On the second day we were taken to an orgnisation not so dissimilar to the ETD. We reached the place 40 minutes late as the driver did not quite know where to go.The media Centre is a receiving USD300million from Korea. It has a multimedia studio with chromakey stage and sevral DV cameras. The place also acted as research centre for e-learning materials. Unfortunately due to manpower constraint it can only validate and verify between 17-20 titles per year. We were like that before but now we outsourced our production. We were told Moroccan schools also connected to the internet with various speeds ranging from 2 – 20 Mbps via ADSL and 3G. Most of the equipment were CSR from the companies. Actually I had trouble getting the true picture as the explanation was in heavily French accented English. We were asking some questions but the answers were not quite what we want and after some time we were tired of asking.A real pity. They painstakingly tried very hard to answer our questions but sometimes it did not really come out. How I desperately wish I could converse in either Arabic or French.
How clever the Koreans are, they invested USD300 millions and in the long run they might be getting a lot more than that in return, especially in terms of influence and presence.
The first meeting with Moroccan authority was held at the King Hassan II Academy of Sciences. The academy building is an ornate building with a splendid main hall. The intricate design of the interior really a reflection of the fine Moroccan craftsmen. All the tiles arrangement were inlaid individually piece by piece. The ceiling wood carving was fine and intricate.
The complex comprise Hassan II Academie and Academie Des Science. I was told the complex was once the residence of Moroccan army colonels. The Academie Des Science is a recently completed new building while the rest are the old colonel residence.
The opening was quite a simple ceremony with the minister of Education and Training in attendance. I wonder if they are coming here, our minister would attend such a small ceremony. The visit comprise two team from Malaysia, the energy and education team. The energy team would look into the areas of collaboration in renewable energy and the education team to forge relationship in e-learning initiatives in conjunction with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) realms. Apparently Morocco has a very strong interest in STEM. I am yet to see that.
We arrived in Rabat at night. I cannot quite see what the city is like. But the journey from the aeroport to the hotel took us about 10 minutes and there was not any traffic jam. Most cars are of the French origin. A lot of Peugeots, Renaults, Citroens and surprisingly a lot of hyundais as well. On top of that there is the Dacia Logan, the local version of Renault. Apparently Moroccan do not take seriously their locally made cars, hence the sticker Renault has to be there. Not unlike my daughter who insisted on the Hyundai badge on her Inokom i10. This fascination for imported names are not a Malaysian thing after all. I was wondering how the Koreans can penetrate the African market where as our Proton is struggling even to get to Thailand or Indonesia. The parking space is very tight. you really had to master your side parking skills here. I wonder how they could get out of the parking space with only a few centimetres leeway on both ends. I was told, most cars would bump other cars and leave. In fact I saw one taxi doing just that.
Rabat in one way is very westernised, with the streets much like other French cities. The buildings are an eclectic mix of old and new. The red wall of the old fort still there in the city centre. Later I discovered that this red building are typical colour of buildings in Maghribi, more so in Marakesh.
Rabat also has a tram system. A very chic looking tram run through the city centre. Unfortunately, despite promising myself to ride the tram, I never made it. A real pity. Most of the taxis in Maghribi are Mercedes. I have never seen so many 230E and E230s, old and new on the road. The driver who took us around told me, the Government insists on Mercedes because of its reliability, easy maintenance and relatively cheap overall upkeep.
Earlier this month I had a real wonderful chance to go to a country I have so far heard about in the news or saw in the world atlas. It was a last minute decision,it seemed like normal now for the MoE,last minute decision that is. I was not told that I can go until the morning of the trip. I can only broke the news to the family that morning. The journey to Rabat in Morocco or Maroc in French or Maghribi in Arabic took me to Paris Charles de Gaul (CDG) for a 12 – hour transit. The morning was really cold. I decided to wait it out at the terminal as I do not bring any winter clothing with me. I was checking the world weather a few days before and it showed that the temperature in Rabat was around 14-15C, something that I believe I can tolerate. Hence the decision not to bring any jumper or winter coat. Not knowing there’s going to be a 12 hour transit in CDG airport is another thing. Then again Paris is an expensive city, I have been there before, and I do not have much money to spend, so 12-hour it was, me and another colleague roaming the Terminal 2L CGD, Paris. Inside the terminal was warm and cosy and surprisingly terminal 2L has a prayer room for solat – real bonus. Just like any other airport, it is haven for shoppers. Even inside the 2L terminal you would be spoilt for choices. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, the 300 odd USD that I have must be conserved for the on coming, Rabat, Marakesh and Guelmim visit.
The plane to rabat, Air France took me on another two hour journey, everything were in Arabic and French. We arrived in Rabat Sale Aeroport (as they called here, instead of airport) is a smallish airport, probably of the size K Terengganu or Kota Bharu Airport. It has only two gates ( from my observation). By the time we got through the immigration, the luggage carousel has stopped and our luggage were missing. This is the second time I eperienced missing luggage, the last was almost 30 years ago on my wedding day!. We were told to wait at the hotel, they will trace the luggage to Paris. So for the opening ceremony the next day, I was wearing the same clothes that I wore almost 30 hours before! Fortunately the weather was cold and there was hardly any sweating. We were saved from being smelly, but due to the low temperature I was shivering. I had the thick jacket inside the cargo bag. Fortunately in the opening ceremony it was announced by the host that our luggage have been delivered to the hotel.
We were in Maghribi at the invitaion of the Hassan II Academie des Sciences to work on the collaboration between Morocco and Malaysia. The journey was sponsored together by Malaysia Academy of Science and Ministry of Education and Training, Maghribi. MoE of Malaysia chipped in with the cost of airfare for the MoE officers, including yours truly.
They were two groups involved, one was the group on renewable energy and the other on education. The whole delegation was led by Tan Sri Zaidi Laidin, former VC of UITM, now a senior fellow in ASM. The education group was led by Dato Dr Sharifah Maimunah, former BPK director. I was supposed to speak on malysian schools e-learning experience. It was quite a challenge to communicate as most of the Moroccan team cannot converse in english, despite understanding our presentation. But, most of them can converse in fench and Arabic, constantly switching between codes. I noticed that the more educated ones speak mainly Fench, while the man on the street speak Arabic or Amezer (their second language).
Back in early 2000s when I was part of the Pilot Malaysian Smart School Team, I was coaxed ( coerced rather) to lead the Smart School Management System (SSMS)team. SSMS was an ambitious system that was supposed to automate the the school management. Unfortunately it was rather ahead of its time and the client-server system was unwieldy. It has only one web based function, the rest was only usable for the school LAN. It was piloted in 88 schools but it failed to take off, mainly due to the inability of the system to win hearts and mind of the teachers to use them. Teachers view the system as a programme that they to have to do and on top of that they still need to do the manual processes. This double work further burden the already burdened teachers. Despite much change management sessions, many teachers still did not play their roles in using the system. Most of the works were done by the ICT coordinators or data teachers. The usability and ease of use factors were not there and that led to dissatisfaction. Without users satisfaction, the system was never adopted by users. Fast forward 14 years, a new cloud based version of the system is being rolled out. We still had problems in ensuring teachers use the system as they play in role in the manual processes. To ensure the system is running when the authority came to check, schools tend to assign certain teachers to complete the various tasks. As part of our effort to slowly run in the system with the schools, we start with the students attendance module. In order to sign in students, schools had to ensure all the basic data were in place. That was the strategy to ensure schools fill up the basic data to prime the system. Unfortunately, many schools still resort to assigning a few teachers to do the job despite in real life students attendance should be done by all the class teachers. So far we only get about 60% of the school using the attendance module regularly. Regular problems like slow connectivity, data loss, data duplication, and instability began to circulate in the social media postings. Some even predicting that this system could go the way of SPPBS – causing so much heartache to teachers, the government decided to scrap the system altogether. I am really worried that come 2015, where the attendance module had to go fully live, we would face the same problem as the SPPBS. We are working really hard to rectify the possible problems. Furthermore we have developed the mobile version of the module to enable teachers to use their mobile devices to enter students attendances. Going by the social media postings, even this lite version is apparently has run into problems. Please God, make this work this time. We have worked so hard for this.
The recent uproar over the “I want to touch a dog” event got me thinking. Is the knowledge of our young muslims about Islam today are so shallow that we need to have an event for them to learn? I said young muslims, because from the various images that i saw in the media depicted that most of the attendees were the young ones. I might be wrong there. Another point that perked my interest, why is the event so attractive so much so that about 1,000 people turned up?. And who brought the dogs? Are our youngster so interested in cuddly dogs, many had no inhibition at all in not only touching but cuddling, and even kissing them, probably just like what they saw in the movies. Of course the organiser had also brought along many knowledgeable people to give instruction to the muslims on how to cleanse themselves after touching a dog in a process called “sertu” or “samak”. But how many really come to learn? I had this gut feeling that many turned up to grab the chance to cuddle or pet the dogs.
One posting in the Facebook shown a black and white photo of a row of ulamak in the 40’s (i think) who were just finished their discussions on dogs from Islamic perspective. What is interesting, the photo has a dog on a leash, patiently sitting in the forefront. The impression that I got, the poster was trying to show, even an ulamak has a dog, it is no big deal for Muslims to rear dogs. Of course Muslims can rear dogs but for the right reasons – as guard dogs, hunting dogs,or as sheperd dogs to look after your herds. You’re not suppose to rear them as pets, let alone let them roam into the house. Back home in the sixties, we used to have a dog called Jabut. But of course our house was on stilts, no way Jabut can enter the house. Jabut was a stray dog who came to the house. Mum fed it and we never touch it and kept our distance. It stayed around as our guard dog and I don’t remember what happen to Jabut. It was so skinny and ugly anyway, unlike those cuddly poodle brought to Padang Utama that day.Funny that one of my distant uncle remarked that we might as well rear pigs as both pigs and dogs carry the same level of najis.At least he said one can sell pigs. He made the remark in anger at our Jabut. but Jabut was an innocent dog in a need of a help, so we help it.
Of course, Islam recognise the fact that dogs are Allah’s creation that deserve respect,love and care. The organiser may have a noble intention but they probably did not thoroughly discuss with the religious authority on how to handle the event. He had apologised but then is the event really necessary? Judging by the huge turnout, it probably is. Then again, do the participants came for the right reasons. God knows. I would have thought, it would be more beneficial if we can organise “I to touch a book” or something that would bring tangible benefits to Malaysia.