On a basketball court overlooking the fields of Parung, just outside Bogor, a tournament is taking place, accompanied by joyful cheers. Nearby, children and teachers are shrieking with laughter as they team up for sack races and tug-of-war challenges.
The community of Parung has gathered on the eve of National Education Day earlier this month to celebrate the opening of their new school, SMPN Parung 2.
The school consists of six green-hued classrooms, a principal’s office as well as a staff room, a library, a laboratory and a mosque. There are shaded walkways, a large playing field, and access for disabled students. The school sits on 10,000 square meters, in an elevated position that catches the afternoon breeze.
“It’s a dream come true for us,” says Ismail Latif, who chaired the committee that built the school. “We have been waiting for this for seven years.”
SMPN 2 Parung was built under Australia’s Education Partnership with Indonesia. The community received Rp 2 billion ($206,000) for the school construction, which began last September. Most of those who worked on the building were local people, many of whom work in the construction industry.
For the past seven years, the students and teachers of SMPN 2 have been attending several different schools. Many have shared classroom facilities with a nearby elementary school. Classes could only be held in the afternoon, rooms were overflowing with students, and if it was cloudy or raining, students were unable to study properly in their dark classrooms.
By contrast, the new classrooms are filled with natural light. When classes begin, there will be morning and afternoon sessions to cater for some 445 students. In addition, the school employs 24 teachers and four administrative staff.
“There will be a big impact on the learning process,” says school principal Syamsuddin. “Teachers and students will be inspired and motivated to come to this school with its modern facilities.”
In the past, the school experienced a high drop-out rate because of the distance and expense of getting there. School-aged boys ended up staying around their family homes, while girls worked in a nearby garment factory or got married.
“It’s not that they didn’t want to go, but the cost of transportation was high. Now many of them can walk to school,” Syamsuddin says. “The students can gain knowledge first. They will be better paid for their work [after graduation].”
Both Syamsuddin and Ismail believe the community will stay involved in the development of the school. “We have an investment here,” Ismail says.
Wahyu, a ninth-grade student, was also enthusiastic. “This is so cool. Soon I will graduate from this school, and I just hope that my friends in grades seven and eight can learn better in this school, as it has all the facilities.”
SMPN Parung is one of 451 schools that have been built or extended under Australia’s Education Partnership with Indonesia since mid-2012.
“Australia is working with the Indonesian government to build good quality and more accessible schools because all Indonesian children deserve a good education,” said Jacqui De Lacy, head of AusAID in Indonesia.
Other elements of Australia’s Education Partnership with Indonesia include skills training for 293,000 school principals, supervisors and local education officials to deliver better education services, support for 1,500 madrasah religious schools to be accredited against Indonesian government standards, and provision of research and analysis to help decision makers.
Samantha Magick is a senior public affairs officer with AusAID.