Jumaat, 18 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Stamping their creativity


An art contest celebrates children with special needs' creativity, and immortalises their best works in commemorative stamps.

TO celebrate the creativity of children with special needs, Kakikreatif, Pos Malaysia and UNICEF organised The Colours of My World art contest.

"All entries are eloquent reminders of the outstanding talent and contribution children with disabilities can make.

"A child is not disabled because they cannot walk, see or hear. They are disabled by a society that excludes them. When we see the disability before the child, it is not only wrong for the child, it also deprives the rest of us, of all that the child has to offer. Every single one of these paintings from children with disabilities from all over Malaysia reflect the unique and meaningful way in which they see the world around them. What better way to honour their talent, than by celebrating the ability of children with disabilities," said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia Wivina Belmonte when unveiling a set of stamps bearing the three winning entries.

They were unveiled today at The Pavilion shopping center in Kuala Lumpur, in conjunction with Universal Children's Day 2013, and will go on sale on Tuesday.

The artwork gracing these stamps were by three winners Stephanie Tam Zhu Shin from Selangor, Lovira Jospely from Sabah and Intan Syafienaz Mohamad Bakhid from Perak. They were picked out of 120 submissions from other children with disabilities.

This marked UNICEF's 5th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Each winner received a RM10,000 cash prize from Pos Malaysia for their efforts.

"As a disabled child, I always want to get along with all the different ethnic groups (in Malaysia) that have good health. There are many disabled children in Malaysia just like me. They need help. Different people have difference abilities and weaknesses," said 3rd prize winner, Intan Syafienaz, 17 who drew her water colour piece with reflections of Malaysia's multi-ethnic society as her cultural inspiration.

Explaining their inspiration in creating their pieces, 14-year-old Stephanie who has developmental disability cited colour and nature as the inspiration for her winning artwork, while fourteen year-old Lovira was inspired by the concepts of love and friendship. This is the second initiative between Malaysia's postal service and UNICEF. In 2009, Pos Malaysia joined forces with UNICEF to create the Caring Society stamp set to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The limited edition commemorative stamps will go on sale from Tuesday at all Pos Malaysia outlets.The public can also get a first day cover and customers who utilise Pos Malaysia's mail services will get a very special postmark on their mail with the message "Celebrating the abilities of children with disabilities".

The Colours of My World exhibition will be on display at Level 6, Pavillion Mall until Oct 25. To see the children's artwork, visit children4change.unicef.my/colours_of_my_world_stamps.html

Bonjour la France


This family was prepared for their move from Kuala Lumpur to Paris, but adapting to a new environment still took time.

COMING to live in France was something I was always prepared for. Being married to a Frenchman, one has to be ready for that sort of thing. After all, my husband had spent 10 years in Malaysia and is very accustomed to eating roti canai and dhal for breakfast. Now it's my turn, and I don't see any problem in eating buttery croissants for breakfast. The problem will be fitting into my jeans. I confess though, I am a Penang girl at heart and a good kuey teow th'ng is what I miss most some mornings.

But it was the first time I was going to live abroad as a parent, and I did have some panicky moments. When you are single (and young), the unknown is an adventure and you have only yourself to think of. With children though, one tends to succumb less to spontaneity and try at least to have some things planned. You can't crash on a friend's sofa for a few weeks. Registering for school is a little bit more complicated than opening a bank account or getting a membership at the local pool. Not only did we have to have a residential address, we could only register the kids the moment the insurance for the home kicked in, which is the day we moved in. So, if we thought we were being smart and had a lease prior to our arrival and could register the kids in advance, we were mistaken.

I do speak French, and considerably well it seems, according to my husband and my French in-laws and friends. Of course, it could be they were just being polite. The French language is full of subtleties, and I have only started to fully understand the true meanings of certain words now, more than 10 years since I first learnt the language. And certain situations demand a precision in language I fear I have not mastered. The image of being in an emergency room (and how to get there) with my kids, stuck for words, strikes me with fear.

I could go to the butcher with a picture of the cut of meat I want, but Googling for a picture of a urinary tract infection or for a translation in an emergency room seems like a not-so-funny episode of some old comedy on TV. And I am still working on being able to come up with a smart retort to some obnoxious metro fellow passenger there and then, not five minutes later.

Excursions to historical sites are very much a part of the French schooling experience.

Study trips: Excursions to historical sites are very much a part of the French schooling experience.

My daughters are nine and seven, and have spent every summer in France. They speak French fluently and adapt easily. When we announced to them that we were moving permanently to France, they were first of all excited. Then, they started to think that their lives were being ruined, with their friendships destroyed and their beloved grandmother left behind. Their home, with their huge bedroom and a swimming pool, would be an unknown luxury in Paris. As we left our house for the last time, they were choked up and although we had spent months preparing them, wailed "Why do we have to leave? This is our home!"

We did not expect a difficult integration. There was no language barrier for them to overcome although they do seem to speak French with much more fluidity now and have certainly picked up some colloquial largo, or dialect. The cultural affinity was already there. After all, their father is French. They had already been in a French education system.

Two weeks before school started, they were both highly strung. Excited, and anxious at the same time, they bickered. They couldn't wait to start school. I couldn't either.

In France, school is not compulsory but education is; although only a small 0.2% of the school–going population is home-schooled in France. Primary school officially starts when a child turns six, the equivalent to Standard One is CP, Cours Préparatoire.

Children in France are generally not pressured to learn to read before six (they are only expected to be able to read their names), and the focus in preschool, or what is known as maternelle, is to acquire a good level of spoken French. Being able to speak clearly is seen as paving the way to thinking clearly and therefore reasoning, counting, classifying, describing should all follow suit.

At the end of each term, my kids came home with enormous folders of drawings and paintings, often of lines, waves, semi-circles and circles. They were learning how to hold a pencil correctly and the basics of handwriting: another important element focused on at preschool. They are encouraged to explore their senses, their feelings, and imagination. Most important at preschool is learning how to be an élève, ie a student or a pupil, what school is about and being part of a social group.

Living with others requires rules of civility, cooperation and independence. The child learns that the teacher is there not for her only, but for others in the group, too. She learns to be part of a group, but also to understand the constraints of being part of a group.

When my younger daughter was in maternelle (this was in Kuala Lumpur, but the school maintains a French spirit), the remark made by the teacher in her report card was that she needed to "wait her turn and raise her hand to speak".

One thing to get used to in France is the French workers' tendency to strike, and this includes teachers. Earlier this year, they protested against the proposed re-installation of Wednesdays as a schoolday, and there were two days last semester when parents were expected to "be understanding" and keep their children home while the teachers went on strike. And the French parents do understand.

In Paris, the girls walk to school or take their scooter.

In Paris, the girls walk to school or take their scooter.

Strikes and demonstrations are part and parcel of French life and everyone just deals with it. But still, the proposal went through and Wednesday is now a school day.

One evening over dinner, my younger daughter said to me "Mama, we've both made friends in school. How about you? Have you made any friends?"

I explained that for adults, it always took a little longer. My considerate daughter, supportive and full of encouragement, said "Don't worry, next week there is a parents and teacher meeting. You will meet other parents there and I'm sure you will make some friends!"

How do I tell her that French mothers are not inclined to say hello to you and be your friend just because your kids are friends.

So, how are we adjusting almost a year later? I just know that it's all easy to plan, but it's never easy to know how you will adapt and what you will feel, until you are there sur place, facing the life it offers day after day. Today, I feel the panic going slowly, but the craving for the kuey teow th'ng has started.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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