Dreams of 'Junior Innovators'
With deft hands, Yohana Ykwa (14) and Albertina Beanal (14) nimbly sorted and assembled, one by one, the components and cables to build an "Imagine" robot. They wore a rapt expression on their faces, and from time to time they would mutter when the parts they were connecting failed to light up. This is how Yohana and Albertina spend their time in robotics class at Surya Research Education Center (SuRe), an educational center located in Serpong, Tangerang, Banten Province that is headed by Professor Yohanes Surya. In another room not far from the robotics classroom, students were taking a test. One of the test-takers was Nikolaus Taote (12 tahun). Albertina, Nikolaus and Yohana are children from the Amungme and Kamoro tribes of Mimika Regency, Papua, which are beneficiaries of scholarships awarded by the Amungme & Kamoro Community Development Organization (Lembaga Pengembangan Masyarakat Amungme & Kamoro /LPMAK) that is based in Timika, Papua and manages the "Freeport Partnership Fund for Community Development".
The three amiable children from Mimika were selected to study at SuRe after participating in a series of tests on mathematics, and reading and writing, to be coached as budding geniuses. In elementary school in Mimika, Papua, they had demonstrated outstanding aptitude.
Albertina, Yohana & Niko, Day by Day
At 5 in the early morning when others of their age in Timika are usually still deep in sleep, Albertina, Yohana and Niko, who board at the SuRe Dormitory are up and about, and ready for morning prayers. Every morning they conscientiously conduct a prayer service which one of them leads. "At first it was really tedious to have to wake up and shower so early in the morning," Albertina naively admitted, recounting her early days in the dormitory.
But now it is a different story altogether. They wake up early on the dot every morning, rouse their roommates, say their prayers and prepare for school. From seven in the morning to three in the afternoon they are in class. They spend eight hours a day on lessons. Albertina's favorite subject is English language. Asked for the reason, she just giggles ...."I just do," she replies ingenuously. The younger Niko likes all science subjects and mathematics.
In the beginning they struggled just to do arithmetic, but through the Matematika Gasing (acronym for Matematika Gampang Mengasyikkan/ Math is Fun and Easy) learning method devised by Prof. Yohanes Surya, the Papuan children eventually became accomplished. According to one tutor, Dr. Riza Muhida, during their first year Papuan students focus solely on mathematics, as mathematics is the key to thinking, the key to stimulating brain processes that allow absorption of other subjects such as Science, Bahasa Indonesia and English language.
Their diligence and strong determination to advance have compelled Albertina, Yohana and Niko – familiarly known as the little Papuan pearls - to accept leaving their hometowns and separation from their parents and siblings far away in eastern Indonesia, and living in the dormitory. They and other fellow Papuan students initially found it hard to adjust to the rigidly regulated life in boarding school. But with perseverance, forbearance and guidance and encouragement from tutors and their dorm matron, it was not long before they adapted.
"I really like living here, it's pleasant....I have many friends. The teachers are nice, and we are more focused on learning as the distance between class and where we stay is very close, and the lessons are good and fun," they answered simply when asked how they were coping, living in a dormitory so far from home and their parents.
The passion Albertina, Yohana and Niko have for knowledge drives them to pursue their dreams. Albertina wants to study abroad, and so she is determinedly learning English. Yohana's ambition is to become a teacher, while Niko, once he completes his studies in Jakarta, is eager to return to Papua and take part in its development.
The three Papuan pearls showcase the achievement of children from Mimika Regency studying at Surya Research Education Center (SuRe) who are beneficiaries of scholarships from LPMAK, provided through the PT Freeport Indonesia Partnership Fund. In addition to the three, 17 other Papuan students are pursuing studies at the elementary and lower secondary school levels, in this institution. SuRe is located in Summarecon Serpong, Tangerang, Banten ini, and was established by Professor Yohanes Surya in 2010. Professor Yohanes Surya is passionate about educating and tutoring the children of Papua, a disadvantaged region. He makes frequent trips to remote areas in Papua, and selects the most ignorant children he finds to be tutored at Surya Institute. Using the GASING method, he and other tutors in Surya Institute drill and coach the children to catch up with other Indonesian children.
The presence of Papuan students at Surya Research Education Center located far from Papua, is thanks to the concerted efforts of LPMAK , with funding from Freeport Indonesia and support from the Mimika Regency government, towards bringing their quality of education on a par with fellow students from other provinces of Indonesia. Indeed, they could well surpass others in ability, considering the hard work, conscientiousness and determination they apply to pursuing education in Surya Institute, far from their hometowns.
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