Personal Reflections on Practice

A Teaching Experience with the Indonesia Teaches Movement

Indonesia Mengajar, is a non-profit organization that recruits, trains and sends the nation’s talented young people to various regions of Indonesia to serve as Pengajar Muda (young teacher) in elementary schools and communities for a period of one year.

Practice Insights Personal Reflections on Practice

A Teaching Experience with the Indonesia Teaches Movement

Reflections of a young teacher-volunteer

By: Veraningsih 

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1. Indonesia Teaches Movement (Indonesia Mengajar)

Indonesia Mengajar, is a non-profit organization that recruits, trains and sends the nation’s talented young people to various regions of Indonesia to serve as Pengajar Muda (young teacher) in elementary schools and communities for a period of one year.

Vision of Indonesia Mengajar
Indonesia Mengajar is a movement; an effort to involve different stakeholders to address the educational challenges in Indonesia. Indonesia has a dream to include all sections of the society into education as a promise of its national independence.

Mission of Indonesia Mengajar
a. Stimulating positive change in the behaviour and attitudes towards education and its sustenance
b. Building future leaders who have grassroots understanding
c. Encouraging the growth of social movements for education in Indonesia

Indonesia Mengajar is a collaborative movement to develop education in remote areas. A set of young people called, Pengajar Muda (PM) are selected from the best among the graduates from institutes of higher education. They are trained to become teachers as well as motivators of society to support the educational movement.

2. Role of a Pengajar Muda at placement

2.1 The PM is expected to interact with all stakeholders
During the year, the PMs stay in the community. They have been trained to develop awareness about the importance of education and of the teacher and to accomplish positive behavioural change in the community towards education. In daily activities, the PM interacts with:

Students: As a teacher in elementary school, the PM is expected to apply creative teaching methods in his/her class by using nature and resources available in the village. Besides, the PM is expected to enhance the awareness of the students on how the school may enable them to achieve their dreams and make them optimistic about their lives.

Teachers: The PM has to encourage the teachers in the school to conduct their tasks regularly (teacher absence is common in Indonesia). They may encourage teachers to be creative in their educational activities. Therefore, a PM works as a facilitator so that teachers can express their ideas independently. In addition, sometimes, a PM may train some teachers to improve their skills to be a better teacher, to apply creative teaching methods, to operate Microsoft Office, and also to understand children’s psychology.

Headmaster: Behavioural change is the focus of a PM. Since the success of a school is determined by its principal, the PM has to try and maximize the potential of the headmaster in managing the school.

Parents: The role of parents is crucial for the educational success of their children. The PM has a role in building awareness of parents through personal engagements. The goal is to encourage them to support their children in their educational activities.

Village community: The PM has the responsibility to serve as a community mobilizer in the village that he/she is placed. The mission is to encourage all people of the community to support education for their children. The objective is to reduce the number of early marriages and dropout rates. Normally, a PM approaches all stakeholders and public figures to collaborate in furthering the educational activities in a village.

Local government: The PM is expected to do a mapping of the key local people in the community, based on their job position and how far these people are interested in education. Then, the PM may build a network of stakeholders such as the Regent, Education Board, and others to strengthen the education movement in the district.

2.2 The PM is expected to facilitate a variety of activities
Curricular: Teaching in the elementary class, administrative training, creative teaching.
Extracurricular: Scouts, practising line-marching, art training.
Community development: Training of teachers, assistance to the reading park (library), networking with the community.

3. Desirable achievements through the intervention of Indonesia Mengajar

As noted earlier, the vision of the Indonesia Mengajar is to stimulate positive change in the behaviour and attitudes towards education and its sustainability. Therefore, the Indonesia Mengajar records and documents positive changes occurred in the target group through the continuous reporting by the PM. The organization sees its achievement in the positive changes in the behaviour of direct partners in the local entity (e.g. teachers, headmaster, parents, village society and the Regency society) towards education. This achievement, however, cannot be seen over a short period, so, the Indonesia Mengajar serves each habitation for five years with a work-plan to accomplish its goal.

Desirable achievements for teachers

  • Teachers use resources from the surrounding areas creatively as teaching aids in class.
  • Teachers manage their classes by applying positive appreciation approach and implementing all tasks with integrity.
  • Teachers note a student’s progress to refine the progress of each student holistically and encourage them to attain higher levels of academic and non-academic achievements.
  • Teachers along are expected to share their knowledge to encourage all stakeholders in the community to support the improvement in education.

Desirable achievements for the principal

  • The principal has a clear vision to arrange, manage and develop the school.
  • The principal has strong leadership and integrity in the maintenance of the school administration and finance.
  • The principal is eager to develop himself/herself. This is needed not only to be a leader in school but also to influence and encourage the parents and community to change so as to maximize the potential of school. Therefore, becoming a role model is also crucial for a principal so he/she can influence the school community and parents.

Desirable achievements for parents

  • Parents support their children’s education by showing positive and encouraging behaviour at home to stimulate the cognitive, affective and psychomotor aspects of their children.
  • Parents are active in communication, coordination, and participation in education activities whether in school or in non-education institutes. Also, parents actively contribute, communicate and share aspects related to the education of their children with other parents.

Desirable achievements for the village and regency (sub-district)

  • The leaders of the village and the regency have a prominent role in the quality of education of children in their locality by organizing educational activities and bringing together parents and communities and by coordinating with different government and non-governmental organizations.

4. Overview of Sekikilan village, Nunukan island

Since the end of 2010, the Indonesia Mengajar has placed PMs in 28 regencies that are spread all over Indonesia, including Nunukan, North Kalimantan. The Nunukan regency consists of three small areas: Nunukan Island; Sebatik Island; and Borneo Island. Nunukan itself is part of the North Kalimantan province which also acts as a border between Indonesia and Malaysia. The headquarters of the government of Nunukan is located at Nunukan Island where the airport, harbour, regent office, the office of the Department of Education and Culture, and General Hospital are also located. Among its 19 districts, eight PMs serve individually in eight villages of six districts. My workplace was in the Tulin Onsoi district, in a village called, Sekikilan.

Nunukan Island can be reached by flight from Jakarta via Tarakan City (North of Kalimantan). In order to go to Sekikilan village, one has to go through Borneo Island which is three to four hours by speedboat. After arriving at the Port of Aki in Betawol, it is a car or motorcycle ride of about 45 minutes.

The Tulin Onsoi district consists of ten local villages and two transmigration villages. The local village is predominantly inhabited by indigenous Dayak Agabag tribes, but two transmigration villages are inhabited by migrants from the other parts of Indonesia who were brought by President Soeharto in the 1990s. Sekikilan village is the centre of Tulin Onsoi district. Consequently, the growth of infrastructure facilities is faster in Sekikilan than in other villages. For example, the State Power Plant and the Municipal Drinking Water Company have started to function here in 2016-2017. Nevertheless, there are certain aspects that need to be improved, such as roads and telecommunication network.

Sekikilan village has a hilly terrain, which is mostly covered by oil-palm plantations. Most of these palm plantations in Tulin Onsoi are owned or leased by palm-oil companies, and others are managed by indigenous Dayak Agabag tribes. There are many big companies, such as PT Perusahaan Kelapa Sawit, PT Tirta Madu Jaya and PT Nunukan Jaya Lestari. These companies lease the land from local communities. Besides being landlords, the local people usually work as labourers since most of them do not have even an elementary-level education.

The river has a vital role for the society of Sekikilan village as it is used as the source of water for their daily activities such as bathing, washing, and also (unfortunately) for the disposing of garbage. Generally, they use rainwater for drinking and cooking, but if it is not adequate, they use water from the river. In the mid-2016s, a water supply scheme was built in the village of Sekikilan, and by March 2017, the water pipes have been connected to four villages. This project filters the river water, and then the filtered-water is supplied to homes.

5. Notable features of the community and people in Sekikilan village

Indonesia Mengajar’s approach is to send young teachers to remote areas where these teachers live closely within the community. Living with the adopted families is expected to maximize interactions with the community by conducting approaches that are interactive with the cultural and customary practices of the society.

The villagers of Sekikilan consist of indigenous and tribal immigrants. The majority of the indigenous tribes are Dayak Agabag, while the others are Timorese (East Nusa Tenggara), Bugis (South Sulawesi) and Javanese (Java). The immigrant tribes came through the transmigration program that was established by President Soeharto around the 1960s. While the religion that is embraced by the Dayak and the Timorese tribe are Catholic and Protestant respectively, the Buginese who live in Sekikilan, generally embrace Islam.

The Dayak people still retain their traditional culture. They hold on to their traditional beliefs of what can be done and what should not be done in their lives. This involves traditional ways or ideas about birth, marriage, and death. Some aspects of the culture of Dayak Agabag tribe are described here.

5.1 Kapuhunan
In general, Agabags are friendly if other people greet them first. They do not hesitate to talk with guests and invite them to their homes. Usually, when people visit them, they serve coffee or tea as well as snacks, like biscuits. When food and drink are in front of guests, guest must consume it or at least they may just touch them while saying ‘Simbut Sala’ and touch their throat. Simbut Sala is the phrase in their traditional language that Agabags believe to have the ability to guide them away from diseases or other unfortunate happenings.

Indigenous people strongly believe in ‘Kapuhunan’, which is a situation where a person would encounter a disaster or accident if he/she does not touch or eat the served-food, especially coffee. These accidents may include being bitten by a crocodile in the river, pegging by snakes or road accidents.

5.2 Split Bamboo (Belah Bambu or Bial Bulu)
As the name implies, ‘split bamboo’ means a bamboo is split into two equal parts and these parts head to different directions. Dayak people believe that if some people spend the night in the same house and the next day they leave the house going to different direction, then whoever stays at the house will get a deadly disease.

5.3 Mulct Customs (Denda Adat)
Adat fines are fines agreed upon by citizens to prevent undesirable things such as infidelity, injuring others’ pride, and killing pets.

Infidelity: A Dayak wedding allows only monogamy. Dayak should not engage in polygamy or polyandry. A husband or wife should not have extra-marital affairs or partners. If one gets caught in such an act, then the other partner will not hesitate to impose the customary fine to be paid according to the agreement between the plaintiff and village-chief. This customary fine may be paid in cash or kind (tempayan – traditional jars). These customary fines range from Rp 1.000.000 and Rp 10.000.000.

Killing pets: Dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks are Agabags’ pets. They keep dogs, but mostly not in cages and so dogs often roam freely on the streets. Hence, drivers have to be extra careful so that vehicles do not hit them. The Agabag owner of the injured dog has the right to impose a customary fine on the person who has injured his/her pet. The amount of customary fine is calculated based on the number of teats of the dog. If the dog owner asks for Rp 100,000 for one teat and the dog has eight teats, then the driver must pay (8 x Rp 100.000) Rp 800.000 to the dog owner.

5.4 Early marriage
An Agabag marriage has three processes. First, before the marriage, both sides of the family bargain the bride-price that must be paid by the groom. After the agreement, there is a party to celebrate the legitimate inauguration of their marriage. The last stage is the division of the role of husband and wife in the family.

5.4.1 First phase – Family consensus
Agabags tend to think that a daughter in their family is an asset. This is because of the substantial amount of the bride-price in Agabags culture that is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family at the time of marriage. An Agabag woman must accept her bride-price which is decided by her family. There are different parts of the bride-price that is paid in cash and commodities.

Bride-price: The groom’s family should be ready with bride-price especially the cash that is determined by the bride’s family. The price may include (but is not limited to) breastfeeding and dropout compensation. Dropout compensation means that after marriage, the bride is not allowed to continue education. She may be going to school before the marriage, therefore, the groom must pay the compensation in terms of money to the bride’s family. The amount depends on the school grade that she is studying in. The breastfeeding money is an appreciation for the effort of the bride’s mother. The man has to pay these amounts before the marriage, usually a transaction between Rp 20.000.000 – Rp 30.000.000, at the time of engagement plus other payments such as the cost for the wedding party, etc.

Other parts of bride-price: Besides cash, the bride’s family may also request other things like jewellery, household appliances, a motorcycle, a house, a cassava-scar machine, a ketinting-boat and machines, a saw, sarongs, and crocks. Usually, the groom has to provide 200-300 crocks and 300-500 sarongs on the wedding day depending on the request by the bride’s family. The groom is obliged to give these items especially sarongs and crocks on the wedding day, while other parts of the bride-price can be paid until his death as cultural debt. If the groom does not pay back this cultural debt before his death, then his children bear the burden of this debt.

5.4.2 Second phase – The marriage party
The Agabags hold the wedding party for three full days at the bride’s village. Her family serves foods to many people, which includes tea, coffee, milk, cookie, tapioca, rice, pork, chicken, meat, noodles, cassava leaves, betel nut, and cigarettes. They provide a keyboardist and sound system to entertain all guests (by offering guests the opportunity to sing a whole day). The bride invites many people from other villages during these three days, and they may spend whole nights in a communal barrack/house. In most cases, women among the neighbours help to cook and serve food. At night, younger people dominate the event while older people drink tuak (palm wine) in the village meeting hall until they get drunk.

5.4.3 Third phase – Life after the wedding
After the wedding, the bride is not allowed to go back to her village without her in-law’s permission since the groom has paid (bride) price to her family. It means that the bride belongs completely to her husband and she is not connected with her own family after the marriage. A housewife plays a major role in this society. She carries out all household work, takes care of the children, does farming, and collects fuel-wood and other material from the forest. These many tasks may seem overwhelming but Dayak women manage to do these well. On the other hand, the husband has a main role in their family as a head of the family, decision-maker and breadwinner. This division of tasks exists clearly between husband and wife. All activities related to the kitchen and household are supposed to be carried out by the housewife and the men including (husband and son) are not expected to participate in these activities. If the husband helps the wife in household duties (as in the kitchen), then the wife can be regarded as a lazy person. However, a housewife is not prohibited from working to help the family finances.

5.5 Local Tradition: Processing of Iluy (Tapioca)
Commonly, rice is the staple food of the people of Indonesia. However, the Agabag people consume iluy (tapioca). It is easy to get it from the cassava plant that is grown in each household. The cassava plant takes about three to six months to mature before it can be harvested. The leaves can be used as a vegetable and the tuber is processed into iluy. All processes to make tapioca are carried out by the women. The men may help them but in the case of women, if a woman does not do this work, she will be considered a lazy person. It takes one to two days to carry out these steps:

a. Digging Cassava: When the harvest time arrives, women and children go to the field carrying bidui (large rattan bag) in which they can carry the sabit (a big crescent-shaped knife that is used to cut the stems of the cassava) and a packed meal to eat during their work. They leave for the cassava field early in the morning and spend four to six hours there. After they dig out the cassavas, they replant the saplings. Then, they fill the bidui with cassava and bring it home.

b. Peeling Cassava: Rivers have a big role in Agabag’s lives, including for the peeling of cassava. It can be peeled either at home or beside the river so they can clean the cassava with the river water. They peel the cassava also with the sabit to remove the outer skin, then clean the dirt from it by using a brush.

c. Grating Cassava: The clean cassava is ground in a cassava-scar machine which is called, ‘mamas’.

d. Squeezing Cassava: The mamas are placed in a large basin, and some people may set up a filter tool that separates the extract and the dregs. Natok, which is the result of the extract squeezed out, is allowed to precipitate for four to six hours until a white powder appears.

e. Amasak Iluy: To cook the iluy, they start by taking a sufficient quantity of the powder, mixing it with cold water and stirring it until there are no lumps left. After that, they flush it with hot water until the mix looks like glue, and the Iluy is ready to eat with soup.

6. Most significant changes during my placement in Sekikilan Village

Throughout the year, a number of efforts have been made to facilitate the development of education in the region.

6.1 Enhance interest to study and students’ potential
In August 2017, I worked with the Indonesian Teachers’ Union to organize `Cerdas Berbakat Festival’ that involves the teachers at the district level. This festival was a competition to measure three aspects of the student’s abilities – pedagogy, behaviour and psychomotor. The competition also included a quiz about civic education and an art festival. Many schools participated in this event. I invited local teachers too so they could prepare elementary school students to participate in the competition. As an education facilitator, I motivated teachers (Mrs Bawing and Mrs Kori) to be personal trainers for the contestants. Every evening, Mrs Bawing and Mrs Kori came to school to teach their students general knowledge and train them in traditional dance. The school won the third place at the district level, an accomplishment that is considered a breakthrough due to the absence of similar achievements for the last five years.

6.2 Developing interest in reading among students
In collaboration with local partners like Mrs Katharina (Headperson of the kindergarten of Sekikilan village), village activists, and the Headman of Sekikilan, I tried to build a local library in Sekikilan using the `Village Budget Funding’ for 2018. The Headman held a `Musrembang’ – a village stakeholder-meeting on November 2, 2017, to take a decision on this project and to allocate the resources in the budget. He declared that the establishment of a local library in Sekikilan would be a priority program in 2018. This decision was supported by the citizens of Sekikilan since they felt that reading is a positive activity for their children.

7. Other positives changes

There is evidence of certain positive changes in Sekikilan Village, Tulin Onsoi District Nunukan Region when I was the PM between December 2016 and December 2017.

7.1 Teachers

  • Making learning materials with locally available resources:
    A majority of teachers in this school have used conservative and teacher-centred learning methods such as dictation and one-way lecture which made the students less participatory in class. Hence, teaching has not been attractive to students. For this reason, I have worked with teachers to see that they implement a stimulating and creative teaching method, for example, using different learning paths, appreciation, fun games, clapping and singing, etc. It was a challenge during the first term. In the beginning, teachers were not interested in changing their conventional methods since they found it demanding and difficult. However, they started to follow the new method after seeing students’ response when I used it and could attract the attention of students effortlessly. One salient example is Mrs Kori, a local teacher who teaches in grade IV. She showed a significant change in her teaching method as she prepared models of shapes in mathematics class. Not only Mrs Kori, some other teachers like Mr Madun have also started applying creative teaching methods in their class. A teacher in grade VI used the school garden as a natural aid to explain plants to his students in the science class. Moreover, the most senior teacher in my school, Mrs Bawing, tried using organic things to make some creative activities in her class.
  • Teachers attend school regularly and punctually:
    This elementary school has nine teachers and the majority of them live in places about 30 minutes away from school. Because of this, sometimes all teachers do not come to school on time. Since the PM has to be a role model, I reached the school 20 minutes before the beginning of sessions and this has encouraged the other teachers. Over time, two out of the nine teachers have started coming to the school regularly.
  • Demonstrating positive values/examples including tolerance towards diversity in the community:
    Students in this school come from various tribes, religions, and cultures. Catholic Agabag is the majority among them, while Moslem-Bugis, Catholic-Timor, and Moslem-Javanese tribe constitute the rest. Tolerance is essential for the peaceful coexistence of these diverse sets of people. Therefore, local teachers always teach students that they should respect traditions, beliefs and cultures other than their own. Involving a Muslim teacher to give the knowledge on how to worship God in Islam is a strategy used to increase tolerance amongst students. Through this, we could see the opening up of the mindset of the majority of Catholic students towards the Muslim minority.
  • Sharing knowledge and experience related to education:
    I encouraged a local teacher, Mr Madun, who participated in a one-week literacy workshop in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, to share his experience with the other teachers in the school. He invited teachers in school to attend a workshop about literacy. This initiative by him has encouraged teachers to make an initial effort towards a mobile library in the school.
  • Conducting the flag ceremony regularly:
    The flag ceremony which is held every Monday is a practice for students to enhance their respect towards patriots who have fought for the country in wars. Students are selected by teachers to hold the flag ceremony. They attend practice sessions conducted by the teachers. In the beginning, only one teacher was ready to train students, but after I motivated other teachers, three teachers have started assisting the process voluntarily.
  • Enhancing competency and teaching ability independently:
    Computer skills are needed for a teacher to facilitate administration in class, and for the preparation of lesson plans, question papers and reports. However, limited resources/facilities and knowledge become a constraint for local teachers in this regard. Hence, I have encouraged local teachers to study how to operate a computer and do simple administrative tasks by using technology. During one year of service, my peers and I have managed to organize a computer workshop at the district level to improve the computer skills of teachers. Teachers who have participated have shown enthusiasm and curiosity indicating that they have an intense desire to upgrade their skills.

7.2 Principal

  • Improving self-capability actively:
    At the district level, there is a Musyawarah Kerja Kepala Sekolah or MKKS (Principal Working Deliberation) which is a platform for principals to discuss the implementation of half-yearly examinations and teacher professional development. Participating actively in this association is one way in which a principal can enhance his/her capacity as a leader. Previously, the principal rarely got involved in the MKKS, but I persuaded him by using positive appreciation to engage in the MKKS meetings. This has ultimately influenced the principal’s willingness to attend it more regularly.
  • Managing education activities and contributing to the capacity-building of students and teachers:
    Improving academic and non-academic performance of the school are principal’s tasks, including the support to students to participate in various competitions. At first, there was no effort on the part of the principal to enhance the competitiveness of students in this regard. For that reason, I encouraged the school community (principal and teachers) to organize Kuark Science Olympiad. This science competition was supported by the principal and resulted in some winners from school to represent at the sub-district level. Moreover, in art and cognitive competition, fortunately, the school won the third place in the sub-district level, which is an achievement after six years, the school has not obtained any such achievement earlier.
  • Coordinating Education Board meetings related to school development:
    The Education Board office is located in Nunukan island which can be reached only in three to four hours by speedboat. In order to coordinate with principals and teachers, the local government built an Upaya Perpanjangan Tangan Daerah (UPTD) office as a representation of the Education Board at the district level. The principal often coordinated with UPTD to discuss matters related to school administration and school development. As an education facilitator, I facilitated communication with Education Board or UPTD to update information about Bantuan Operasional Sekolah (BOS) scholarship, education activities, teacher facilitation and other information related to education in Nunukan. By seeing this positive working relationship between the PM and the educational institutions, the principal also developed the enthusiasm to involve in certain educational activities which he came to know from the PM.
  • Motivating the principal to attend school regularly:
    The presence of the principal influences the performance of other teachers. For instance, the principal who does not come to school on time regularly will reduce the teachers’ respect towards him resulting in a decline in the discipline of the teachers. I got around this situation by asking the principal about the teachers’ habits and their discipline and how to deal with those teachers who do not come to school on time. Due to these lengthy discussions, the principal gradually started coming on time.

7.3 Parents

  • Supporting their children to attend school:
    Generally, parents in Tulin Onsoi district support their children in studying in school and in following school activities such as scouts, camps, and outbound. However, some parents did not allow their children to follow activities for a variety of reasons like the children are needed by their parents to help them in their garden. Upon learning this, I visited several houses to build personal relationships with parents. During the visit, I attempted to provide positives views of their children and encouraged parents to support the schooling of their children. This activity, slowly but surely, helped to make formerly unsupportive parents develop an understanding and awareness of the need to promote their children’s education.
  • Helping students to develop competencies:
    The majority of parents here easily judged that their children are not smart, and they often gave a specific label to their children such as, ‘troublemaker’, or ‘bad boy/daughter’. Moreover, this label would be used as a threat to make children obey parents and do a chore. After identifying this problem, I made a personal appeal to parents by explaining to them the importance of praise and appreciation to boost children’s confidence and potential. This approach has slowly changed the parents’ view of their children.
  • Encouraging parents to support their children’s education:
    So far, parents have supported their children to go to school by providing school supplies such as uniform, money, books and a prepared meal every morning. However, many parents do not encourage their children to study at home. This is so since the majority of them cannot read and write themselves. Consequently, I attempted to encourage teachers to provide homework as a strategy to reduce the intensity of the children’s time in front of the television. Also, during home visits, I tried to enhance parents’ awareness of the importance of children’s learning at home with parents’ assistance and the need to reduce the time that is used for watching television and in front of gadgets. As a result, some parents began to tell their children to study at home, after school.

7.4 Village society

  • Villagers are confident in discussing issues related to education at various forums:
    The villagers are influenced by certain institutions such as the Church and Pendamping Desa (village change-makers who are sent by the Ministry of Village). The role of the Church is influential in mobilizing the youth in the village; they are brought together in a forum, namely, Orang Muda Katolik or OMK (Catholic Youngster) and its members have potential and are proactive. I took advantage of this to encourage the Catholic Youngster to support educational activities in the Sekikilan village. By approaching the Pastor and the organization, their members were involved in positive activities as volunteers for different committees. They got involved directly with teachers in the organization of school camps. They were given the task to plan, prepare and execute the events. Furthermore, at the end of the year, the Headman of my village decided to establish a Reading Park and wanted to encourage a Sekikilan youth to join as its superintendent.
  • Participating in education activities in the village:
    I managed, with the help of a few active local people, to encourage the Chief of Sekikilan village to build a local library to nurture children’s literacy by convincing the local people to make this program a priority. What’s more, the sustainability of this program is also ensured by the commitment of the local champion and committee. Hence, the program successfully involves the village society to work as administrators, so that it would continue after the end of my term as PM. Of course, there were a number of challenges in the beginning but along with the local people, I managed to make it happen by constantly approaching the Pastor of the Catholic Church to invite them to contribute directly.

7.5 Regency Society

  • The Regency community is confident in discussing issues related to education at various forums:
    In the beginning, I worked with a team to facilitate an education activity namely Kemah Cinta Tanah Air or KCTA (Love of Nation Camp). This activity recruited approximately 30 volunteers. The recruitment to the committee to organize the KCTA was open through the social media platform managed by the Indonesia Mengajar. Then, they got reorganized as Relawan Nunukan (Nunukan Volunteer). The volunteers are diverse in terms of educational background, age, race, and religion, and have a high level of enthusiasm in engaging with educational activities. Due to the participation of this volunteer group, some education activities could be carried out well. For example, Kelas Inspirasi Nunukan (Nunukan Inspiration Class) which was held in Sebatik Island that is located opposite to Nunukan Island could involve many volunteers.
  • The community is able to invite others to be actively involved in educational activities:
    Engaging all parties to involve in education activity is a mission of the PM. In addition to the recruitment of event volunteers, I also encouraged volunteers to involve as many friends as possible.
  • Initiative to organize activities in the Regency:
    Nunukan Island, which is the centre of the Regent government, has some rural parts that have not been developed and lack facilities for quality education. There is one settlement of fishermen whose children cannot use the education facilities at the school. The volunteers from Nunukan who have interacted with me during different events have made an organization called the Literasi Penekindi Debaya or LPD, to enhance the literacy of children from fisher families.
  • Coordinating with various parties to organize impactful educational activities in the regency, district and village level:
    The KCTA is a boot camp event which had a notable effect towards education development at the village level because the activity could bring together all stakeholders, such as the village community, district volunteers, and the regency government. Children from each and every district in the Nunukan Region have participated in this regional-level competition, which was an important achievement because this selection format motivates every school in the village to prepare students to win and increase their competitiveness.

8. Overview of Challenges

As PM, I have encountered or witnessed certain social challenges to education in this area, and these are discussed below.

8.1 Early-marriage customs
The Agabag tribe has a culture that leads to early marriage. It is indirectly passed down through the generations. This culture leads to a mindset that education is not an important aspect of their life. Usually, children who have graduated from junior high school find their mates and prepare to get married with the support of their parents. In extreme cases, there are children who marry after completing elementary school. Both parents and the children have a role in this regard. Nevertheless, there are parents who are aware of the importance of education, and they discourage their children if they want to marry early, urging them to prioritize the schooling first.

8.2 Alcohol-drinking habits
The consumption of alcohol is part of the ingrained culture of the Dayak Agabag tribe. People have been using a drink called Tuak for several decades – a fermented homemade cassava drink which is not too harmful to their bodies. Over time, Tuak’s popularity has declined compared to the branded liquors which are sold clandestinely in the market. The Sekikilan village people, especially adult men (who are married), often drink liquor both in the morning and at night, not just during events or festivals, but regularly. When someone gets the liquor, residents in the neighbourhood gather to enjoy drinking it together. This habit has disastrous consequences for their underage children and it is not a surprise that children in junior high school have started consuming liquor.

8.3 Acceptance of migrants
The majority in Sekikilan village consists of the Dayak Agabag tribe that inhabited the land from the time of their ancestors. Therefore, it is not surprising that the arrival of immigrants as teachers or health workers is not welcomed by them because they are suspected to have a specific interest and interrupt the life of this indigenous tribe. In fact, there are Dayak people who believe that these newcomers will steal their land someday. It’s true that I had a tough time initially but I managed to approach and socialize with them with a personal and humble approach.

9. Conclusion

Indonesia Mengajar commits to sending PMs five times (years) to Nunukan regency as part of its social intervention in the education sector. This is noted by me as the PM who has been sent there during the second year. I could bring about certain positive changes including the transformation of the community’s attitude towards education. People in the village, district and the Regency have started noting the presence of the PM as an outside teacher who is involved actively in the Nunukan community. They have not only accepted this outside teacher but have also started supporting educational activities in better ways – as parents who care for their children’s education, as better professional educators and as members of the community concerned about education.

Author

Veraningsih volunteered as a young teacher or Pengajar Muda with the `Indonesia Teaches Movement’ during the period of December 2016 – November 2017.

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