UK-based Malaysian doctors’ Sabah society conducts virtual contest for pupils to break stigma of vaccine

Primary students from Sabah take part in a virtual public speaking contest to break the stigma surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine.  —  Screengrab courtesy of Sabah English Aspiration Society
Primary students from Sabah take part in a virtual public speaking contest to break the stigma surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine. — Screengrab courtesy of Sabah English Aspiration Society

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — With stigma surrounding Covid-19 vaccination mounting online, doctors, experts and even non-governmental organisations are hard at work to clear up misconceptions.

In doing so, the Sabah English Aspiration Society (Seas) recently kicked off a virtual public speaking contest among rural primary school children in Sabah aged between 12 and 13 to tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy.

The contest, dubbed 4SY Competition, called on pupils to submit a four-minute speech to educate people about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination and dispel misinformation on social media surrounding the topic.

4SY stands for four minutes of Short Sessions of Speak up and Stand out for Youth.

The initiative, which was organised by London-based neonatologist Dr Zainab Kassim and her husband, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Burhanuddin Busu, received many entries.

Neonatologist Dr Zainab Kassim and her husband, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Burhanuddin Busu have been actively advocating English language literacy among students living in rural areas in Sabah.  —  Picture courtesy of Sabah English Aspiration Society
Neonatologist Dr Zainab Kassim and her husband, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Burhanuddin Busu have been actively advocating English language literacy among students living in rural areas in Sabah. — Picture courtesy of Sabah English Aspiration Society

The husband and wife team is also behind Seas and have been actively helping to improve English language proficiency amongst the students in Sabah’s rural areas since 2017.

The society has also set up an English Corner, a renovated building in Sabah housing over 10,000 books, to nurture the reading culture and equip life skills amongst children.

The final stage of the public speaking contest, which was judged by consultant paediatrician and neonatologist Datuk Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, focused on the topic of “Do not worry, take the Covid-19 vaccine. 

Three students, Vellvie Jivel Jinau, Husna Insyirah Herwan and Aimyra Batrisyia Aimizal were named the finalists of the contest.

In their short video presentation, all three finalists highlighted the importance of vaccines and how they can save lives and eventually break the chain of infections.

Commenting on the initiative, Dr Musa said it was a very constructive way to win over vaccine-hesitant adults.

For children, he said it was a great way to infuse knowledge of current issues to enhance speaking skills.

“The content in the speeches were accurate, informative, on point, well arranged and emphasised.”

Dr Musa said it was great to have confident young children speaking courageously and emotionally to help do strategic communication about the importance of vaccines.

He also lauded Dr Zainab, who works at London’s Kings College Hospital, and Dr Burhanuddin for carrying out such a meaningful initiative. 

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