18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
To be a better human being

Contributed by Choo Yanping

He preferred play to study in his secondary school days and when it came to his O Levels, Sheikh Mohamed Zafran Bin Mohamed Ghazali did not prepare as well as he could have. In the first round of his Mother Tongue examination, he received the grade C6.

Sheikh was not too pleased with himself and considered retaking it. He sought the advice of his Malay teacher who was also his aunt.

“With your attitude, there’s no need to retake. You’ll probably get the same results,” came her response.

The lecture from his aunt was tough on him but the tough talk triggered a determination in Sheikh to prove her wrong. And he did. He was eventually awarded the grade A2 in the second round of his Mother Tongue examination.

Life is precious

Sheikh displays the same resolve in Singapore Airlines Staff Union (SIASU). Apart from active participation in Young NTUC events including work plan seminars, Sheikh and his fellow youth representative are currently working towards starting a youth chapter in SIASU. “This is an untapped pool as there’s a considerable number of young adults working in SIA”, says Sheikh, “and it’s an important move for SIASU as a union.”

On his motivations for joining the labour movement, Sheikh lists two. Firstly, the 25-year-old grew up listening to union stories from an existing SIASU member, his father, on the important role the union has played in giving the workers a strong united voice and ensuring fair employment practice.

Secondly, the rise in the number of manmade deaths around the world has spurred Sheikh on in doing charity work and caring about humanity as a whole regardless of background. “Life”, he affirms, “is already precious” and it is made more precious because of man’s inhumanity to humanity.

“I feel empathy for people who are being mistreated, sometimes I feel I can do more to help them and joining the union is a first step. In the end, I hope to be a better human being overall.” His participation in the union thus far are titbits that keep the soul humbled.

The balancing act

In his days of schooling, Sheikh has had a taste of stewardship as a student leader and he finds that it helped him in adjusting to life in the union.

When asked how he juggles with his various commitments, Sheikh reveals, “You have to have an understanding group of family, friends and partner”. They have to understand that the time taken is used to better the lives of others. He also makes it a point to set time aside for family and friends in a week.

In the delicate balance of union work, Sheikh enjoys the equilibrium of leading and following. He is driven to take up the role of leadership when it is needed to get things done. He is just as driven to follow and provide support when required.

In the delicate balance of life, Sheikh recalls the words of a primary school teacher who once stepped in class and announced: “There are two rules that I follow in my class. Show respect for one another and be kind to one another.” These are the rules that Sheikh live by and through these acts of giving, Sheikh will be rewarded with his goal of becoming a better union leader; a better human being.