Where to begin.. Hm. The church I go to, GKI (Gereja Kristen Indonesia) at Jl. Maulana Yusuf, Bandung (yes, across that yummy saté place), conducts lots of events on weekday evenings, that are not necessarily related to religious services or activities. Tonight was an event with the theme "Inexpensive and qualified education, is it possible?", with a guest Pak Bahruddin from Alternative Junior High School Qaryah Thayyibah (QT) in Salatiga, Central Java. Prior to this meeting, I have read about QT from books given by a nice acquaintance (that I've never met, actually - thank you, P! :D) and got deeply interested in the subject. Afterward, I found articles about QT in newspapers and such, but gave it no further thoughts until tonight.
Rubber Clock, filled appropriately
The event supposed to start at 6pm, but the guest got caught in a traffic jam or so, so we were to wait. It wasn't an emtpy waiting time, though, since the host decided to screen a movie. It was a documentary called "Suster Apung" (Floating Nurse). No, it's not a horror movie, but it's scary nonetheless in a way, knowing that reality can be that harsh. This documentary is focused on a nurse whose duty is to look after people in the islands region in the Middle- and Eastern part of Indonesia. Cases she found are often different from what she learned at the academy, so she has to improvise lots of things anyway. She said she could be sentenced for malpractice, but she has no choice: she has to be a nurse, a midwife, and even a doctor at many times. She had to cross the ocean with a shabby little boat from one island to another, often spending 24-26 hours in it, to reach her patients. And she has been doing this for about 29 years!
A visiting official: Don't you have a handy-talky?
The Floating Nurse: We were given a handy-talky indeed, but only one, with a broken antenna, too.
The visiting official: What good is one handy-talky?! How could you talk to your colleagues in another place?!
The Floating Nurse: ... (staring agreeably)
Before the real event started, another movie was screened. This one titled, "My Headmaster, The Scavenger", telling about - well, a school headmaster who is also a scavenger. Why would he want to be a scavenger, too, selecting garbage from a dump after school, when he already has a job as a headmaster? In order to provide for his family, of course.
But why scavening? Why not by giving course to students, like other teachers do? He would, if he could accommodate his pupils in his house - but the condition of his house doesn't allow that.
Why not take that 2nd job offer to teach at another school? He said, "I'm done teaching at my current school at about 1pm. As a headmaster, I should be the one who arrives the earliest at school and leaves the latest. Could you imagine if I had to go and teach again in the afternoon? What kind of performance would I give to my students, if I don't have enough energy? Neglecting your students is a sin, you know". "Besides", he continued, "Gathering such things (showing plastic cups and bottles) could give me more salary, compared to being a teacher".
The Actual Event
The guest from QT, Pak Bahruddin, has arrived so the actual event could start. It was about 7pm. He first showed some video clips of songs, created by QT team. These songs and videos have been produced, distributed and sold, for the profit of QT itself. Then another video was screened: a documentary made by MetroTV about QT, including interviews with QT students and their parents. Quite remarkable.
I won't elaborate the details here, since there are already lots of resources that expose QT backgrounds, history, achievements and all. What I want to stress is, I agree with what Pak Bahruddin said about education. In the end, it's the result, the quality, personality and independency of the pupils that matters. Not the grading from National Exam, nor a piece of certificate.
The discussion went through the night, up to nearing 10pm. But even after that, the conversation continued informally. Seems like you could have a nice long chat with Pak Bahruddin without a moment of bore. I had to catch an angkot home (it *was* fairly late), but have made a soft promise to visit QT during our holiday in West Java, soon. Hope we can make it.
E.T.A. (my bad habit, forgetting to close a writing)
Responding to the question if it is possible to provide an affordable and qualified education in Indonesia: it is. All we need is people with the same vision to start and to commit to an independent education plan, which really touches the heart and the art of learning itself, rather than compiling ranks and aiming for status.
Another point that should be stressed is: local values should be introduced naturally, not merely adopted from other people's 'localities' (then it won't be 'local' anymore!). Recognize and make use of local resources, learn skills that would help you through life.