My Brief Experience Being in an Anti-Vaccination Group

I was a member of a local prolific anti-vaccination group on Facebook many years ago. I joined because I was curious. I wanted to educate myself to the arguments from those of the other side. I joined because I needed to keep my conscious clear that I AM well-informed and that I’m not simply judgmental towards moms or parents who refuse vaccinations for their kids.

One of my old friend from college invited me into that group. Having been a member, I learnt a few things:

1) The adverse side effects of vaccinations or immunization (AEFI) are real. Some kids do experience bad reactions after being vaccinated. From the anecdotal experiences shared by the members, most of the effects are extreme cases of eczema and other skin-related diseases. However, there weren’t any shared experiences by members whose child became autistic after vaccination, other than hearsay from a distant relative or friend who aren’t in the group.

2) The group provides NUMEROUS links on reading materials, documents, journal articles and other publications that were all downloadable for the members to read and “get educated and informed”. The group also provides VERY strong emotional support for the affected members. So if you’re wondering why the antivaxxers are strongly opinionated (or stubborn), it’s because of that. They know they have their community behind their backs to support their choice, and quite worryingly, they REALLY think they are the only ones right and we are the clueless ones on the dark side.

3) The antivaxxers’ reasons to reject vaccines aren’t just religion-based “haram” etc, but their arguments include the controversial ingredients in vaccines (eg. mercury, aborted fetus cells etc. If you are worried, there are plenty of counter arguments against these claims as well. Just read them up) and also the effect of vaccines on neurological disorders (eg. autism, epilepsy, altered nerves system, brain swelling etc) and on the skin (eg. eczema). Antivaxxers also do not believe in herd immunity. Their rebuttal is vaccine shedding. Dr Google works for them, so yeah, anyone can read them up ;)..

4) Not all of the group members are actually anti-vaccination (or antivaxxers). Quite a lot of them are still on the fence and just there to learn new things. For me, it’s better to know what goes on the other side before we give our comments. But that’s just me 😊

5) Given points 1, 2 & 3 above, the antivaxxers can become extremely defensive whenever anyone -doctors or fence-sitting members question certain things. While I was there, whenever I gave even the slightest comment that sounded pro-vaccine (like, maybe it’s due to some other things? Maybe the sinus was hereditary?) I would get bombarded so bad by the rest that I felt like I was being attacked. That was the first thing that made me turned off by the so-called movement. You don’t need to be nasty to “disbelievers”. That is what happened to me. I may have shared my disagreements on the points raised by the antivaxxers on my private FB walls, and that friend who invited me in, who happened to be one of the admins, ousted me from the group. Not only that, she also unfriended me on Facebook. That is the level of paranoia and defensiveness these antivaxxers have. Speaking from my first-hand experience. smh. 

From my short stay in the anti-vaccination group (it has since been disbanded), what I can say is this, bad things do happen to some children following vaccination. However, their number is very small. In other words, they are the minority. Statistically, such a small number isn’t significant enough to warrant a public outcry to ban vaccination or even reject compulsory immunisation. But when I mentioned these things, the typical angry parents would attack me with the usual “Tak jadi kat anak ko, ko boleh lah cakap.” and often proceed with praying that “I get what I deserve” (whatever that means?). What sorta mentality.. I can’t even begin to rationalise. They call themselves pious, abiding Muslims, ikut pemakanan sunnah, bertawakal sepenuhnya pada Allah SWT, yet when hear slight criticism, terus mendoakan anak orang lain sakit. Muslim yang bagus ke tu?

Never once did I belittle their plights. Indeed, it is very challenging and extremely tiring to take care of sick children, children who bleed because the itch is in their blood, who cry every night because they are in pain. BUT, I also believe, these parents were chosen by The Almighty. He knows they can face the challenges, hence, they are given this test. InsyaAllah, banyak pahala jaga anak2 yang tak sihat atau yang istimewa. The reward may not be in this world but certainly, reward awaits in the hereafter. Unlike us, parents with supposedly perfect and healthy children who did not suffer from AEFI. Our challenges may not be in that form, but there are plenty other avenues where He can test us. As they say, rezeki masing-masing, ujian pun masing-masing.

During my brief stay in the anti-vaccination group, I also remembered feeling depressed, paranoid and extremely edgy on a daily basis. It’s not surprising as I was constantly feeding myself with horrific images of sick children, reading sad and torterous experience from parents who willingly share their anecdotes in the comment sections or who upload their posts in the group. I don’t know.. In retrospect, I don’t think that is very healthy. If one keeps living in such a bubble, one might go insane. That was the second reason why I felt that the movement, their beliefs was not for me.

Since many are talking about this anti-vaccination issue, yet again, on social media, I feel that it is important to try to understand where these antivaxxers come from. Are they really victims of AEFI? Or are they just regular people jumping on the bandwagon because being anti-vaccination seem to be “more Islamic”..? Personally, while I do sympathise with the former, I am impartial towards the latter. Quite often, the latter make me feel bad about myself, for they argue that I am allowing so-called foreign substances to enter my kid’s bodies. They can be more paranoid and more judgmental than the first group. All I’m saying is, it IS possible to eat pemakanan sunnah as well as get vaccinated. Why must we choose one over the other? Don’t we want full coverage?

In the end, we are responsible for the choices we make. Do or do not, our children bear the consequences.

Antivaxxers may think they are doing themselves a favour, but look around, if old diseases that have virtually disappeared are making a comeback, if people are fighting/bickering/making riots either online or in the real world about this, perhaps you should just stay anti-vaccinated in the cupboard. Don’t try to influence others (the second group) who may not know what they are doing as this thing affects the rest of us. The majority.


Why I Don’t Think Patriarchy Is That Big A Deal

I got into a mild argument (“mild” because I refuse to engage further, kalau dilayan mungkin berjam gaduh and I ain’t got time for that) with several angry feminists on Twitter when I notioned that patriarchy ain’t all that bad.

Oh, the wrath!

Like I’m totally a woman under some coconut for not knowing the struggles of other women in the world, that I should “check my privileges” before I dare go against the feminism movement, that I SHOULDN’T use my own experience or anecdotal tales of other successful women to belittle other women’s plight in this UNFAIR patriarchal society..

What. The. Heck?

You know why people don’t take the feminist movement seriously? It’s because of you ladies who are angry, bitter and scary all the time! Sesama perempuan pun nak attack, what more fellas with no vaginas. They say I shouldn’t use my own experience to claim that patriarchy isn’t harmful. But aren’t THEY using their own experiences and other anecdotes too, to say that it is? So feminists, if you want people to take you seriously, to take the movement seriously, then please, be calm and sensible when giving out your arguments.

I am all for women empowerment. I support that women ought to be given a fair chance and opportunity for education and pay (if they’re doing the same amount of work as their male peers). But I just DON’T find it a big deal when it comes to the lack of equality or ‘freedom’ in doing house chores. They argued that ideal husbands don’t treat their wives like helper monkeys 😂

Apa nak berkira sangat? Yes, we’re all tired. Yes, it may seem unfair when we “slave” away to meet our husbands’ demands. (By the way, that’s their term, not mine. I never see us doing household chores as slaving, ever). But seriously, why do we women do all that? Is it because we want to prove we’re superwomen? NO. Not at all.

I believe most Muslim women do what we do to please our Creator. To please Allah SWT. Not just our husbands. If we understand and accept our wifely duties, we’ll try our best to fulfill them, and that includes making our husbands happy. For the lack of appropriate English word, because isn’t keredhaan Allah SWT yang kita cari? And this can be achieved by following all of His commandments and avoiding all of His prohibitions. It is MY interpretation that one of the commandments of Allah SWT is to obey your husband. But only the good and responsible ones, of course. I believe many working Muslim women in Malaysia share this view too.

Husbands know, and they SHOULD know, that their responsibilities are far greater than their wives. As leaders of the household, husbands shoulder a LOT of responsibilities. Not just in providing nafkah, but to ensure that their wives and kids are good Muslims. I don’t know about you, but I’m ok to NOT have an equal footing in that aspect. So if they’re the main breadwinner (or shared breadwinner, whichever), they also give nafkah to us, they also ensure the safety of the household, they provide shelter, act as the main (not sole) decision maker, apa lah salahnya setakat buatkan kopi when they ask for it?

Women, especially working moms, are not perfect beings. We may scowl, wear a frown at times, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we need to do. Banyak barakah kalau suami gembira kot.. Saya yang tak pandai sgt hal2 agama ni pun tau. 

(Edit: Having said that, I would like to clarify that I’ve no problems with women who wish to swap gender roles with their husbands. It’s their right (or preference). Even some of my good female friends and relatives are the main breadwinners in their households. Just as they find it normal to swap roles, we find it absolutely normal to stick to the traditional roles.)

Women empowerment is important. Women NEED to be independent these days. Yet, women still need to respect their husbands.

And btw, about my so-called privileges.. Everyone has them. They come in many forms. If not financially, maybe we have a nice family that’s supportive. Maybe we’ve got a great circle of friends. Make whatever it is that we have work for us.

Privileged or not, everyone has their own struggles. It’s time we acknowledge people who, against all odds, manage to overcome their challenges. Regardless whether they are “privileged” or not. Why? Because there are those with similar privileges, yet, they still end up unsuccessful or troubled all throughout their lives. Maybe it has got something to do with privileges, but it’s got more to do with attitudes.

So ladies, let’s be the strong women that we are and check our attitudes.

Our Confusion Over Teaching English at Public Schools

I don’t get Malaysians who are against this Dual Language Program (DLP).
“Another new policy?!”
“What’s wrong with this country huh? Sheeshh”
“That’s it, our education system is useless and has gone down in the dumps!”

I’m sure we’ve all heard those before. In fact, we may have been the ones saying those things ourselves. While I’m not arguing against those outbursts, as they may have some truths to it, my point now is the DLP.

Are those who are against it are even aware what the program is all about? Not every school has to go through with it lah. So don’t get all panicky. (If you’re still interested to read my rants, please click on the link to read a bit about the DLP first).

For schools who DO qualify to go ahead with the program, what are you complaining about? I get that school administrators and teachers may not be in favour of yet again another new policy by the ministry; that there’s just too much additional work to be done. Too much hassle etc.. But wait. At the end of the day, shouldn’t your main objective be your students? Don’t you want to help them be proficient in English? Yes, I am aware that the task of making one proficient in English is NOT easy and that it shouldn’t rest on the teachers alone. Students should, ideally, speak English at home with their parents, family members and friends, they should be surrounded with English books, should only watch English programs and be in a conducive environment.. Unfortunately, not all students have that luxury. So their best bet to learn English is, perhaps, at school. So quit feeling like you’re the victims (even if you really are) and try to motivate yourselves to give the best to your students. Our vocation as educators is a noble one. It comes with a price. Sometimes we don’t get rewarded or even acknowledged but that shouldn’t be a primary concern. Right?

And for parents whose children are at selected schools that qualify for the DLP program.. What are YOU complaining about? Is it because you don’t want your kids to have more exposure of other subjects in English? Is it because your argument is “Why only math, science & information technology subjects? Aren’t the other subjects important too?” (My eyes are rolling at this point, so I’ll just stop). Is it because you’re still dwelling on the perception that the teachers “aren’t ready” yet? Newsflash. That’s why the program is only offered to schools that have the capacity – the manpower and facilities. I believe in our teachers’ capabilities. Some teachers are really good at what they do and are selfless, but they may be overshadowed by those who aren’t or a bit berkira with their job scopes. Nonetheless, if we don’t believe in them, how else can they be confident to do their jobs? Let them educate our kids. Yet, at the same time, we shouldn’t outsource too much. We need to be hands-on in our kids’ English learning as well. Speak English with them often. Provide them with the necessary environment to learn and speak English. I’m not an expert myself, so I’m still learning. Let’s learn together and help the teachers in making our kids’ English better.

I personally feel that ending the PPSMI was a mistake. But we need to realize and agree that many Malaysians were against that policy (teaching math and science in English) as well. I’m guessing that was the reason it was ended in the first place. But now when the English standard is sub-par, many Malaysians (including those very same people) are blaming the system and demanding that something be done. In response, the ministry came up with the Dual Language Program. Mind you, it’s still in its pilot stage. So there’s definitely room for improvement. But you can almost immediately hear perfectionist Malaysians scream, “This is not implemented nationwide or statewide. It is only for schools that opt for it and have met many criteria. I foresee many schools opting out due to lack of support from rural folks, teachers and Guru Besar etc”.. 😐

So, back to my original question. I really don’t get it. What do you want, Malaysia?

Life’s a Struggle

Someone (who is also a former student) asked me on Twitter: “@izyanizulkifli salam hi mdm. Would you be willing to share your experience of becoming a lecturer? Like how did you begin back then?”

I favourited her tweet a while back and promised to write a post about it. Then as usual, we get preoccupied with things and I forgot. Oops. But having been at the hospital the last few days, I recall her tweet and remembered that I’ve blogged about it before. It’s an old post but the points are still relevant. So here is my post again 😊


Do you remember when we were kids in primary school, every now and then the class teacher would distribute a form or a small booklet asking us students what we wanted to be when we grow up? I remembered looking around at my friends’ ambitions and saw that the popular occupations were always chosenfirst -‘doktor’, ‘akauntan’, ‘peguam’, ‘jurutera’.. Those who didn’t really know what they wanted to be yetoften sees the role model in front of them as convenient, so’cikgu’ is usually a popular second.

As for me, like most children who look up to their parents, I tend to want to be what my parents were at the time. So I always wrote ‘kerani’ after my mom’s job at the school where I was attending because I didn’t really know or understood what it was that my dad was doing. Upon submission to the teacher, she would go through…

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Overnight at the Hospital

In late April last year, I was in the hospital ward feeling nervous and excited at the same time while waiting for the arrival of our third bundle of joy. It was around 2am that I excitedly shared a photo on Instagram of me wearing the batik and bouncing on my gym ball while breathing long and deeply to cope with my contractions. A few hours later, our bouncy baby girl was born. 

Today, I’m in the same hospital, though not in the same ward, thankfully.. But this time I’m here to accompany that same baby girl. Who would’ve thought, huh?

She was admitted this morning for high fever and dehydration. We don’t normally bring our kids to the hospital when they are feverish but this time around, it was a bit different. She was really weak, not active, didn’t have any appetite, threw up a lot of fluid and above all, she looked sick. This is our baby an hour before leaving the house this morning, posing next to her more jubilant and cheeky older brother. 


Those who knew our baby girl knew she has the roundest, brightest eyes. And a wide toothless grin to boot. Those eyes and grin were not present this morning, nor were they present in the last few days. My mommy instinct told me it was time to have it checked. True enough, her paeditrician advised us to have her admitted as she’s not responding that well to the oral medication for her bacterial infections in the nose, ear and throat that she received two days ago. 

After six hours of waiting at the waiting lounge, she finally got into her ward. Throughout the day, she has had her drip tube bandages changed 5 times. Being a baby, her tiny hand makes it difficult for the plastic needle to stay in place. It easily unplugs whenever she moves or attempts to remove them, and before I know it, blood gushes out. This was her worst ‘accident’ around 1.15am just now 😖 


So in case you’re wondering why I’m still up typing this blog post, it’s because I need to stay awake. I can’t afford to fall asleep because the last time I dozed off, the above happened. She’s still very clingy and doesn’t like to lie down in her own cot. But I’m afraid if I lie down next to her on my bed like just now and accidentally fallen asleep, she might hurt herself again. So now I’m cradling her on my lap while nursing her whenever she needs to. 

Praying that I have the strength and health to take care of my baby, as well as her older siblings. 

University (or College) Dropout

I’m quite tired of hearing people, sometimes under the guise of ‘motivational speakers’, using the phrase “Bill Gates/Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg is a college dropout” as an excuse to being mediocre at university and eventually dropping out. As an educator, it’s quite distressing enough when students don’t have the desire to do well academically but it’s even more disheartening when they opt to quit their studies because they believe paper qualification isn’t important. “Takpe lah, takde degree pun boleh hidup…”

I don’t deny or disagree that the above mentioned people are successful even without a degree. But the problem is, how many people are like Bill Gates? How many are like Zuckerberg, or Jobs or even Tiger Woods? What I disagree with is when youngsters naively think that they can become successful by dropping out. Haven’t they considered that these people are successful in spite of dropping out, not because of it?

A degree or any other type of paper qualification has its virtues. That piece of paper signifies a culmination of effort one puts in towards understanding key concepts and learning a particular skill. Achieving academic excellence demand discipline, focus and endurance that may serve you well in your work environment. Sure, you have the ‘university of life’ or experience that some people insist as being more important but I never said a degree is the only important thing for your career. It’s merely a tool to jumpstart your career. To be good at what you do, that’s where experience and practice come in.

Anyway, back to those who dropout from university and are successful. Some people are inherently brilliant, talented or skillful way beyond their years. By being in the current system, sometimes, it might just slow them down from achieving their true potential. But these are exception rather than the norm.

So unless you are that exceptionally gifted, talented or a whizz in IT or business, get in line like the rest of us and get an education! Then feel free to venture out into any field that you wish. That extra 3 to 4 years of university/college may be your best safety net in case things don’t work out.

Strategies To Score in Exams

Let’s set one thing straight. The foolproof way to do well in exams is of course, by studying. There’s no shortcut about it! Ideally you should start studying from the beginning of the semester, consistently for several hours a day.

What? But that’s so nerdy!

You’ve got to be realistic. While there may be students who do well in exams without having to bury their noses in books all the time, those students are the exception. We average Joes, on the other hand, need to work for it. Yes, life’s unfair. Get over it! Besides, by just allocating several hours a day to studying, you’re not really sacrificing your social life (assuming that you have one). Trust me. You just need to prepare a well-balanced schedule and have the willpower to stick to it.

The following tips are to help enhance those who have studied all throughout the semester. But I guess those who haven’t studied much can also use it.. To pass, perhaps? Hehe.

OK, here goes.

When studying for exams, it helps to know: the format of the exam, coverage of topics and type of questions being asked. Why? Because I believe that apart from studying, students can also increase their chances of scoring better in exams with a proper strategy. You can only strategise if you know what you’re up against.

Format of the exam. This includes the duration of the exam, breakdown of the paper (does it have 2 or 3 parts?), do you have options or must you answer all? Check with your lecturers about the exam format. You may also refer to pass years’ final papers at the library or resource centres.
If you know the duration of the exam and the total number of questions to be answered, you can estimate how long it will take for you to answer a particular question. This will help you avoid not having enough time to answer all that you need. You may be surprised to know that when I grade exam scripts, there are students who took too long in answering some questions that they don’t have enough time to finish their papers. That’s marks wasted. For e.g, if it is a 3-hour exam and you need to answer 5 questions, roughly take 30 minutes to answer each question. The balance of half an hour can be used to draft your answers and to check your work.

Coverage of topics. To know which topics are covered in the exam, ask your lecturers or refer to the course outlines (syllabus). Don’t worry if your lecturers don’t give exam tips. It’s not the end of the world. I remembered when I was an undergraduate, one of my favourite lecturers, Ms Wai Li, will never give exam tips. Her rationale? I’ve taught my best. Now it’s your turn to study, understand and give out your best. Seems reasonable to me.

But my lecturer doesn’t teach that well! So how?

So what? Just because to you your lecturer isn’t doing that great a job, it shouldn’t stop you from gaining knowledge. In this age, there are numerous ways for you to augment what you learnt in class. You can checkout YouTube videos given by professors all over the world or Google the concepts that you’re uncertain about. Just remember to check the sources. The point is, by knowing what’s covered in the exam (even by just referring to the course outlines), you will be guided in your revisions. Otherwise, you’ll feel overwhelmed with so many topics and won’t know where to begin. Related to this, always refer to your textbooks, lecture notes and course materials. Those stuffs you read on the internet are extras. They shouldn’t be used to replace your main references.

Types of questions. The way questions are designed depends on your courses and fields of study. But generally, exam questions are either in the form of short answer (or structured); problems that involve calculations; case studies; long essays or multiple-choice. In economics, most of our questions are of short answer, problems and essay type. Occasionally we’ll have MCQs. So my tips will be based on these types of questions. Why does this matter, you may ask? Well, it really doesn’t if you’re good enough. But if you’re so-so or you haven’t studied as much as you should, then anything that may help you improve your score, is worth looking at, no?

Here are (some of) the strategies that I practiced as a student:

  • For short answer questions, choose questions with the more breakdown of marks. For e.g, a question that’s worth 20 marks may be broken down into 10+10 or 4+6+5+5. Choose the latter whenever possible (unless of course, you know for certain the answers to the former, then choose the former). That way, if you can’t answer one part of the question well, you can still collect marks for the other parts. In other words, you lose lesser marks for inaccurate answers.
  • For short answer and essay questions, whenever possible, opt to answer questions that involve graphs or diagrams. If you recall your lecturer sketching something or writing a certain formulae in class for that particular topic, include that in your answers. Besides scoring browny points for attentiveness, providing diagrams or formulates is a great way to complement your explanations.
  • Whenever possible, choose calculation-based problems over long essay type questions. But only do so if you know how to calculate or solve the problems.
  • For MCQs, the trick is to rule out the obvious wrong choices first and then, narrow your choices to the best answer. Sometimes you can see a pattern with the A, B, C, D options. The best answer is most probably the odd one out.
  • For essay questions, write each point in a new paragraph. It always annoys me to grade answer scripts that look like a bunch of logs. You know, it goes on and on with no paragraphs or indentations. They make examiners sleepy or lose focus. Good luck in gaining their sympathy.
  • Related to the above, you may use bullet points or numberings to answer essays (but do check with your own lecturers if they accept them). However, do elaborate your points well and by that, I mean write proper sentences and NOT leave your answers in point forms only.
  • To emphasise your main points in essays, underline the keywords. Or use a highlighter. This will direct the examiners’ eyes to instantly get what you’re trying to say, although your grammar ke laut.
  • Use good, dark-coloured pens or pencil leads in answering your essays or short answer questions. They make writing pleasant for the students and even more pleasant to read by the examiners. Remember, examiners are humans too. If you make their experience of grading your exam scripts less daunting with minimal grammatical errors and legible handwriting, who knows, they may be more, if not, slightly lenient in awarding you points.
  • I guess that’s it. I’ll add on more if I remember them. I hope by sharing these few pointers, you’ll have a more ‘enjoyable’ time answering your final exam papers

    Good luck!