Face of Freeport : Sakrias Fobia, Nothing is Impossible in Life

27 October 2017


For almost 11 years Sakrias Fobia has been teaching Calistung – the Indonesian acronym for the basic 3Rs of education: Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic - to students of the Adult Education program at Nemangkawi Mining Institute in Mimika Regency, Papua Province.

The Adult Education program provides literacy instruction initiated by Freeport Indonesia for the Kamoro and Amungme tribes, to prepare them to enter the workforce.

The man born in Timor NTT, 52 years ago revealed he became a teacher in 2007 after applying for the job of instructor at Nemangkawi Mining Institute. It was then that he was assigned to teach the 3Rs under the Adult Education program dedicated to the two major traditional landowning tribes in the Freeport Indonesia operating area. 

Pak Zjack, as he is familiarly called, shows no sign of weariness or tedium as he instructs his students, who are not of school age. To most people, teaching the 3Rs may seem easy, particularly to school age children. But for Pak Zjack, the circumstance is quite different as he instructs adults ranging in age from 20 to 30 years. His students hail from villages in the highlands and southern coast of Mimika. Teaching is his calling, and as such Pak Zjack wholeheartedly practices what he wants to do by instructing and educating his students.

He has his own way of interacting with his students who are not of school age; he employs a cultural and language approach. For this purpose, he has learned simple phrases in the Kamoro and Amungme languages to facilitate communicating with his students. He then gradually introduces the core subjects. “In teaching arithmetic, I don’t immediately introduce numbers to my students. I have to employ visual means,” he said. For instance, he uses pictures of animals familiar to the students, such as pigs, cuscus, and chicken.


His passion to be of service to the community is clearly evident. In class, his instruction includes teaching life values, and this instruction is known as the Awareness Class. He introduces his students to the values they will have to adopt in order to achieve their goals. This is incorporated in discipline to be on time for classes, and practicing a healthy and sanitary lifestyle before coming to school. “I begin with imparting to my students the importance of learning, and then I point out as a model a prominent Amungme or Kamoro figure who achieved success at Freeport.” 

The instruction Pak Sakrias provides does not require a degree in teaching; more importantly patience and perseverance are needed as on average the students take three years to graduate from the 3Rs program. Certainly, it is not plain sailing all the time, as the diverse cultural backgrounds of his students can pose problems.  One problem is when students are disinclined to study and are more eager to get a job quickly before mastering the 3Rs. Not all students participating in the Adult Education program have a predilection for studying. The instructor must shrewdly delve into individual personalities.  He constantly brings home to his class that no one is already outstanding and that all are here to learn, and therefore they should heed the instructor in order to achieve their goals. 

”I am not just a teacher to my students; I have to be an economist, a priest, and even to position myself as an extension of their family/parents as the program is intended to improve their future lives,” he said. He is proud when his students graduate and get jobs. At every meeting he endeavors to have his students gain knowledge and skills to bring about such change for the better. 

The father of four is now into his 20th year working at Freeport. Before joining NMI, Sakrias was assigned to the Community Health Development Department’s Malcon (Malaria Control) section. In the two decades of his service to the company, he feels he is most fulfilled when serving the communities around the mining area through his instructing them under the Adult Education program, in line with his life motto “Nothing is impossible in life.”   (Trian P)

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