NTA has worked in primary schools and secondary schools for a long time. After requests from local people, we have recently been helping to set up and equip pre-schools.
We help schools with library buildings, making basic collections of books and training teachers, students and other community members to manage school libraries. We also help to improve existing classrooms by providing new furniture and equipment.
NTA also has a scholarship program to help some of the poorest kids continue their schooling when they wouldn't otherwise be able to go to school.
Pre-schools, taman kanak, or more literally in English, kindergartens, have spread rapidly in Nusa Tenggara Timur in recent years. Parents have seen the value of giving preliminary instruction to 4 and 5 year olds before they enter primary school. They have in the new era of democracy urged local officials and politicians to help them, and this has produced very concrete results. The new pre-schools usually open for two hours several mornings each week, being run by 2 teachers. They’re often staged in Church halls or other spare buildings, and despite makeshift conditions seem to be getting excellent results.
The NTA has been asked at successive musyawarah to help with such schools, and has done so in 15 instances. Thus at the village of Oetefu Besar on Semau island, we assisted parents with cement, corrugated iron and other building materials for two classrooms and a teachers’ office/storeroom, and also provided tables, chairs and toys. All this was done in ‘stages’, which fits communities better if there’s lots of manual work to do. We started this activity in 2005, and completed it last year. Now in early 2009 the school has 39 pupils.
We’ve provided similarly in several cases, but more generally have only given chairs, tables, books and toys. We don’t support teachers’ salaries, and these are usually paid from villagers’ contributions or by the education authorities. Most schools have about 30 children, but there are some with many more. One pre-school at the remote and extremely poor village of Kobekaka in central Timor has 72 kids.
Late last year we began working on pre-schools with the Yayasan Balita Sehat or YBS (the Association for Healthy Youngsters), an NGO based in Jakarta. The YBS has an enthusiastic field presence in Timor, and has helped a lot in intensifying our pre-school efforts. They and we have opened 4 new pre-schools in the last few months, and these have benefited from the special 2-week training course for teachers run by Ibu Ade, the YBS specialist in this sphere. The YBS has agreed to pay teachers’ salaries for the first year, and this aided greatly in getting the schools established quickly. In the longer run we’re hoping the Education Department will pay the honoraria.
This expansion of pre-schools, which we intend to go on supporting, is paralleled by similar recent growth in primary and secondary schools. The latter has again been mainly propelled by pressures from parents. The NTA and its local counterparts are assisting in many of these cases in NTA target areas, taking part in what we feel is a significant revolution in Indonesian education.