Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Classrooms brought closer to children in remote areas

For the last eight years, students of state-run elementary school SD Negeri Cibutun at Simpenan district in Sukabumi regency, West Java, have been forced to study in makeshift classrooms built voluntarily by local residents.

The makeshift classrooms were built to help facilitate long-distance teaching and learning activities so students did not have to walk 7 kilometers to reach their permanent school building.

Cibeas hamlet in Kertajaya village - where the makeshift school was located - is one of the remote areas, about 80 kilometers from the city of Sukabumi. Most of its residents live in the hills and use Pelabuhan Ratu beach as their front yards.

A member of the long-distance teaching and learning committee, Nano Ginsang, said an agreement to build the makeshift school was reached in 2001.

"Initially all students in Cibeas hamlet were forced to study at SD Negeri Cibutun, which was only accessible by walking along small and meandering paths along the edge of the shore," he said.

"Because storms frequently hit the hamlet, especially during the rainy season, many parents who were worried about their children's safety demanded the long-distance teaching and learning activities be held here," he said.

Nano said at least 102 students were now attending the long-distance school, which was also used to accommodate students of state junior high school SMP Negeri 1 Simpenan.

Because the SMP students' permanent school is also located further away, it is convenient for them to join the long-distance school activities. Eleven teachers were hired to teach both the elementary and junior high school students - 10 are volunteers and one is a contractor.

"With the help of the National Community Empowerment Program *PNPM Generasi*, we were able to build three classrooms, now used by sixth-, fifth- and first-graders. The second-, third- and fourth-graders are still using the old makeshift building, so we hope the government will give us more funding so we can build three other classrooms and a teachers' room," Nano said.

A PNPM Generasi officer in Sukabumi, Dedi Rustandi, said since 2007, his office had channeled funds amounting to Rp 2.12 billion to repair 50 classrooms in 37 elementary schools in Sukabumi. Another Rp 1.17 billion was also disbursed to repair 28 classrooms in 26 SMPs in the regency, he said.

"The construction of the three classrooms in Cibeas was just completed last March, Dedi said.

Meanwhile, secretary of Sukabumi Education Office Maman Abdurahman said out of 1,300 elementary schools in Sukabumi, 1,050 were damaged and needed immediate repair. And out of the 188 junior high schools, 20 percent were badly damaged, he said.

Soenoe Widjajanti, a PNPM Generasi management consultant, explained the government had hired the PNPM to implement the Healthy and Smart generation program to help speed up three of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), namely providing universal basic education, lowering labor mortality rate and improving mothers' health.

Soenoe said under the program, the government provided the community with grants to cooperate with facilitators and health and education service providers.

Since 2007, the Healthy and Smart Generation program has been implemented in 22 regencies in three provinces, namely West Java, East Java, East Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi and Gorontalo.

In 2007 alone, the program was implemented in 129 districts in 20 regencies in the five provinces, and in 2008 in 176 districts in 22 regencies, while the location for the implementation of the program this year has not been decided yet, Soenoe added.

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