Online Letters, January 23, 2018

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 5:08pm

Malaysian government not doing enough to protect wild elephants

Friends of the Earth Malaysia (FOEM) is astounded at the death of yet another wild elephant in Gerik, Perak. The incident occurred on January 3 when a 40-year-old female elephant was electrocuted by a live wire on a construction site.

The herd of elephants had come into populated areas foraging for food. These pachyderms have lost their natural habitats due to extensive and uncontrolled land clearance leading to increasingly fragmented habitats. According to an elephant expert, a suitable habitat is lost when roads are built that traverse grasslands and bring vehicular traffic.

FOEM, NGOs, and members of the community have expressed concern on several occasions over the number of roadkill deaths of elephants and other endangered species, but it appears that the Malaysian highway authorities have not considered addressing the many letters published in the media.

Malaysian elephants are exposed to dangers from all fronts – from becoming targeted by poachers, collisions with vehicles, poisoning, and being shot or killed by plantation workers. The future of our elephants is bleak.

The electrocution of this lactating female elephant brings to mind a similar incident in Sabah where seven endangered pygmy elephants died in an abandoned quarry pond last year. It is irresponsible to leave work projects that are a hazard to humans and animals.

What if a human had ventured or gone near the cabin and accidentally stepped on the live wire? The loss of one elephant is a number less and what about its baby? It may follow the herd but what are its chances of survival without its mother?

This cause of death should be clearly investigated and not taken lightly by the country’s wildlife department. Such irresponsible action of the parties involved should not be condoned.

Given this situation and neglect of safety protocol, FOEM urges the wildlife department to conduct an in-depth probe into the unfortunate incident and calls for investigations and findings to be made public as soon as possible.

S.M. Mohd Idris, president, Friends of the Earth Malaysia (FOEM)

City’s wide wealth gap caused by uneven distribution of resources

I agree with those who argue that the safety net provided to help people living in poverty in Hong Kong should be widened.

This is important given that so many people are now living below the poverty line. The government already has in place subsidies, for example, to help schoolchildren and their families on low incomes.

But there are still a lot of needy people who appear to be struggling to get by with little or no help.

I also think that some subsidies should also be made available to those families from the lower middle class who are struggling to cope with rising rents and other prices in this very expensive city.

For example, a couple with two children of school age face a lot of additional expenses, including textbooks, extracurricular activities and sometimes tutorial classes. All these expenses accumulate and as I say with skyrocketing rents there can often be little left over even if both parents are earning a wage. They are often under a lot of intense financial pressure.

It is a well-known fact that Hong Kong has a wide wealth gap. This is basically because of the uneven distribution of resources. Even when house prices go through the roof, affluent citizens can cope fairly easily. But these prices hurt many families from the middle class. The government has to reconsider its policies and think of ways to halt the increase in the number of poor in our society.

As I say, subsidies have generally only been made available to citizens from the poorest levels of society. Now, assistance must be made available to other residents who need help, such as from the grass roots and lower middle class. The government must do everything it can to alleviate poverty in Hong Kong.

Sharon Cheng, Yau Yat Chuen

Many youngsters not really prepared for workplace of the future

I agree with educators who have expressed concerns that many local students are not properly prepared for the workplaces of the future.

In our education system emphasis is still placed on what we learn in books and doing well in exams, in particular, the notorious Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education. Students who do well in it will get a coveted place at one of our universities.

There is no doubt, that academic knowledge is important, but it appears to be at the expense of everything else. There is a lack of diversity in the way schools and their classes are organised. This means there is a lack of training on the practical issues of learning the skills needed to do well in an office environment. Many young people are emerging as university graduates with no work experience of any kind and employers often value that kind of experience.

Young adults who have done well at rote learning, might not have developed critical thinking and analytical abilities and may therefore be unlikely to take the initiative and show the necessary leadership skills.

Schools need to shift the focus away from turning young people into learning machines. They need to get some work experience and be encouraged to think for themselves. There should also be greater promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects for which there is now much greater demand in the modern workplace, especially with developments in new technlogy.

They should follow the lead set by schools in the US and some European countries where the focus is heavily on other learning experience outside the the scope of the regular curriculum. This can help students grow into young adults who in a competitive office environment can think outside the box. Finland, famous for its success in education, focuses heavily on students developing their interests. This should also be happening in our schools.

All schools should certainly ensure that short work experience secondments are available for pupils in the career areas that interest them. This can give them a deeper understanding of the job and help them decide if it is what they want.

Changes are needed in the local school curriculum if we are to ensure that Hong Kong can remain competitive.

Lau Hiu-kwong, Tsuen Wan

Fixation with exam results in Hong Kong has to end

I agree with my fellow students who have complained about the stress levels in the local education system being too high.

Students are under a lot of pressure from teachers and their parents, who often have unrealistic expectations. These young people are forced to work long hours, during the school day, but also in the evening with homework. They are often left with insufficient time to relax and develop psychological problems such as depression.

Last year my cousins came back from the US and a relative asked how many As they got in exams at college, instead of asking how they were enjoying their time at school. I am asked if I am near the top of my class and I find this embarrassing, especially when the results are not as good as expected.

Learning is important, but we should not become obsessed about exam results. If we are not talented academically we should not get too upset about this and we should not think we are useless.

I understand the motivation of parents, they want their children to have a better life and to have improved job opportunities, but it does not help to put young people under so much pressure. Parents need to spend more time relaxing and playing with their children. Life is not just about studying. Some things are more important than that. Even at school young people should be aiming to achieve the right work-life balance.

Edna Lau, Tseung Kwan O

Attract more young workers by improving conditions in construction sector

Even though construction workers got a pay rise last year, they said they were often not getting enough work.

Even though there are a lot construction and major infrastructure projects, the way the sector is organised means that there is a lack of stability when it comes to working hours. This is part of the reason for there being an outflow of talent. People can go to another line of work where they are guaranteed the hours and therefore the pay.

The government should provide more welfare and try and get the sector to ensure greater job security. If the prospects are more attractive, more young people will consider taking it up as a career.

Too many people on the workforce are middle aged and new blood is needed for the construction industry. It needs a workforce that is going to be there for decades and that is only possible is there job stability, with the promise of regular hours and pay and promotion.

Laura Liu, Kwai Chung