The clicking-away of cameras and students moseying around the school grounds trying to “scoop” each other is a normal sight at SMK Sri Pantai in Kg Kerinchi.
With only four weeks to go, Lower Six Effective are putting their heads together to come up with the best school newspaper with its own unique character.
“We have a Hot Title column and an attractive masthead that will make our entry stand out among the rest,” says sub-editor Mohd Fadzrullah.
Talking to these students is like trying to get them to let you in on a top-secret mission; it’s a serious measure to ensure the other teams do not “steal” their ideas.
“We have spies in our class so we know what other teams are doing and we can do better,” adds chief reporter Norsuhada Mohd Tambizi.
Interviewing the principal can be quite an intimidating affair, according to Norsuhada.
“You have to be aware of the way you talk, the way you carry yourself and not bulldoze through it,” she says, adding that her communication and writing skills have since improved.
Her school will be submitting 10 entries under the lower and upper secondary categories of the Best School Newspaper Awards 2003, all vying for a class party worth RM500 and a shot at the 13 grand prizes, each worth RM1,000 cash.
For Nor Aishah Zainal Abidin, whose camera skill is usually confined to taking pictures of wedding ceremonies, getting the best picture angle for a story is most challenging.
Students also use The Star as an important reference when assembling their masterpiece.
“Things we look out for are the length of stories, captions, and creative headlines,” says newspaper designer Siti Nor'Ain Herman.
Through her observation, Siti says, simple layouts are more appealing to read than the more formal ones.
English teacher Roslina Shuib says the students are using newspapers more frequently since the contest started as it helps them in terms of vocabulary and writing ideas.
“They take it as a challenge because if they conduct the interview in Bahasa, they will have to translate it into English, which can be quite a task,” she adds.
“I hope the students will continue reading the newspapers and become hunters for news.”
According to school principal Esah Kechik, 85% of the students at Sri Pantai come from low-income families and can't afford books or newspapers.
“It is important to provide such reading materials for the students,” she says, adding the school recently had 70% passes in PMR and 80% passes in the SPM examinations.
To improve students' writing skill and English proficiency, the school launched a DEAR-Star-NiE programme on Aug 4 in conjunction with the Patriotism Month.
DEAR, the acronym for “Drop everything and read”, aims to cultivate the reading habit among its students.
Every Thursday at 7.30am, a total of 1,100 students from Form One to Form Six spend 30 minutes reading any book, magazine, or newspaper of their choice.
Says Esah: “I started the programme because the statistics of people reading two pages a year on average really shocked me.”
The school is one of the 12 that received sponsorship from Unity College International (UCI) last week for 8,300 copies of The Star to be used in the classroom over three months.
“Newspapers should be part our daily diet,” says UCI chief executive officer and Bumihiway managing director Dr Jiwa Mohd Isa.
He presented a mock-cheque of RM5,000 to The Star's circulation manager Jimmy Poey Yee Meng, who received it on behalf of the schools during the Dear-Star-NiE launch.
Dr Jiwa adds that UCI would be committed to these 12 schools for the next two years in providing them with the sponsorship.
“Reading the newspaper is a necessity and no longer a luxury, and The Star provides a wide range of content for reading, making it a very important language tool,” he says.
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