di Bawah Bayu) and I had won the grant for the 2020 YSEALI  (Young South East Asian Leaders Initiative) Online Bootcamp. Our campaign is (still ongoing as of writing this) to create awareness toward the statelessness issue in Sabah and to destigmatize the issue of ‘orang tiada IC’ which is a complex issue that takes root in Sabah’s (before the formation of Malaysia) history of migration which involved Philippines and Indonesia.  This is an issue that I feel every Sabahan should know about and get their facts right because currently, they’re usually the victims of political rhetoric and many Sabahans have succumbed to what the politicians have said about these marginalized groups. It will be Sabah’s own demise if we don’t give them basic rights such as education and healthcare. Many Sabahans have a negative perception toward them and blame them for all the social ills in Sabah (eg. crimes) when statistically citizens are the ones that commit more crimes than them [1].

On top of all these, I, alongside Samuel Isaiah (Top 10 Finalist for Global Teacher Prize Award 2020) and other teachers have co-founded Edufication . Simply put, it is a platform where teachers get to ignite education discourse. Some issues get overlooked in Malaysian education so that is the platform for us to spark the discourse. In 2020 alone I have published 3 articles on that website (click on the title to read!):

1. A call for comprehensive political education in Malaysian schools (Part 1)

2. A call for comprehensive political education in Malaysia (Part 2): Political discussions in classrooms (co-wrote this with Samuel Isaiah)

3. Ulasan Belanjawan 2021 untuk Sektor Pendidikan

Having said that, I will be posting more of my writings on education on Edufication.

Previously I have not met a lot of people with who I share interest and passion not only in the intellectual aspect (an opportunity to learn from them) but also have the will to turn an idea into something concrete. But all of that changed this year. This might sound cliche but despite the COVID-19 situation, this very situation had opened up such opportunities for me. Never in a million years would I have expected it.

Some of you reading this might think that I am being obnoxious, pretending that COVID-19 doesn’t exist and has not affected me in any way. Actually, it did affect my mental health. Because of the lack of varied teaching methods to cater to my students who lack internet access, I had thought that I was a useless teacher. I pity my students who couldn’t get access to an internet connection. Felt helpless. Teaching through WhatsApp is ineffective. I envy teachers in the urban cities who could still conduct classes online through Google Meet. English is the most critical subject in my school and I feel fully responsible if they fail their English subject for SPM. All of this didn’t hit me in the first or second phase of Movement Control Order (MCO), but it hit me during the third phase where schools are ordered to close down again and online teaching resumed. At that moment, I couldn’t wait to teach in physical classrooms again. In the end, rather than lamenting on the situation, I’ve come up with programs for next year’s school term. At least it made me feel like I’m doing something for my profession as a teacher.

Despite the opportunities gained, I too have not spared from the mental health effects of COVID-19. I hope for 2021 to be better but this ain’t a utopia. Just need to adapt.


[1] ‘Pendatang dan Isu Keselamatan di Sabah’ – published by Universiti Malaysia Sabah

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