Mentawai Islands, a group of 72 small islands and a regency of West Sumatera Province, situated along the coast of West Sumatera and lie across the Indian Ocean. It looks like a small scratch on a map but there are many next generation who need us to help them developed.
The climate, weather and current are unpredictable sometimes and make difficult to get to Mentawai. Air and water transportations can suddenly cancelled when a storm comes. These facts play a big part in making Mentawai isolated, the development in many aspects are so slow.
One thing we need to highlight is education sector. It seems that education has gone nowhere, limited teachers with many children to teach, it’s a serious challenge to raise up educated Mentawai generation. Based on the statistic published by the West Sumatera government, it says that less than 9% of the Mentawai people have formal education – and it’s only up to Middle school level.
PESAT started its ministry in Mentawai Islands since 1993 and now there are six kindergartens
with 18 teachers serving the children. These teachers are ‘education heroes’ and play their role as ‘agents of change’.
The kindergartens, all six of them, are located in remote areas. For example, Rehoboth Kindergarten located in Saureinu village and it takes 2 hours to get there by a small-engined dugboat through a river flowing from the hinterland. Saureinu village is a Mentawai traditional village located in the hinterland of Sipora island. “I have been here for 6 years now, live among them and teach the children,” said Selfice Telnoni – a teacher at Rehobot. Limited access of transportation, lack of good health care and telecommunication facilty never discourage her and her 2 fellow teachers, Flora and Osniati, to serving the 47 children at the kindergarten.
Another kindergarten is Gracia in Bosowa village, to get there you have to go across the sea and be brave enough to go through when stormy weather. Miss Eka Setiahulu serves about 50 children in her class. “The first time I had to learn the people’s language so I could communicate well with them,” said Eka. Now, because of the ministry through the kindergarten, many children are able to speak Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesia’s national
The teachers are also concern for the mothers who are lack of knowledge about family welfare. They then take part in health treatment (posyandu) and Family Welfare Education (PKK) programs, and contribute their knowledge. “We usually share about health, cooking and herbal medicine,” said Miss Eka.a
A Risky Ministry
Mentawai Islands are located above the Sunda megathrust, a seismically active zone. And since the earthquake hit the Indian ocean in 2004, the earthquake and Tsunami activity has been high. In 2007, large scaled earthquakes last December 2007 and some kindergartens were severely damaged and destroyed. The teachers had to stay in emergency tents. But this didn’t stop them to keep on serving the children. “We stayed with them at the devastated location to help the people even though the Tsunami might come and hit us again,” said Sarce Lino, a teacher at Menahem Kindergarten in Mara village.
These young women are education heroes, they have given their lives and knowledge to keep raising up the next generation. We’re proud to have a chance to support them!
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