Rabu, 18 Juli 2012

Indonesia Mengajar: A Program for Social Justice in Education

Social justice for the whole people of Indonesia. This is the fifth principle of our ideology, Pancasila. This principle is symbolized by the image of rice paddy and cotton which means that every single person shares the same happiness which emphasizes an egalitarian relationship for majority and minority groups. This idea was basically from our founding father, the first president – Soekarno. He encouraged Indonesian people to have equality in many aspects such as education. Since the very beginning of our nation’s independence, the principle of social justice in education was elaborated in the constitution, Undang-Undang Dasar (UUD) 1945. For example, UUD 1945 article 30 emphasizes a national education system in which “Each citizen has the right to an education”. Unfortunately, this principle remains distant, since the right to education is only for those who afford to buy it, while the others, who cannot afford it, can only peek in and see the class interactions from outside the windows, like the main character in the movie “Denias”. This is symbolic of many other Deniases in remote areas spreading from Sabang to Merauke who have a passion for studying and are intelligent but cannot afford these opportunities. Do they deserve an inferior education? Do only Javanese people merit a good education? No.

It is a shame if we treat kids differently based on from their ethnic groups and economical conditions, whether they are Javanese or Papuan, whether they are light or dark, whether they are rich or poor. All kids from diverse groups need to have equal opportunities to learn (Bank in Bassey, 2010). Civic action has started to respond this multicultural principle under the flag of Indonesia Mengajar Program (Indonesia Teaching Program). In line with Bassey’s argument (2010) that we need to take an action such as volunteering and doing charity work, Anies Baswedan since 2010 initiated a program to teach kids in remote areas outside of Java such as Sumatera, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua. His concern for social justice in education drives him to ask fresh graduate students or in-service teachers from Indonesian universities to take part and contribute in this program. Like a candle, we are in charge of setting the kids’ dreams on fire and not let it blow out.

There are two ways for people to come and join this program: volunteering work and donating some money.
Volunteering can be difficult to do for the first and second month. The program, which requires a year away from friends and family, can become a challenge. My cousin, Ana Rahmawati, participated in the program, and she reported that just like other volunteers, she spent her mornings assisting a group of kids. She lectured Aceh kids who used to live in a conflict area and sometimes their memories frightened them again. I agree with Bassey’s argument (2010) that the most serious problems for students are powerlessness, violence, poverty, and seeing culture as an area of conflict (2010). My cousin also emphasized these problems as challenges. She accepted that her main duty there was to enact pedagogical equity and attempt prejudice reduction (Bassey, 2010). She insisted we cannot compare these kids with the kids in metropolitan areas. If kids 8 and 9 years old in Jakarta or other big cities are able to count, these kids in remote place are not. Equity based pedagogy is a necessity. If those lucky urban kids learn from books, video lessons and other modern devices, these kids learn through nature. For science and social studies, they did outside classroom activities. They observed whether a plant had fiber roots or not, how many community animals they encountered, and the name of stone they found. They studied with experiential learning which increases understanding to around 90% (Talbot, 2007) where rich kids only learn passively from media like discovery channel. Her work there was not only about pedagogic equality but also prejudice reduction. This was uneasy since students’ parents and society have negative stereotypes of Javanese people. When Aceh declared their willingness to be an independence country through the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), many soldiers came. Unfortunately, their coming became a great disaster for the society. They killed the rebellious people and raped the girls. Ana devoted her year to reduce this prejudice. Quickly, she gained these kids’ trust and connected with them. She never treated them as inferior based on where they came, their ethnic group or what local languages they spoke.

Implementing multicultural ideas about pedagogical equity and prejudice reduction are not easy to do. Ana’s experience demonstrates that it needs more struggles, more beliefs, and more people to devote their time to action that can make the dream of the fifth principle of Pancasila – social justice for the whole people of Indonesia in education come true.

Bassey, M.O. (2010). Education for Civic Citizenship and Social Justice: A Critical Social Foundations Approach. Education as Change 14(2), pp. 247-257.
Denias, Senandung di atas Awan. Produced and distributed by Alenia Pictures.
Indonesia Mengajar. https://indonesiamengajar.org
Talbot, CJ. (2007). Studying at a Distance: A Guide for Students. Berkshire, England: McGraw-Hill Press.
Undang-Undang Dasar 1945. Available at http://portal.mahkamahkonstitusi.go.id

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