While sitting on the floor, Wayan Samah wrote about education in Bali in his notebook.
“The cost of education in Bali is too expensive for us. Therefore, we can’t get a formal school education,” he writes.
The ten-year-old boy was born in Karangasem, one of the poorest districts in Bali. He was only a first grader when three years ago he withdrew from his school, a dilapidated elementary school in Tianyar, Kubu sub-district. The cost was too expensive for his family, and the school was too far from his home. Samah had to walk three hours to reach the school.
Six months ago, Samah and his parents moved to Perang hamlet in the village of Lukluk, Badung regency. Badung is the richest regency on the island, receiving billions of Rupiah annually from the lucrative tourism industry. Yet, even in this wealthy region education costs are still too expensive for Samah, who now works as a fruit seller earning around Rp. 300,000 (US$34) per month.
Three months ago Samah joined Kelas Beranda, which is taught by volunteers. Kelas Beranda literally means “Veranda Class”, referring to the place where the class is held twice a week.
Kelas Beranda, which started last September, was initiated by young volunteers and offers a free education program for poor children. These volunteers, mostly activists from local NGOs, share their knowledge and skills with Samah and other children left behind by the formal education system.
Kelas Beranda was initially supported by the Local Commission for Child Protection and Indonesian Women of Hindu Dharma (WHDI).
On that Thursday evening, volunteer Intan Paramitha arrived at Kelas Beranda around 6 p.m. Three wide-eyed kids greeted the 21 year-old young woman with broad smiles and, later on, big hugs. Intan sat on the floor and started the class. Fifteen minutes later volunteers Asta Ditha and Widya Rata arrived.
The pupils were divided into three groups. Intan supervised the five “senior” pupils. Two of them had already become mothers, having babies even though they had yet to celebrate their 20th birthdays.
Widya taught biology to three teenagers from Karangasem who were also forced to withdraw from elementary school. Asta helped five kids with lessons on the basics of reading and writing.
“We don’t use a fixed curriculum because every child here has different needs and a different learning pace. Some want to learn how to read while others want to learn how to write.
“The lessons we provide are very much determined by what the kids want to learn,” Asta said.
Because the children also want to learn about English and math, the volunteers enthusiastically teach them these two subjects even though they are usually considered difficult topics, even by students at formal schools.
“We want to be able to speak in English,” pupil Kadek Widyawati said.
“It was fun to learn with them because they are very funny and easy going. We often crack jokes during class,” she added.
On that evening the volunteers asked the children to read a chapter in a book written by prominent Balinese author and social commentator, Gede Aryantha Soethama. The chapter narrates Soethama’s acidic criticisms of Indonesia’s education system, which he says discriminates against children from low income families. The volunteers told the pupils to write a comment about the chapter.
Instead of a comment, Samah wrote a conclusion. “Education has become so excessively expensive it drives many children out of schools.”
Article published at The Jakarta Post.