Hi everyone! Janice and I are both back again to share with you about our recent trip to Penang for the International School Cooperative Seminar. Instead of our usual Sunday afternoon nap, the both of us were on our way to the airport alongside our SNCF team: Germaine, Christina and Peggy!
We took about an hour odd to get to Penang and upon our arrival, we were happily greeted by the team from ANGKASA – the apex body of the co-operatives in Malaysia, just like SNCF in Singapore! We wasted no time after reaching the hotel because we were all really excited to explore the streets of Penang to try out the famous local delicacies and so.. off we went to Chulia Street for dinner! From their charred char kuey teow to the spongy wanton mee, Penang has so much food to offer.
Reasons why we went to Penang
We started off our second day with a full day of conference! There was a lot of things that we could actually take away from the 3 sessions: History of the cooperative movement in Malaysia, Role of ANGKASA in the development of school cooperatives in Malaysia as well as the policies to promote these cooperatives in schools.
“Youth Empowerment Through Cooperatives For A Better World”
This was the tagline for this year’s seminar which was really interesting for us because being a part of our very own school cooperatives – CO-OP@NTU, we could actually learn from the school cooperative movement in Malaysia and bring back some of the practices to Singapore.
Did you know that there are nearly 14,000 cooperatives in Malaysia? The success mantra of the cooperatives in Malaysia lies in the support of the government including the close coordination and support by the stakeholders involved in its development.
Dato’ Hj Kamaruddin Ismail, Vice President of ANGKASA shared about the role of ANGKASA in developing the school cooperatives in Malaysia.
It is compulsory to join and become a school cooperative member in Malaysia. Students will pay a membership fee of approximate RM1. The movement here is so widespread that there is even a day in the year that all the schools will celebrate the “Cooperative Day” for ANGKASA!
The students in cooperatives will be equipped with skills including business management skills, character building and independence amongst its members. All of these brings us back to the tagline of allowing the youths to feel empowered in making a difference to their school.
The day ended with an official dinner officiated by Dato’ Hj Abdul Fattah Hj Abdullah, President of ANGKASA.
Everyone came in their national costumes and it was definitely a night filled with performances and great food!
Learning Journey to School’s co-operatives
Moving on to Day 3, we finally got out of the hotel’s conference room to visit schools with successful co-operative models that we can learn from and adopt in Singapore. The best way to learn is to get immersed in the culture and practices of co-operatives in Penang, am I right?
First up, we visited SMK (P) St Georges! The tour started off with a fluent presentation by the girls, which gave us a better understanding of the scale and structure of Penang’s campus co-ops. Ranging from the co-op bookshop, to the co-op hostel, co-op mart, co-op cyber cafe, co-op fitness centre, and even co-op lockers, what do they not have? How impressive is that! Back in NTU where I study, the only co-operative establishments are the co-op shop and cafe, and we certainly have a lot to learn and implement in order to expand the co-op movement.
After an hour of driving, we arrived at our next location – MRSM Kepala Batas. Everyone in the school is a member of the cooperative, with a minimum investment of RM10 to a maximum investment of RM200. With the low membership fee, it ensures that all students are able to participate in the co-op movement, and play a part in running and expanding the co-ops. Truly, you can say that the co-operative is run by its members, for its members, and with its members.
Apart from the various services provided that were also offered in St Georges, MRSM also offers banking services to enhance the convenience for parents, students, and staff; laundry services to aid the students who stay on campus; childcare services for teachers and staffs to have a peace of mind while working; and transportation rental services for the community.
With the comprehensive services offered, and the strong support from the Ministry of Education, ANGKASA, and the students, these 2 schools won many awards, like the best school cooperative award in Penang, and the Gold award in national innovation and creativity.
On Day 3, we visited the last school in our itinerary – SMKA Al-mashoor, a school cooperative built on tourism services. We got to participate in the same activities that tourists who stay in their co-op hostels experience! These activities such as batik painting, ketupat making, five stones and coconut grating strongly promote the local culture in Malaysia. As a tourist, I’d definitely be delighted to experience all of these! Kudos to the school for the programmes!
After the visit, we set off for our city tour to explore the beautiful Penang island!
Here are 4 places that we visited and fell in love with:
1. Chew Jetty – Tucked away from the city centre, Chew jetty takes you back to the past where houses were built on stilts above the water. With a mix of residents, shophouses, and a picturesque jetty for photo taking – experience rustic Penang here!
2. Chowrasta Market – for local knick-knacks and snacks like jeruk (pickled fruits) and tambun biscuits, this is the place to be! Level 2 is basically a bookworm’s heaven – a whole stretch of stores selling books, I’m sure we can all find something there!
3. Toh Soon Cafe – this back alley coffee shop serves up one of the most traditional Hainan coffee and charcoal toasted bread.
4. Tek Sen Restaurant – one of the best meals we had, enough said! You’ve got to try the roasted pork with chilli padi, yums!
With too much local delicacies stuffed in our bellies and too many souvenirs bought, we ended our day 4 on a happy note before flying back to Singapore.
The trip to Penang really opened our eyes to the co-operative movement around the world, and it was both inspiring and heartening to see so many individuals from different countries and different walks of life come together to exchange their knowledge and experience in the co-operative sector. As a young cooperator, this is only the beginning and we will continue to bring awareness to this co-operative model of doing well and doing good.
Interested to go on a Learning Journey to Malaysia’s Co-operative? Please comment on the comment box below for liaising!