THE common thread running through 2011 for me was education. That’s my takeout when I look through the various chapters of 2011. I took part in initiatives such as the campaign to encourage people to vote UndiMsia, discussions on the teaching of Maths and Science in English (PPSMI), and the Bersih 2.0 rally for clean and fair elections. I was also involved in projects like Teach For Malaysia and permaculture.

UndiMsia ( is a voter education campaign started by a random group of Malaysians, and their numbers have grown by tenfold, at least. They’re active and have an open concept for others who are interested to participate by joining their meetings every Saturday at 11am in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

UndiMsia is a non-partisan youth citizen movement.

Besides educating people to vote for the right reasons – meaning to vote issues and not politicking – it called for a more participatory democracy by the rakyat, beyond voting. Generally, UndiMsia focuses on three issues: Food and housing, freedom of expression and the education segment of the national Budget.

As I became more active in society, I was more aware of things that are part and parcel of my private and public life. Politics – partisan or not, institutional or not – was something inevitable that I had to take an interest in. So, when the Bersih 2.0 chapter took off, I got involved.

It was enlightening for me to discuss why clean and fair elections were necessary and how it benefited Malaysians beyond politics and government.

I was also active in public discussions on the Government’s decision not to teach Maths and Science in English. I might not be a teacher but I did home tutoring for SPM candidates in Maths, for six years.

Initially, I was supporting the call for Maths and Science to be taught in English, but I have since changed my stand. It’s because I believe teaching these subjects in English would widen the polarity in Malaysia. Everyone deserves equal access to education, and teaching Maths and Science in English could render these subjects inaccessible to some students.

In 2011, two of my friends – Keeran Sivarajan and Dzameer Dzulkifli – started Teach For Malaysia (TFM), an initiative to improve the quality of teaching in schools. They are recruiting university graduates to work for two years as teachers before going on to whatever career path they choose.

It’s an amazing platform for Malaysians to build themselves but more importantly to focus on helping poor performing schools. Their mission for education equity for all is truly inspiring.

To close the 2011 book, I explored permaculture, which the all-knowing Wikipedia defines as “an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that is modelled on the relationships found in nature.”

I started having plants at home in the middle this year to test if I had a greenthumb or not. I’m not sure if I do but I am recognising the impact of living around elements of nature. I’ve been looking to adapt my home to not just include planting my own greens, but also to be environmentally conscious beyond using recyclable bags and reducing water wastage.

This year has only been a piece of the puzzle. Likewise, don’t look at these issues and initiatives in isolation. Let’s look at how they are part of a bigger picture, so we can piece together our next move in 2012.

Zain HD writes occasionally at and tweets excessively at

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