Remote Schooling Challenges In Papua
Recent research sponsored by the Asian Development Bank has recommended that Lani children in the remotest areas of Papua, lndonesia can be better served through multilingual education pro-grams overseen by the local community.The remote schools of Papua suffer from three crises that are inter-related. Firstly, teachers educated in the city have difficulty living in remote areas that have no electricity, health care, phone service or professional support. Secondly, many of the teachers cannot understand the language of the local children resulting in little communication between student and teacher. Finally, because of the re-mote nature of the schools, government oversight is largely lacking (very expensive to fly in on bush planes or helicopters, or it takes days to walk into these areas), leaving many buildings in pour re-pair and teachers largely unsupervised.
lt is these three inter-related concerns that are addressed in the pour Remote Papuan School initiative.
Who are the Lani People?
The Lani, also known as the Dani, inhabit the mountainous terrain of central Papua. Their population numbers around 200,000 and they form one of the largest people groups in Papua. Their livelihood primarily consists of farming and hunting.
The women are skilled in weaving intricate net bags in which they carry everything from farm pro-duce to their babies and which they strap over their heads (see women in the top left picture).
Woman; the key to sustainability
lt has been proven that if you train a girl to read, she’s highly likely to ensure, when she’s an adult, to train her children to read. However, if you train a boy to read, because he’s unlikely to be the primary care giver, he’s unlikely to train his children to read. The key for ensuring that liter-acy is both valued and sup-ported throughout the generations is to therefore ensure girls are taught to read alongside boys and to keep girls in school until they are fluent readers (and hopefully beyond that!). This is where the Lani culture is much more egalitarian than many western countries. Most preschools among the Lani have both male and female teachers (how many preschools in the West have male teachers?). This foundation provides role models of both genders from the moment Lani children enter preschool.
The reality is that Lani children in remote communities who graduate from elementary schools (6th grade) generally at a 2nd grade level (ADB Research). The Papuan Remote Schooling initiative is meant to ensure this changes. lf it doesn’t, most Lani children will never finish junior high and few, will make it to university.
The challenges are that teachers do not speak the language of the students (Lani) and the students do not speak the language of the teacher (lndonesian). By introducing reading, writing and rnathematics in both Lani and lndonesian, and by training Lani speakers as teach-ers, this communication barrier can be broken.
The Lani want to ensure their children can both compete with other lndonesian children in school while safeguarding their language and culture from being rendered obsolete (like several other cultural groups in Papua). lt is therefore their desire to eventually implement a trilingual educational program: Lani, lndonesian and English.
To address this vision, Lani people, alongside the lndonesian Depart-ment of Education and several lndonesian NGOs have begun devel-oping a corpus of Lani-lndonesian curriculum. Expected that the pre-school curriculum, wich is currently being developed in the Netherlands by drs. M.L.Fliers, finalized in march 2016.
Why a community Run School?
lmagine you’re a school supervisor and it takes 2 days of hiking to get to the valley where the schools under your supervision are located . Once you get to the valley, it takes another two days to visit all the schools, and then, in order to submit your monthly report to your boss, you have to hike another 2 days back to the nearest city. lmagine if you have 3 such valleys under your watch. You would either be in great shape or you would find a reason to avoid the long distance hikes.
lmagine you’re a school teacher, and you have to do the same hike every month to receive your pay? Your school is falling apart and you need tin to fix the roof, as well as a saw and nails. You also need to repair the desks and get whiteboard markers. Who is going to carry all the stuff in? You check with other colleagues and agree one person should go and get supplies. Now suddenly the teacher-student ratio changes from 3: 100 to 2:100. Now imagine your colleague gets sick with dengue fever.
Rural schools in Papua face numerous challenges, and lessans learned from Africa, Nepal, India and the Philippines have proven that when the community is mobilized to take an active role in supporting their school, good things usually happen. Teachers suddenly find themselves reporting to people who have a vested interest in ensuring their kids get an education. Parents are more ready to step in and help because they want their kids to succeed
The Remote Papuan Schooling Initialive is meant to be community based . School committees of parents and community leaders are formed, trained and mentored. The initial step is for the community to define the benchmarks they would like their commu-nity school to achieve and to then support and monitor their village school and support the staff to nurture success and meet the goals. By sharing the responsibility for school success with the community, the trips to the city for supplies are now shared with the community, and absentee teachers can no langer hide from an ever-present community, whose job is now to monitor and support them.
West Papua probably has 273 different languages. The languages spoken by the villagers on West Papua, between the villages, can be different. In these areas there are no schools in many villages. The children from these villages have to go to cities or other villages to follow education. They speak their own mother tongue in their village. Education is problematic for the children in those villages. Often the nearest schools sometimes walk 2 hours back and forth. In reality, the Lani children who have completed their primary school (6th-year) will generally have achieved a level comparable to the 2nd class. The Papua school initiative wants to change this. If this does not work, most Lani children will never finish high school, and even fewer children will reach vocational or university level. The challenge is that teachers (Indonesian) do not speak the language of the pupils (Lani) and vice versa. By offering reading, writing and arithmetic in Lani and Indonesian, and by training Lani speakers as teachers, this communication barrier is overcome.The Lani population would like to see their children get a place next to Indonesian children in schools, while their own language and culture does not disappear as happened with other cultural groups on Papua. Their wish is to eventually implement a trilingual educational program: Lani, Indonesian and English. By making the villagers partly responsible for the education in their village, the chances for the Lani children are improved on better education.
Prof. Joost Pikkert, SIL Jayapura 2016.