Rote Series: My Little School on the Prairie

Kristia Davina Sianipar 5 September 2012

I remember when my predecessor took me to the school for the first time, I was in awe. The nearest house is about 500 meters away. There’s nothing there but the school. Behind it is a forest and in front is an endless prairie (okay, I’ve never ventured out to that prairie so maybe it’s not as endless as I thought it is).

I would like to call it, My Little School on the Prairie.

I walked to the school almost daily. Took me about half an hour on a dusty, rocky, white road to reach my school on foot. The school itself stood on a red ground. That ground is called Daepapan (therefore the name of the school: SDN Daepapan). I was told that this was a battle ground in the old days. Those who fought would often smack their hands on the ground and yell, “Daepapan!” So that’s where the name came from.

This school was built in 2007 by the initiative of the parents in three dusuns nearby (Dusun Nggelak, Dusun Daedulu, and Dusun Lopolain), who wanted to have an elementary school that is nearer for their kids. At first, the buildings were from bebak (dried leaves and wooden planks). But the buildings fell flat to the ground in 2008 during strong wind, which luckily happened during a school holiday. So in 2008, the government took over the school and built proper buildings. However, it only had three classrooms, a teachers’ room, two teachers’ houses, and one toilet. So until last year, there were morning classes and afternoon classes. With a new headmaster this year, the teacher’s room was converted into a classroom (with a small room divided by cupboards for the teachers’ room) and the dorm was converted into a classroom too. So we all have morning classes now.

And you know what, I’m back to using blackboard! My, when was the last time I used blackboard? Probably when I was in fifth grade many, many years ago. I love using color chalks. But at the end of every day, I’d find myself covered with dusts. I’d call this my pixie dusts. Hahahaha.

When I reported about the school’s physical condition to the private foundation I’m working with, I feel pity for the school. Three classrooms, half a teacher’s room, half a headmaster’s room, one toilet? I’d remember about my own elementary school. I’d even remember my high school, one of the most expensive schools out there in Indonesia. We had what, two swimming pools, two gymnasiums, a football field, and even a horse stable?

My school doesn’t even have electricity and water. With one toilet and reserved for teachers only, the students take their ‘breaks’ in the bushes. One time, I allowed all my kids to take their break at the same time, and I could peek from the window of my classroom little boys and girls spread all over the ground behind the school building, each doing their own business, and I laughed a little inside. What a cute sight. But what a pitiful one too. But they’re used to it, and I’m used to it by now too.

I’m teaching fifth grade, with 19 students, 6 girls and 13 boys. They were very shy at first, but now I find them to be a very rowdy bunch. When I ask them a question, they all would shout all kinds of answers, just shooting at me random answers. Then when I walked around checking their works, they would play around, jump around, get rough with each other, and soon one by one would scream, “Ibu, she’s crying! Ibu, he’s crying!” You know, almost every day I got a couple of kids crying in my class. Thank goodness I’m used to the tears of little kids, thanks to my crybaby little cousins.

My little kids are cute ones. If not considering my role as a teacher and theirs as my students, some of them I would shower with kisses and I would squeeze their cheeks. It breaks my heart when I know that half of them can’t read, and they’re in fifth grade too.

On the real first day of school (there were so many holidays that there were many ineffective school days), I tried to teach Bahasa Indonesia (we call it here, Bindo). The topic was Interview. I struggled real bad. So bad, that the next day I decided to do a Math and Bindo tests for the whole day. And I found out that half of my kids can’t read well. Even if they manage to read the sentence, it doesn’t mean that they understand it. All but one cannot do divisions. They don’t understand the concept of negative numbers. And they’re in fifth grade! They’re going to have their national exam next year!

Not that I did not expect any of these. It’s just that, when the reality strikes you, it still strikes you bad. So what happened? I tried to analyze it, I observed, I listened to stories, and I understand a little. It’s the teachers. Probably it’s the system too, but mostly the teachers. Now, since this is not a private entry written solely for friends and family, I shall not start exposing all the bad things I’ve seen and heard here. But it’s a pity that things happen the way they do. I mean, aren’t these children their children too, their future, the future of Rote? In my class alone, three kids are the children of the teachers here.

That’s at school. Not to mention what’s at home. I’ve visited almost all of my children’s houses. Some parents are good in monitoring the education of their kids. Some at least tried. Some don’t care. One father exclaimed that his son is a bad son, even when I just barely entered his house. Some of my kids’ parents (either the mother or the father) have run away from home.

Education is a complex issue indeed.

I once asked my predecessor about the nice spots I could go to just clear my mind. He said there aren’t really any, but the school is good enough. The school is really good enough. Sometimes when I waited for my kids to finish copying the notes on the blackboard, I’d gaze outside of my classroom. I’d see coconut trees swaying. I’d feel the afternoon breeze. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of the blue sea far away. And the endless prairie. With all its grand facilities, my high school did not have this kind of view.

My little school on the prairie, indeed.


Rote, 30 August 2012


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