The past year was not a rosy one for some, but the compassion shown by various parties to those in need is heart-warming.
LAST year, 2015, was a challenging one for Malaysians. Nevertheless, the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity among the people, the private sector and various agencies including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provide hope as we enter 2016.
On my recent visit to Terengganu, Pak Ngah was simply elated when I helped his son, Farid, choose a pair of new shoes for the new school year.
Farid, donned in a football jersey, was also the happy recipient of a new school uniform and school bag.
Pak Ngah and his wife Salmah, were among the 400 families who were more than happy and financially relieved to receive the new school uniforms, shoes and bags, distributed to their children.
The back-to-school items were contributed by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) and Taylors University.
These organisations had contributed to the Ceria Kembali ke Sekolah (Happily Back To School) programme which was jointly organised by the Besut Education Welfare Council and my parliamentary office.
I would like to convey my thanks to everyone for their involvement and help.
This programme is held annually in my constituency of Besut.
Its aim is to ease the burden faced by poor families. With the help of NGOs, government agencies and the private sector, the children from poor families in Besut will be able to attend classes, feeling more comfortable with their new school gear.
In a way, being smartly dressed for school is an added incentive for it helps boost a child’s confidence.
When they feel good about themselves, the tendency is for them to focus on their studies too.
After the programme I visited Saidi at his home. Saidi is a kidney patient who recently received a kidney transplant from a donor.
He had just returned after two weeks of receiving treatment in Kuala Lumpur.
He no longer needs to undergo dialysis treatment three times a week as he did before.
Despite looking frail, Saidi was in high spirits and full of syukur (gratitude).
Saidi’s doctor told me that the cost of his treatment was about RM200,000. His medication costs alone is RM300 per day, all of which is funded by the government.
Saidi, who has been suffering from kidney disease for the past 17 years, says that the government has so far spent about RM500,000 on his medical bills.
In Malaysia, there are now about 150 government hospitals to serve 30 million people.
The government is committed in providing the best medical services to the people, and most government hospitals are equipped with the latest technology and equipment. There are also many highly trained medical specialists serving the community.
After visiting Saidi, we dropped by a food stall in Kuala Besut to quench our thirst.
The restaurant was filled with customers who had returned to their hometown for the year-end vacation.
I was also advised to leave early for the airport to avoid delays as the roads were congested.
I am pleased that the economic activity around Besut is bustling during the school holiday season.
Before heading off to the airport, I visited Fakrul and his four siblings.
They had lost their mother two days ago. Fakrul, 21, aspires to further his education. Three of his siblings are still in school, while their youngest sister, Nia, is only five. His father, an acquaintance of mine passed away last year from cancer.
Arrangements have been made for the orphans to receive social welfare assistance. Many villagers have also donated to help Fakrul and his sisters.
I cannot help but recall verses of the Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad which state that part of our property is owned by our brothers.
I hope that the Besut community embraces the spirit of helping each other and will be able to ensure Fakrul and his siblings are loved and cared for.
The flight back from Terengganu to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, KLIA, the plane was almost full. After arriving at the airport, I met many Malaysians who had just returned from performing the umrah. I stumbled upon Malik,my former neighbour, together with his wife and three children who had just returned from Jeddah. Ustaz Mohammed, who had lead the congregation,was with them.
Many Malaysians have the opportunity to perform the Umrah as the year comes to a close. I pray that their pilgrimage is blessed.
Recently, there’s been news about hardships that have hit businesses and the economy due to falling oil prices.
Many Malaysians are feeling the pinch as living costs increase. There is no doubt that challenging economic conditions are affecting all levels of society. In fact, my ministry has also not been spared from budget cuts!
The government understands the burden faced by the people and often looks for ways to help alleviate their burdens.
This is an ongoing effort, and sometimes the government has to take decisions that are not popular but necessary.
For example, although the response to the GST was less than favourable, its implementation generated more than RM16 billion for the country. This has helped “soften” the country’s financial strain due to falling oil prices.
I am thankful that despite the challenges, Malaysians are able to cope, travel and enjoy the school holidays with their children and families.
More importantly, I am grateful that many NGOs and the private sector have come to assist where possible.
Through continued joint efforts between the government, NGOs and the private sector, orphaned children and those who are less fortunate will continue to be assisted. I am confident of postive outcomes in the months ahead.
To all Malaysians, Happy New Year!
The writer, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, is Higher Education Minister. Connect with him via Twitter @idrisjusoh, www.facebook.com/datoseriidrisjusoh/datoseriidrisjusoh or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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