Several dozens of children formed a circle in the front yard of SDI Hawir elementary school in Nggilat Village, Manggarai Timur District in East Nusa Tenggara a July 2017 afternoon after class. Each of them then said their names, grades, the hamlets they were from and what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“I want to be a singer!” said Erdi. Emanuel wished to become a policeman while Yulia wanted to become a doctor. Other aimed for painter, teacher and midwife, and the kids burst into laughter when a girl said she wanted to be a mother. “In the kitchen!!” a boy mocked her, leaving the girl smiling shyly.
When they seem to have relaxed, they were brought back inside the classroom for a session where students from third to sixth grade provided recommendations and feedbacks on teachers and parents.
It was the second time such assessment was held, the first one was in March, before the KIAT Guru pilot was launched at the school. The pilot is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Team for Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TNP2K) and governments of five districts with disadvantaged villages, including Manggarai Barat. Implemented by Yayasan BaKTI, with technical support from the World Bank and funding from the Government of Australia and USAID, the pilot aims to improve education service delivery in remote villages by empowering communities and tying payment of the remote area allowance with either teacher presence or teacher service quality.
At the core of the pilot are the students, whose opinions and recommendations are the basis to create the indicators of teachers’ attendance and performance, as well as feedbacks for their parents. Before the pilot even started, the children were the first party to consult as they were deemed the most knowledgeable on what the teaching and learning process should be at school.
At SDI Hawir, the students were given an informed consent form stating that the information they provided would be shared with other parties. The form had two emoticons, one smiley and another frowning face, and they had to tick either one to indicate their approval or disapproval on information sharing.
Afterwards, they started to write on cue cards on what their parents and teachers should do to help them improve. Reading what they wrote on the cards was an emotional experience as many of their wishes were basic necessities their peers in more developed areas take for granted.
Students from 4th to 6th grade of SDI Hawir share their opinions and wishes toward teachers and parents. (TNP2K/Fauzan Ijazah)
Many of these students live in neighboring hamlets and have to walk about 30 minutes to one hour to reach school, on a rocky path that passes forest and a river. Some of them wished they have shoes instead of wearing flip-flops to school. They also asked for food and new uniforms, and there was a kid who wished he did not have to look for firewood.
As for the teachers, the students said there have been improvements as none of the teachers have been late in the last three months, and they appeared to be more relaxed and in good spirit.
“What about physical punishment? Any of you is still being beaten by the teachers?” asked
KIAT Guru facilitator Pansbert Chrispierco Bunga, who led the assessment.
“Nooo,” said the students. But there was a small voice from a boy that said, “Yes.”
“Are you still being beaten?” Pansbert asked.
“Yes, with (a piece of) wood, on my bottom. It wasn’t hard, though,” said the boy.
The boy, and the rest of the students, said they would not mind punishment but it should be done lightly, like kneeling, singing or a slight pinch on the cheek.
As for the school, they hoped the classrooms would be renovated as some of them were in poor condition, with cracked floors and ceilings and dirty walls. The toilet, a rickety bamboo booth with a hole in the ground that is used by 116 students and their 11 teachers, required fixing and addition, they said.
SDN Mboeng in Kaju Wangi Village, in the neighboring district of Manggarai Timur, also hoped for good school infrastructure. The school was built by the community in 2009 so that their children could go to school. Initially, the building comprised of four classrooms made of bamboo, with dirt floors, no doors and no windows. And later on the local education office built three additional rooms made of bricks.
Based on the children's recommendations, the school then installed doors at the classrooms (as the children said they often found dog poops on their desks the next morning), and punctured holes on bamboo walls to enable some lights inside the rooms. They still wished to have more permanent structures, but at least they now have a library, which they requested last year.
“I love it, I love reading storybooks,” said Victoria Anggraini Dautteri Nambung, 10, a sixth grader.
Home-room teacher of the 1st Grade students of SDN Mboeng holds class in the school's newly-established library. (TNP2K/Fauzan Ijazah)
SDN Mboeng's religious teacher, Tomas Langga Ras, said the KIAT Guru program, particularly the child assessment, has transformed him into a new man.
“I used to be the most feared teacher. I had a booming voice, I yelled at kids and used my two hands to discipline them. Now, thanks to KIAT Guru, I’ve come to realize that corporal punishment is not appropriate and it damages children’s psychological state.”
Teachers of SDN Mboeng promote interactions among students during the classes. (TNP2K/Fauzan Ijazah)
Janur Damianus, the principal of SDN Mboeng, said the students’ demands brought tears to his eyes.
“To be honest, it had never occurred to me that students could be opinionated. I guess, we always put children as object. But KIAT Guru taught us to give more effort. It gives us motivation,” he said.