Friday, 4 July 2014

From Kampung Kenang To Kasoa

When the manuscript arrived over two years ago, I'd felt that the book project, though interesting and well-intentioned, wouldn't make much of a splash.

From what I'd heard about it since, it did.

Compiled into a blook, the adventures of a new teacher who was posted to the interior gained quite a following, and the blog itself won the Malaysia Asia-Pacific ICT Alliance Award in 2011.

From Kampung Kenang in Perak to Kasoa, Ghana ... that's over 11,000km (or
more than 7,000 miles) - quite a distance between two books

I guess the emergence of a Book Two would not have been a surprise.

I was more involved with this project than the previous one, from editing and fact-checking to the initial selection and sequencing of the photos. This, along with the other book projects, took up quite a bit of my time, leaving me too tired to blog and stuff.

But looks like it was all worth it.

After several years of teaching maths at Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Kenang in Perak, Muhamad Hafiz Ismail, author of Life Through My Eyes: A Teacher's Little Steps Towards Perfection, left to embark upon a year-long programme for a Master in Education (MEd) in International Development and Education at Newcastle University in the UK.

As part of his studies, he ventured into the West African country of Ghana with a group of fellow students, to study the reflective practices of teachers in the country. Specifically, that of several schools run by Omega Schools, a social enterprise that aims to provide quality education at the lowest possible cost to the poor, located in the district of Kasoa in southern Ghana.

Quite a huge leap.

Sample pages from Life Through My Eyes 2; the design concept is similar
with the previous book, but both can be read as individual volumes

"I chose to study International Development and Education mainly because I wanted to learn about social entrepreneurship, which is still new in Malaysia," Hafiz writes. "Every child deserves the best education. I wanted to find out how I could make a difference by being a teacher and social entrepreneur."

A continuation of his blogged-about adventures in teaching and education, Life Through My Eyes 2: From Kampung Kenang to Kasoa mostly chronicles his time in Ghana and compares his experiences in Malaysia and the UK, with some personal musings in between.

Hafiz has chosen to immerse himself in a world where, despite poverty and lack of what many of us take for granted, people still put a premium on education. "In Ghana, advertisements for private and public schools are present at every road corner, market stall, or bus stop," he notes.

Sample two-page spread from Life Through My Eyes 2: a neighbourhood
somewhere in Kasoa, Ghana

Follow him as he bids goodbye to the teachers and pupils of Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Kenang and flies off to Newcastle, where he returns to the life of a student, to the hot dusty streets of Kasoa in Ghana, where the Omega Schools headquarters is located.

He witnesses first hand the spirit of learning within the students, most of whom come from poor families; learns about the culture: the language, traditional games and food and so on; explores some of the country's rural areas, historial sites and visits a national park; and gets a better grasp about another developing country's education system. To better teach the Ghanaian students traditional Malay games, he even learns a local song.

In the end, he comes away with new perspectives of his chosen field and the realisation that he still has more to learn and do as an educator.

I learnt quite a bit about Ghana from working on this book, and I think readers will, too. More of our young people should look for new opportunities and experiences beyond our borders. To know that he was apparently criticised for his decision to study overseas and undertake his posting to Ghana was a bit sad.

But he's not letting that get him down.

"Still, I want to make my own choice, even though it might be the worst choice ever in other people's minds," he writes. "I want to make the biggest contribution that I can to other people, to education, to society. That is what drives my decision, my choice, my life. Better to regret doing it, rather than to regret not doing it at all."

Hafiz is now a consultant with Frogasia, a YTL initiative to "connect an entire nation through a single, cloud-based learning platform". Follow his further adventures at his blog or the book's Facebook page.

01/09/2014  Listen to the podcast of Hafiz's interview on BFM89.9 about the book.

Life Through My Eyes 2
From Kampung Kenang to Kasoa

Muhamad Hafiz bin Ismail
MPH Group Publishing
214 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-210-9

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