ceria

In the Indonesian district of Malaka, children are finally being provided with an opportunity to create a better future for themselves. Save the Children has partnered up with the H&M Conscious Foundation to improve educational conditions for children within this impoverished region of the world.

Malaka used to be part of the Belu district in East Nusa Tenggara province. It was so severely underdeveloped that the government decided to establish Malaka as its own district in 2012, hoping to finally spur development. Unfortunately, the district’s citizens are still fighting to break out of the poverty cycle.

Malaka contains 15 elementary schools filled with children seeking a quality education. Most children cannot afford to wear shoes to school. When they finally arrive on foot to their classrooms, they typically face deteriorating walls, lack of access to water and collapsing roofs.

Poor personal hygiene and health combined with the schools’ poor physical conditions often results in prolonged student sickness. To make matters worse, children are oftentimes juggling a language barrier as well.

Hailing from places like East Timor and belonging to ethnic groups that rely on different languages, many of the students do not speak Indonesian. The people of Malaka use five local languages representing the region’s indigenous tribes. Regardless of lack of comprehension, however, the material is taught primarily in Indonesian.

Primary school teachers often employ physical punishment as they deem necessary, causing many students to live in fear. In lower grades especially, it is not uncommon for students to fail their studies or have to repeat a grade due to some combination of the aforementioned factors.

In August 2014, Save the Children pledged to embark on a three-year project focused on improving education for around 2,850 children in the area. Since then, the charity has been working side by side with the H&M’s Conscious Foundation to build 15 new preschools and renovate the 15 existing Malakan schools.

Like Save the Children, the H&M Conscious Foundation seeks to improve children’s education. In addition, the independent organization works to empower women and provide access to clean water in developing countries.

The Conscious Foundation teamed up with STC to launch the Children in Early Grades Reach Incredible Achievements (CERIA) Project three years ago. CERIA also doubles as the Indonesian word for “cheerful.”

The CERIA project is targeting early education in order to achieve long-term effects. It aims to increase enrollment and attendance at quality preschools, improve teaching methods and school readiness for young students and reduce first-grade repetition rates.

The program is targeted at a total of 30 poor rural communities scattered throughout Malaka. Within each early childhood education center, there will be two classrooms able to accommodate 20 to 30 students. Some students are already benefiting from the progress made on renovations last year.

CERIA also offers free teacher training programs to improve the quality of education. Since the majority of teachers in Malaka are volunteers lacking a background in education, this has been an especially effective tool for improvement.

By its conclusion in 2017, the CERIA project is expected to benefit Malaka’s 2,400 elementary school teachers, 450 preschoolers and 180 primary and preschool teachers. There is no telling what accomplishments these properly educated children and teachers will be able to achieve in the long run.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Jakarta Globe, H&M
Photo: Compassion International