My Jakarta: Stephanie Pranawijaya, Tutor for Street Teens
Most people agree that education is one of the most important things in a person’s life. We know that a decent education, be it formal or otherwise, is vital for children.
The education system in Indonesia is a complicated one. Low incomes combined with high education fees force many children to drop out and opt for a life on the streets. But education offers young people an opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty and live as productive members of society.
Stephanie Pranawijaya, a tutor for street teens, tells My Jakarta a bit about how the world looks from their perspective.
Tell us about the program you are involved in.
This is actually something that my church came up with. They established a small organization to assist street kids and kids from low-income families with their school fees. Mostly we help kids with their education, and I offer tutoring lessons on weekdays.
You come from a biotechnology background — do you teach only science subjects?
I offered to help out on chemistry, so I teach mostly that for the high school kids. I still remember the math lessons they teach in high school, so for the junior high kids, if the math tutor is unavailable, I step in as a substitute.
The program has a weekly schedule for each and every subject. I teach on Mondays and Thursdays, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Each session last for about two hours; I instruct students on the various topics and help them complete their homework.
Most classes for street children only teach practical skills, like mathematics to help them from being cheated and English as a communication skill — why would you teach chemistry?
Not all of them are kids who have never gone to school before. Some are still going to local schools, yet are struggling to understand the material, so we give them all the mandatory school subjects. Chemistry is an important subject that every well-rounded individual should know about.
How badly are they struggling in their studies?
Well, one of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard is that their teacher often doesn’t show up at their school, and they have no substitute teachers. How can they properly study?
Plus, they don’t really get any extra materials to provide a better understanding of the subjects. The teachers mostly stick to the books, and that’s it. That may seem insignificant, but it has a big impact.
We also have to build and nurture their motivation to study, and that’s where the challenges usually lie. But we never stop doing that, because it’s important to remind them of the importance of having an education. What I like most about this job is I get to help other kids; it makes me feel very useful.
Why did you first decide to join the program?
When I got into university, I had to take the bus every day to go to class. I always saw street children running around, asking for money by singing or begging on the streets, and I would say to myself: ‘These guys are suppose to be in school, playing with their friends, not going around asking people for money.’
I felt very sad about it, and my wish was to help them out, particularly with their education.
When did you first get involved in this program?
The organization was established in 2009, and I’ve been involved since the beginning. One of the committee members contacted a nearby youth association, and they spread the word around. That’s how I found out and I immediately contacted them to join.
You have been involved with tutoring for quite a while. What do you think are the major flaws in our education system?
I would say that the outreach is very minimal, especially when it comes to these kids. A lot of excellent schools have such high standards for their students, when in reality not every child can keep up. On the other hand, some other schools have mid-level standards, but the kids are often underprepared for what’s out there [in the wider world]. The gap is too big. In the end, the main goal of this tutoring program is to help them become more competent students and people.
Stephanie Pranawijaya was talking to Marcella Sualang.