It was the 6th of December in 2020, when I finally set foot on this place known as Raja Ampat. I’m not going to lie, the first thing I experienced was not something like, “This place is awesome” or “How beautiful this place is” but instead, some administration holding me at the port of Waisai, it turns out I need to fill in some online form, even though there is no signal. The person in charge of administration didn’t seem to care about that and thought of me as a tourist, even though I came here for work. That was how I got my first heartbreak experience.
The second heartbreak I felt was from missing my grandmother’s funeral while I was here during the pandemic. The condition here didn’t allow me to go back that day because it would have taken more than a day to get back to my city (Jakarta), yet the custom of burial in my family is to be buried within less than 24 hours. Furthermore, because everyone except me was in Sorong to take care of Jonas’ Kitas (work visa), the only person available to watch the school was me.
The 3rd and my biggest heartbreak was when I was here for a while and realized the education privilege I had as a child: the education quality in big cities of Indonesia in terms of the availability and quality of the teachers, how they study, the sufficient learning equipment and facilities, the internet connection, or even something as simple as the books for many kids to read and learn. Those are not something people in remote areas such as Raja Ampat have, whereas many kids in the city like myself took or possibly still take it for granted, and sometimes even waste it.
Not to mention how broken-hearted I am in the face of the education system itself and many stigmatizations around it, such as:
Students are always required to wear a certain uniform in an educational institution, but actually we can learn anything from everything or everyone. Hence, many parents are having a hard time trusting any educational institution with a different uniform even though it is an equal institution.
Students are at school to serve their teacher, when I believe it’s supposed to be the other way around. When I write ‘serve’ I literally mean they have to abide by every request their teacher has even though it’s not for educational purposes. For instance, their teacher is able to ask their students to bring them food or even to clean their backyard.
Many educational institutions only focus on their students getting good grades, thus students tend to take a short cut to get a good grade by cheating, because they think the goal of education is to get a good score. On the other hand, this could sometimes lead to students undervaluing their uniqueness as an important aspect.
The test system doesn’t allow much room for students to develop their curiosity, this is why we see many children who don’t actually understand what they study and forget what they have memorized immediately after a test.
The Curriculum is not applicable for all areas in Indonesia, yet many institutions are forced to apply this, even when the differences in the supporting elements are quite obvious. For example, the curriculum for mathematics for High School students in big cities and in remote area is more or less the same, when actually in some remote areas, high school students are still struggling with mathematics at elementary level. Hence, it’s not applicable to use the high school material from big cities and apply it in high school in remote areas.
The inequality of development is undeniable between big cities and remote areas. We can see it clearly in the infrastructure and in the aspect of education like I describe in my previous point.
But I can see some hope in Child Aid Papua, based on my observation on how they devote themselves to educate the children here. These people stay in a remote area as teachers when they could easily make more money working in a city and they are willing to use their precious time to educate the children even though they know it will take a lot of time, but they do it anyway. It’s quite different from many programs with a short-term vision. These usually end up as a forgotten relic and – in my opinion – are not sustainable enough to improve the quality of the children here. Here, they see the goal of the education as a development of the human being and honestly hope to improve every one of their students.
Even in a short period of time, I already feel the improvement in how they learned things. The children are always reminded over and over again to think what is better for them and what might harm them or their environment. Yes, this thing doesn’t always work sometimes, but that is normal, even children in other countries also make the same mistakes but that is the purpose of the educator. We are here to educate them, not only in grades, but how to be a better human, and how to bring more benefit to our environment instead of bringing more harm and destruction to them.
The system isn’t all bad, but due to the lack of precise data from remote areas the necessary improvements are not made. Additionally, bureaucracy also slows down the implementation. That is why private institution might be a good thing to bring the necessary dynamic in this aspect.
I believe Child Aid Papua is unique in how they treat the children, their students. They are able to educate what is related and applicable in this particular area. I would love to elaborate more on this uniqueness and the difference to other institutions in another article.
Furthermore, I refuse to give in to these conditions. If talent is determined by our supporting system such as equipment and facilities, or perhaps the average IQ of the children, then I refuse to believe in that kind of definition of talent. I would rather believe that talent is for people who don’t give up, and keep trying their hardest, people with unwavering determination. To say hard work and determination are not a talent would be undermining the essential element of being human, and the success of many people in their own field. The key is to not give up, let alone give in to circumstances in our environment.
Right at this moment, I can think of the word ‘Kintsugi’ or ‘Kintsukuroi’ in Japanese, which is a method and also an art of repairing broken pottery by mending areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold or other valuable metals. By doing so, the pottery value will be higher than before.
Now let’s imagine the broken pottery as the equipment and facilities, the learning ability of the students, the financial limitation, or even the flaws of the educational system itself. Just as the lacquer dusted with gold with the hard work and devotion of many people who are willing to spend their time, money and heart to support the students and try to improve all the broken parts, It will not only make the pottery is usable again but it will increase the value of the whole thing. Unquestionably, it will also benefit the children who use the figurative ‘pot’ or the institution as a place to gain knowledge and put their hopes and dreams in it.
Instead of focusing on how broken it is let’s put more focus on how to make the whole ‘pot’ useful in any way we can. How we all optimize it is what truly matters. That is exactly how the crack becomes a lacquer of gold and will be seen more valuable.