After being in the field for more than five years, 65-year-old Diding Rochandi shares his experiences as a teacher at one of our House of Learning for underprivileged children. Marcella Purnama brings you the story.
Mr. Diding Rochandi sure looks 50, wearing white polo t-shirt and training pants as he just finished teaching sports to the students at Rumah Belajar Duri Kepa. He greeted me, an uninvited guest, to the teacher’s room, smiling warmly while he adjusted his sitting position, then asking, “What can I do for you?”
I smiled, my brain racing from reaching my notebook and pen to write down the details, taking out my phone to record our conversation, to introducing myself with the same friendliness that he showed me. I wanted to learn more about the children’s education, and I have come to the right place.
“Teaching underprivileged children needs a different approach to teaching students in formal schools,” Mr. Diding said.
“As these students’ background is from low socio-economic status, we can’t pressure and discipline them like we do in formal schools.
“Students in formal schools will obey the rules if we discipline them. Students here will run away if we do so.”
Parents hold the key
Having been a teacher for more than 30 years, Mr. Diding then continued to explain about the speculative underlying reasons of why the students like to confront the rules, such as not wanting to wear the school uniforms appropriately to taking absence from school too lightly. He believes parents hold the key to this kind of attitude, as they may not actually understand the importance of education.
Without a strong foundation in the family to support their education, Mr. Diding admitted that the students will find it hard to change their attitudes that have been forged for many years living outside. He then said for drop-out students aged 16 and above, they may never have gone to school before so they may not be familiar about school principles.
To my surprise, however, Mr. Diding went on to say the students don’t really feel ashamed to go to a school dedicated for underprivileged. Instead, they may have thought that going to underprivileged school is easier than other formal schools that have tight disciplinary status.
“One of our biggest problems is giving discipline, especially in treating students’ absence,” Mr. Diding said.
“Some students may only come 80% of the time, some 50%, while another 100%. They may state their economical status as a reason, or actually invent reasons to not come.”
In spite of that, Mr. Diding further acknowledged that the students have the will to come; only this will is not strong enough. They still lack the reasoning to understand the importance of pursuing dreams and getting the right education. Thus, if they are being pressured and forced to study, they will back off. He sees this attitude regularly when students complain when he tries to give sports movements that are heavier than usual.
A former sports teacher of Mrs. Veronica Colondam, YCAB Founder/CEO at BPK Penabur himself, Mr. Diding wondered if this phenomenon is due to their mentality of not wanting to work hard. He shared the story of one of the students, who actually graduated from hospitality class and gotten a job at Grand Indonesia. However, when he experienced that the job is hard, he quit.
“I asked, ‘Why do you quit?’ And he said because it’s boring, it’s hard,” Mr. Diding said.
“Even when the Air Conditioning broke at school and it gets hot just a little bit, the students protest, despite of they themselves not having Air Conditioning at home and being okay with that.
“Is this because of their mentality? Or is it just them who purely do not want to work hard?”
Giving hook instead of fish
To help change this mentality, Mr. Diding emphasized that apart from support from parents, it’s also important to make the students independent.
“We need to give these students a hook for them to find their own fish,” Mr. Diding said.
“We should not give them both the hook and the fish, for it will not make them independent in the future.
“This is important because if not, even after they graduate with certificates in hand they will go back to us to ask for jobs. And yes, quit after they learn that it’s hard. They will then go basking on the streets, for they can make money out of it, and with their increasing age, they are then more prone to smoking, drinking, and drugs, which we really fear.”
Mr. Diding then stressed the point that he doesn’t want the children to go to school just to pass time, and neglect their responsibilities after they acquire that piece of paper. Instead, he wants them to acquire real skills to make them competent in the working world – to be standing equal with their peers who graduate from formal schools.
Changing the world of the underprivileged
When asked about his reflections of more than 30 years of teaching, he smiled widely.
“I am happy to be among students, to be giving guidance. If there are among those students who are successful, I will be very happy and proud of them,” Mr. Diding said.
He then paused and released a small laugh, with his eyes casting sadness, ”But if there are among those who are yet to be successful, I’m also questioning myself, ‘Is this partly because of my fault in teaching them?’
“You know, you can’t help but to wonder sometimes.”
There is still a lot of work to be done, but Mr. Diding is sure that slowly, together we will be able to fight the system.
“There’s still work to do, but with the same vision for these children, we can change their world,” Mr. Diding said.