“education is the most important thing for improving our lives” – perspectives from Indonesia

Bursary recipient, Yeni Sella

Eastern Indonesia has the highest rate of poverty in Indonesia[1]. Our partner organisations work in areas that are isolated, with little infrastructure and high numbers of female-headed households. Most of the adult beneficiaries our partners work with are not educated past primary school. Despite these conditions, our partners highly value education and the opportunity it brings for their children and community.

In the last 18 months, thanks to the support of the Nadia and Alf Taylor Foundation, we have expanded our work to education programs with our partners. Nefo Ko’u in West Timor and PEKKA Lodan Doe in Adonara have launched new bursary programs, based on the bursary model that Lua Lemba has used for many years in Rote. Nefo Ko’u offered 14 bursaries and PEKKA Lodan Doe supported 42 bursaries for girls and young women from primary school to university. Lua Lemba have invested in early childhood education in Rote – funding a teacher training program across 13 kindergartens and supporting honorariums for 19 trainee teachers who were being paid only a ‘soap wage’ of $10 per month.

interview with Yeni Sella by Armiyati Kasang

Yeni is in year 11 at school. She studies food technology at the vocational high school in Oengaut village. Yeni and her 7 siblings lost their parents and now Yeni lives with her extended family who are subsistence farmers in Sedoen village, West Rote.

AK: When did you first receive the bursary from Lua Lemba and how did it affect your ability to go to school?

YS: I first received the bursary in 2017. It is 240,000 rupiah per semester [approx. AUD24]. The bursary lightened up my stress about paying school levies and books. I am so happy to continue my education.

AK: What is an average school day like for you?

YS:  I wake up at 5am and help clean and get the younger children ready. I have two younger siblings aged 10 and 2 and a baby cousin. I cook breakfast, and then leave for school at 6.45am. School is a 3km walk away and finishes at midday. When I get home from school I have lunch and help in the house. We all have a nap for half an hour in the hottest part of the day then I clean the yard, feed the pigs, bathe the babies and after dinner I do my homework. Sometimes I help harvest the gardens, now we are harvesting the ground nut crop. We do not have TV.

AK: What is your favourite part of school? What activities or subjects do you enjoy the most?

YS:  My favourite part of my school is when my teacher comes into class and starts teaching. I love science.

AK: What do you want to be when you grow up?

YS: I want to be a teacher.

interview with Ms Victoria Fu’a by Libby House

Ms Fu’a is a Roti resident whose son, Sadrak, received a bursary to attend university in Java three years ago.

LH: When did your family receive a bursary?

VF: We first received a bursary three years ago. My son received a scholarship to university in Java, He is the first of our family to go to university. He trained to be a teacher and although he didn’t have to pay for tuition, we had to pay for everything else. It was very hard especially since I am a widow.

LH: How did the bursary change your ability to support your son in education?

VF:  The bursary was 750,000 [approx. AUD75] rupiah per semester. This was enough to pay for most of his accommodation.  It took away some of my stress that I could rely on having that money available. Many nights I couldn’t sleep worrying about how I would find the money to send my children to school. In 2009 until 2011 I carted truckloads of building sand by bucket. I would be paid 250,000 rupiah [approx. AUD25] per truck. My son has graduated and come home now but there are no paying teaching jobs for him. He is working in a local hotel but he is using the knowledge he gained at university.

LH: Your granddaughter Delstin has started university this year, hasn’t she?

VF: Yes she is studying in Kupang to be a dental nurse. She will come back to Rote to work once she graduates.

LH: Does she receive a bursary?

VF: Bursaries are different now. She received a one-off grant to help her get established in Kupang. This was very helpful for us as her mother is on her own like me and my granddaughter was able to use the 1,000,000 rupiah [approx. AUD100] to buy some pots and a kerosene stove so she can cook rice at her boarding house and also pay her accommodation for one semester. I hope life will be very different for this generation and they won’t have to struggle like I did.

LH: Do you see education as being important for bringing about that change?

VF:  Education is the most important thing for improving our lives.

interview with Yermi Lette by Armiyati Kasang

Ms Lette has been a kindergarten teacher in Rote since 2006 and her school is one of the first kindergartens to open in Rote. In 2018, she participated in teacher training for early childhood educators.

AK: How did you become an early childhood educator here?

YL: My husband was transferred from Kupang to a school in Rote. I was already a qualified kindergarten teacher and was offered a position in one of the first kindergartens in Rote in 2006. It was run by the church in Nemberala. Very few people here understood the importance of early childhood education then.

AK: What is an average workday like for you? What sort of activities do you do with the children?

YL: I come to the kindergarten about 7am to prepare the class room with my colleagues. We set out the resources and set up the classroom. Classes start at 8am and finish at 10.30am. Mostly children walk to school with their friends. We have an Indonesian curriculum and we teach counting and letter recognition, dancing, singing and craft. We also teach social behaviour and basic hygiene.

AK: How do you think access to early childhood education benefits children in your school?

YL: The benefit is that the children learn many things: they learn how to go to school. They gain some independence, self-discipline and some early skills so when they continue to primary school they are already socialised for school.,

AK: And how do you think it benefits their families and the wider community?

YL: Through the kindergarten children have the opportunity to learn positive things from their teachers so when they go home, they are already shaped by the school with basic discipline and that is helpful for the parents and for the community.

AK: What are the best parts of your job – and the challenges?

YL: The challenges are that parents don’t understand the importance of regular attendance. Also, our grounds are not fenced so pigs and goats forage there, contaminating the playgrounds with faeces which becomes a health hazard, especially when it turns to dust in the dry season. We lack educational aids also. The best part of my job?  I love teaching the children!

[1] Summary of Indonesia’s Poverty Analysis, Asian Development Bank, October 2015. Link https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/177017/ino-paper-04-2015.pdf