Dear Pak Tabiin,
Before I met you, I have always thought that the concept of having a great teacher who would change your life forever only existed in films like “Dead Poets Society” and “Mona Lisa Smile”, but within the span of three years in high school you proved me wrong, and you have done so again today.
In a perfect world, the fact that your passing fell right on the National Education Day would occur to me as nothing more than a coincidence. I read of the news as I was scrolling down my social media feed, which, in the spirit of reflecting on the National Education Day, was flooded with people posting inspirational quotes, visual posts and articles about Indonesia’s education system. Little did I know my source of contemplation that morning would come not from those posts, but, instead, from an unfortunate event. It was then that I realized I never had the chance to properly thank you for being the teacher who changed my life.
In a perfect world, a man like you would be special adviser to the governor of Jakarta, thanks to your expertise in solving problems and developing strategies on urban mass transportation issues. But, alas, this is no perfect world, and tens of years of your life was, instead, spent to teaching the often overlooked and underrated Citizenship subject in a public high school.
In a perfect world, the papers you have written and all the books you have read would be put into good use by the city administration. In this world, a man like you would receive your deserved acknowledgement and appreciation not just from the general public, but most of all from students. You would be teaching a class filled with high schoolers sitting eagerly as you shared with us your thoughts and knowledge.
But this is no perfect world, and our school’s dusty library became home to your books and papers, while empty chairs made up the majority of your audience.
Perhaps this was your perfect world.
Dedicating some eight hours every day to teaching Citizenship to only the very few students in school who were interested in politics, public policy and governance. Letting us in on the different presidential and parliamentary systems, political systems, the media’s role in shaping a democracy and how the mass transportation system in our city should ideally be managed. To you, this was good enough and for this I thank you.
Thank you for choosing to teach, even when you could have done other things with the many options and opportunities that came your way. Thank you for having faith in the few students who you have always believed would one day change the world when you couldn’t.
Thank you for changing my life, and, I believe, the lives of many others; for having your own version of a perfect world, where the act of changing the world lies not in extravagant initiatives, but in modest lectures and discussions with us, your students.
A former student who now believes that a citizen can change his or her surroundings and eventually the world