Alternative Schools in Hinterland Papua

goodmorningpapua.com – At first glance, Zakharia Primaditya — aka Adit — and Putri Kitnas Inesia are like the millennial generation in general. At the age of 36, they have received higher education, are familiar with technology, like challenges and full of ideas.

Adit has worked for a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and served as the principal of the Ob Anggen School in Bokondini, Papua. Putri, who earned her master’s degree at a university in Austria after graduating from FISIP-UI, has been a journalist for a lifestyle magazine and has also worked for an NGO.

However, they do not choose to live in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a big city, which is not impossible to promise a large income, and a more luxurious life by general standards. They prefer to stay and become volunteer teachers in the hinterland of Papua.

How their story so that in the end they set up a school in the village of Kosarek is also out of the ordinary. They traveled for days on foot, before finally deciding to settle in Kosarek

“For the first trip, we walked 26 days, through 4 districts and dozens of villages. We then rest for a week, and then walk again to the south. After that, we felt that we had passed many villages, and we just entered the area that we felt God had chosen for us. We feel that Kosarek village is God’s choice for us,” said Putri.

Kampung Kosarek is located in remote Yahukimo Regency, a seven-day walk from the nearest town, Wamena. The lack of infrastructure makes the village remote and difficult to reach. Formal schools have not operated there for a dozen years, so the majority of children do not receive an education.

Putri said that when she and Adit started the school called Rumah Belajar more than three years ago, the children over there were not fluent in Indonesian, could not read, write and count. They finally decided to provide 2nd grade elementary school learning materials for their students who were already in their twenties.

Adit said that Rumah Belajar is an alternative school. The learning program at this school is different from traditional schools because it prioritizes local wisdom

“We want to give opportunities, to give space to learn, to grow together. Learning from each other in their cultural context, their needs. So we didn’t come by saying we wanted to build a school. We came with a passion for involving local people. Make them teachers who teach the culture they know,” said Adit.

The teacher referred to by Adit is not a picture of a teacher known to the general public. The teachers over there generally have never graduated from elementary school or some have never received any formal education at all. They are people who used to teach Sunday School but have a passion to share knowledge and life experiences. In short, Adit and Putri trained them before they were deployed as teachers, by making maximum use of local wisdom sources.

Not surprisingly, at Rumah Belajar, students learn mathematics by using the typical Mek method of counting that uses body parts. At the alternative school, the students also learn how to farm and to raise livestock which has been practiced by the villagers for generations. To develop their language skills, Adit and Putri deliberately took a multilingual approach based on the local language.

GPM in principle is a movement of scholars from Papua to teach in their hometowns as a form of love for their village and family. The community itself was established in 2013 and has spread throughout the province of Papua. GPM aims to improve the quality of education in Papua, especially in remote areas.

For more than three years, Rumah Belajar has been the only place of education for more than 60 children in Kosarek.

The couple’s efforts have shown results. Two of their students, Yanes and Yuman, succeeded in composing a poem in Indonesian last December. The poem, entitled “My Prayers, Children of Kosarek” was read at a Christmas celebration in Kosarek.

A fragment of their poem reads: “We are children of Kosarek, have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the word of God has been revealed in the Land of Kosarek. We have become believers, but also, we want to study and to go to higher school.”

For Adit and Putri, teaching in Kosarek is like answering their heart’s calling. Putri said that many children in rural areas need education and guidance, but unfortunately not many people have come to meet their needs.

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