Pangandaran West Java, Indonesia.

Pangandaran West Java, Indonesia. I went, saw and this is the wish list…


A small sound system (1 or 2 speakers) Microphone and controls (be great if it could play music with zip or cd).

6 or 7 laptops.

Sporting Equipment… soccer balls, table tennis, basketballs and cricket.

English very basic books for kids.

Money to repair the furniture.

Ongoing money $60 per week to give every kid at school one meal per day for six days.


Most schools in the region of Pangandaran West Java, Indonesia are poor, underfunded and struggling. But with love and laughter they inspire.

Erns school is small, maybe 8 teachers to work with 60 + kids. The kids all come from poor and very poor families on the edge of Pangandaran town, some are even the children of locals ladies of the night. Many have to be pleaded with to get their kids to school. The school has nothing, really just the building(s) that house it. It sits in the middle of a paddock, the sports ground is supposed to occupy the front part of the paddock and this has just four upright poles, nothing else. Even the poorest most deprived school in Australia would be a palace of learning and sport beside this school.


But in some many many ways it is so impressive. The teachers work with so little and give so much.

Let me attempt to explain the system… Prep school kids from four years old to six, Primary school, deals with from six to twelve, Secondary school from twelve to fifteen years, High school from fifteen to eighteen and thence, should all the cards fall right and believe me the stack is huge… they can go to University, provided they can afford it.


Its a grind. Prep and Primary are the primers, this prepares the kids for what we see as the secondary experience. If I understand it right, it is the Secondary school and High school that will round out the children’s education and also prepare them to have some work skills.

Education is NOT enough it is just part of the equation and the second half is the equipping the children with some ability to survive in what can only be seen as profoundly hard life as the population of Indonesia (currently 240,000,000) continues to grow and the need to survive is often stretched into extreme difficulty. Take a look at any of the large cities of these beautiful islands and see the many people living on the streets, begging and frequently not surviving.

The system is at best fragile, it is dependant on many cogs all turning together to achieve a result. These cogs often fall off. Strangely, the powers in education seems to often make things very much more complex by requiring frequent and complex reporting.


The teacher system is one of profound complexity. A degree at any of the many universities (Government run) is not a guarantee of teaching. job, for that one needs to have a place in the civil service and this is available for a cost (quotes of up to 100 million rupiah) an exam to sit and patience. For those talented graduates that are not in the civil service, called ‘Social’ teachers, are used at every school and are seriously underpaid, lets say tragically under paid. There are stories of Social teachers who have struggled within the system for many many years. I know of one case where both husband and wife are Social teachers and they have two children, one receives just $10 per month the other, $15. If it was not for the fact that her parents are able to help both financially and physically, they would not have enough money in a month to even eat.


This is not a rare story, this is common place. Most Social teachers tell you that they do not know a way out. The hope of the Social teachers of Pangandaran is that since the region is about to become a district in its own right, thus needing a complete infrastructure of beurocrats, 2000 + new civil servant positions will be created.

To give some perspective, a civil servant teacher earns between 2600000 to 3000000 rupiah a Social teacher earns 100000 to 150000 a month so $260 to $300 and $10 to $15.

Children in the system are required to take up to 6 hours religious teaching a week. I wonder at this.


Despite all of this or maybe because of it, the school SDN 2 Wonoharjo goes on, works in some way. It was for me a hugely different experience coming from the west where disciple and rules apply. To walk into the teachers room, also shared by the headmaster and to see a couple of (admittedly run down) lounges in the middle of the room and some travelling salesman sitting back, smoking those much loved clove cigarettes, there was three other males, a religious teacher, the headmaster and the school ‘caretaker’ and Ern, and maybe six or seven lady teachers, Ern does not smoke, the rest do and the travelling salesman (selling small hand held vacuum cleaner). The room was filled with smoke. Its not right to draw any comparison. This world is light years different to the world in Australia and yet so close.


It seemed to be so relaxed and yet works. The school hours are 7am to 1 pm, some schools in the country run two lots of classes in a day this one does not. I sat in the library while I started to write this, it was from this room that the computer was stolen, but also the sound system. Its the sound system that they are going to miss most when the school has its ‘graduation’ and Ern, with lots of energy has the school children doing performances of traditional dance and modern rock and roll calisthenics. A speaker, a central control and a microphone jack so they could announce. I think that for the happiness of the children under the tutelage of Ern this is something I am determined to get for them as soon as possible. The thieves took the system, but managed to leave the pedestal the speaker was mounted on.


When I handed over the laptop to the second in charge of the school, I was not sure of what it would do… but as Ern says, the old computer was used by all to do some of the complex reporting needed by the education authorities, it was used to keep track of the library books and a million and one small tasks. Some of the teachers have their own laptops, but these are rarely used. I asked the headmaster the next day what would they use computers for and he surprised me by saying that they would like to also start to teach the children how to use them. I am hoping to get a further six of seven.

The English teacher (may soon not have a job as the Indonesian Government has decided to ban the teaching of English at all Primary schools in the country from next year… it in fact does seem sensible) has no or virtually no material what so ever to use and I have promised her that I will get a bundle of very simple english story books to send her… I think what is more important is that the children learn that other countries, other ways and other cultures exist. It could be argued this is not a good thing as it may destabilize them. I don’t know.


The Sporting Facilities are a complete non existent joke, they consist of a field that is roughly oval size in front of the school and four pieces of bamboo placed as goal’s should they be lucky enough to have a ball, which they don’t. They need lots, soccer balls, basket balls, a hoop, table tennis, cricket. Australian rules and rugby do not rate. The kids love sport, it is their time to relax away from the learning experience of reading writing etc, and just engage in good healthy competition.


A lot of the kids arrive every day with no food in their tummies, they arrive hungry and often a bit bewildered. A local lady has set her little stall up to sell food, but most of the kids have no money. She has agreed to give one meal per child per day for A$60 per week (not bad for 360 meals). The situation is that the school has to take responsibility for this. It will make a massive difference to the lives of the children… any takers? Oh I also need some money to buy sixty plus plastic plates.


Any help you can offer will be fantastic!


~ by peterwatson on February 24, 2013.

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