goodmorningpapua.com – In one corner of the St. Elementary School (SD) of Fransiskus Xaverius II Merauke, a brightly colored reading room facility has just officially opened, supplemented with a variety of interesting books and a large table. The teachers at the school also seemed excited and ready to try some new skills in welcoming students back into face-to-face learning activities (PTM).
Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the learning process of children throughout Indonesia. This is exacerbated by limited internet access, inadequate communication tools, and the digital divide. The school closure policy in turn has had a significant impact, particularly in Papua Province where the regional average literacy rate is lower than the national average.
This impact is not only felt by students and parents, but also the frontline educators in Indonesia such as Sister Emiliana Rumsory as a principal of elementary school of St. Francis Xavier II Merauke. Sister Emilia, as she is known, moved to Papua in 2019, with the enthusiasm to improve the literacy skills of elementary school children. However, the policy of closing schools, as well as the difficulty of implementing online learning (on the network) has hampered his good intentions.
When the government decided to allow PTM on a limited basis at the end of 2021, Sister Emilia was very enthusiastic about welcoming it. Even so, he is aware of the many challenges that must be faced in welcoming the reopening of schools, such as the uneven ability of students even at one level due to differences in the situation and conditions of studying at home, as well as the changing conditions of COVID-19 in the region.
“Kids lose a lot of time to study. Their reading and writing skills are declining. Like or dislike it, we have to start all over again.” said Sister Emilia.
Welcoming the school’s reopening, Sister Emilia and the other fellow teachers decided to set priorities. From increasing the capacity of teachers in teaching basic skills, providing adequate handwashing facilities, to ensuring that all students and school staff follow the Health Protocols (Prokes) such as washing hands, wearing masks, and keeping a distance. It’s just that to achieve it all is not an easy matter.
Therefore, when Sister Emilia heard that UNICEF, together with a non-governmental organization (NGO) called the Berkat Lestari Foundation, was holding an Early Literacy Class (EGL) training, she without hesitation sent more than half of the teaching staff in the school through the School Operational Assistance (BOS) fund. ).
In order to support the education of primary grade students during the pandemic and beyond, UNICEF, through financial support from the Australian Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), in collaboration with partners, ensures the necessary needs, especially regarding the teaching and learning process of teachers, to build a conducive and safe learning environment for all.
The training carried out by the Berkat Lestari Foundation and UNICEF is not only intended for teachers at the grade level, but also for supervision and assistance by school facilitators. These supervisors then introduce conducive child-friendly teaching practices, while ensuring that all teachers continue to follow Prokes. Slowly but surely, the training was able to change the parenting style of the teachers at St. Elementary School of Fransiskus Xaverius II Merauke, and can be felt by the students in the class.
“Initially, the teacher lectured more often so it felt very monotonous, but now the teacher teaches by combining songs, movements, and songs to make it easier for children to read,” said Sister Emilia with a smile as she started learning in the first month of 2022.
St. Fransiskus Xaverius II Merauke has adopted a new teaching approach system introduced through early grade literacy training (EGL) with the hope that it will continue even after the pandemic is over. As part of the program, the school will also provide a reading corner in each class containing story books for students.
“We don’t want this program to be temporary,” said Sister Emilia hopefully, “we want to continue this good habit as part of the school’s teaching culture.”
As a woman who is well-known to be wise and unpretentious in her environment, Sister Emilia is increasingly confident in her ability to improve the quality of education in Papua, while ensuring that children there are able to develop reading skills.
“In the future, we want to see the development of our teaching staff, as well as find out how it affects the literacy skills of students,” she said excitedly just before ending the story about the school’s plan to improve literacy in early grades.