The Trials of Being a Teacher
Yonathan Kalikit Kapita used to dream of getting a job outside his small village of Mauramba in East Sumba district, East Nusa Tenggara.
After graduating from a vocational school in the district capital, Waingapu, he wanted to study computer programming and English, then get a job in Waingapu or in Kupang, the provincial capital.
“But then I saw the children in my area, many of whom were not motivated to go to school and study,” Yonathan, 23, tells the Jakarta Globe.
“I asked myself then, should I leave them alone? My heart told me I should stay and teach them.”
Mauramba is a small village about 80 kilometers from Waingapu, or two days by boat from Kupang. Most of the people there work as farmers, and their kids usually help them in the fields.
Yonathan teaches at SD Masehi Mauramba, the only elementary school in the area. He and seven other teachers are responsible for the 138 students there.
As a contract teacher, he earns just Rp 350,000 ($37) a month, most of which goes toward paying his tuition for undergraduate studies at the Open University in Kupang.
“We have very limited study sources, and many of the students don’t speak Indonesian,” Yonathan said.
“I have to work harder to make them understand basic things. I really wish the government would give more attention to both students and teachers in remote areas like mine.”
The Globe met Yonathan and 20 other teachers from remote, underdeveloped and border areas at the Education Ministry in Jakarta on Monday, where they were invited for a week-long visit by Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh.
The contingent included eight teachers from East Nusa Tenggara, seven from Papua and six from Aceh. All are non-permanent teachers and have been teaching at elementary or junior high level for years. One has two decades of experience.
Older faces dominated the group, but there were also younger teachers such as Yonathan.
This, said Syawal Gultom, head of human resources development at the Education Ministry, is what the country needs more of — young people willing to remain in underdeveloped regions to teach.
“You are fighters who inspire,” Syawal told the group. “Not everybody will choose such a path. You have taken an extraordinary journey.”
However, he later acknowledged that teachers in these areas were often denied their rightful pay, despite being eligible for government incentives for teaching in remote, underdeveloped and border areas.
A ministerial decree issued last year stipulates that contract teachers in such areas are entitled to a bonus of Rp 1.5 million per month. Permanent teachers, who have attained civil servant status, are entitled to an incentives equaling their monthly pay.
Speaking to the visiting delegation, Nuh insisted the government was committed to supporting teachers in such areas.
Books and facilities
The ministry is also working with state airline Garuda Indonesia to donate 1 million workbooks to students in the teachers’ hometowns.
While she welcomed the gifts, Dina Rumsarwir, from Biak, Papua, said she and her students needed more than just allowance guarantees. “Our students need books to study,” she said.
“We hope that the teacher certification process will reach our school one day,” she added. “And that our students get the facilities they need.”