Mar 17, 2012

Indonesia - SMP 4 Mendoyo Students Go From ‘Observation School’ to ‘Non-School’

Fifteen-year-old Arik Khodiarani’s dejected demeanor stood in contrast to her surroundings at SMP 4 Mendoyo, a pleasant complex in Jembrana, Bali, with huge trees providing shelter for everyone.

“I originally joined this school because it was said to be the best school in town, even though I live far from here,” Arik said.

The third-year student went gaga over the various after-school programs that ended at 3:30 in the afternoon. There were Japanese and Mandarin languages courses, culinary classes, math and sciences to environmental courses — at least at first.

“We don’t have those free courses anymore. We have to go home after 12:30 p.m. and that makes me sad,” she said. “I have nothing to do at home and if we want to get the extra courses, our parents have to pay extra.

“But because my parents can’t afford them, all I do is hang out with friends after school.”

Another student, Febry Suseni, shared her grievances. “Our days are now filled with boredom. I would love to learn more,” she said, glancing at two other girls who nodded in agreement.

The change came after former district head I Gede Winasa reached his two-term limit in 2010. In April 2011, the school’s “special” status was revoked by the new district head, I Putu Artha, primarily because of the costs involved in running it.

“I designed SMP 4 to set an example of how a good school should be,” Winasa told the Jakarta Globe.

The school was established in 2001 as a “sekolah kajian,” or observation school, with extra funding for teachers and students.

“Education is free in Jembrana up to high school, but for this specific school I allocated more,” Winasa said.

The additional budget included a Rp 300,000 ($33) incentive per month for teachers, lunch allowances for students and teachers of up to Rp 150 million per year and allowances of Rp 370,000 per year for 350 students.

Winasa also introduce an IT-based Jembrana student system that allowed students and teachers to be virtually connected, from daily attendance to any purchase in the school cafeteria.

Over the course of its “special” existence, the school reaped various awards, including an award in 2008 from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for best school in the cultural and environmental category.

The school’s graduates have been accepted at top high schools throughout the province.

Two reasons were given to justify the change under the new district head. First, Putu Artha instructed the school principal to disseminate a questionnaire to parents asking whether they wanted to continue the 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule.

The result: a whopping 80 percent of parents said they wanted their kids home after 12:30 p.m.

“I’m sure that questionnaire was fabricated,” Winasa said.

Second, according to the Ministry of Education, there was no such thing as an observation school.

One thing is sure, and that is that teachers remain skeptical of the ongoing changes.

“A new leader means a new policy, right?” said Suratnyana, the deputy school principal.

They’re also beginning to see the impact of the changes on the students, he said.

“I find that some students are now naughty, because they are influenced by their non-school environment.”

Dewi Kurniawati
Tha Jakarta Globe

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