The Piarist Order started its mission in Indonesia barely two years ago. They settled in the town of Atambua in 2013 in order to know the country’s situation and start discovering the needs as well as the concrete actions they could get under way in order to answer them.
Following this period, in which we collaborated with local schools, a Piarist project of non-formal education has been started. This programme consists in English classes for boys and girls living in the neighbourhood as well as leisure and free time activities. This time enabled us to get acquainted with Atambua’s educational network and to establish relationships with other organizations and boarding schools for teenagers who come to study to this town, most of whom come from the nearby villages and East Timor.
All this previous knowledge of the situation has contributed to the decision of building a boarding school as one of the main future works by the Piarist School in this area. It is a need that has to be met immediately: many boys from the surrounding villages must go to Atambua for middle school and high-school, having to walk great distances so as to do so. Many abandon school prematurely as there are not enough vacant rooms in boarding schools. We would be building an Asrama (boarding school) for boys, female students do not have as much trouble continuing their studies because they can find lodgings in Asramas for girls run by nuns.
Thus, building this Asrama will ensure that many youngsters have access to secondary education, preventing them from interrupting their education. This boarding school would house 100 middle school boys from 12 to 15 years, though in the future it could also receive high school students. They will come mainly from the rural areas of Belu and Malaka, as most of their student population has to move away for their secondary education. This is due to their towns only having primary schools or establishments which don’t meet the necessary quality requirements.
ATAMBUA’S (INDONESIA) SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL CONTEXT
Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is an island country located between Southeast Asia and Oceania. 252 million people inhabit its surface of around 2,000,000 km2, which makes it the fourth-most-populous country in the world.
The Human Development Index, produced by the United Nations, positions this country on the 108th place, with a value of 0.68. Its life expectancy is 68.8 years and a 16% of the population lives below the poverty line, with less than 1.25 dollars a day. (Data from the UNDP and the World Bank.)
Approximately 55% of Indonesia’s productive population is involved in agriculture, be it as owners of small farms or as day labourers in someone else’s lands, meaning that they generally earn a living from subsistence agriculture.
Atambua is placed in the island of Timor, and it’s also the seat capital of Belu Regency, in the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur from Indonesia.
Atambua is a multi-ethnic town, inhabited mainly by the tribes of Timor, Rote, Sabu, Flores, a small group of ethnic Chinese and immigrants from the island of Ambon. It has a population of 75,199 (37,244 men and 37,955 women). Given that it is located within West Timor, it has and still receives an important influx of immigrants from East Timor refugees since its independence in 1999.
The majority of the town’s population is Catholic (95%), though they lead a peaceful coexistence with other religions.
EDUCATION IN ATAMBUA
In the district of Belu, of which Atambua is the capital, there are 127 primary schools and 37 secondary schools. The school-age population (from 6 to 18 years) is 128,361 children and youths (65,703 boys and 62,658 girls). 95% of the individuals in the age group from 7 to 12 years attend school, but the quantity decreases as the age increases (83% from 13 to 15 years, 63% from 16 to 18).
In Atambua, only 58% of the 26,000 children in school-age attend any of the 34 educational establishments throughout the city. In particular, the town has 25 primary schools (14 state schools and 11 private schools) attended by a total of 11,640 pupils from both sexes. However, the number descends alarmingly to only nine secondary schools (five of them public and four private) which have 3,523 students.
The Asrama’s aim is to guarantee access to education to many youths from rural areas, which would in turn prevent them from prematurely abandoning their studies. The boarding school will provide with school education intending to combine harmoniously both cultural formation and the ethical and religious aspects. In the afternoons, during out-of-school time, the pupils will be offered sport activities as well as extra tutoring for subjects such as English, computer use and music.
The different areas of the school’s facilities and playground will be opened to non-resident children and youths so the largest number possible of people can benefit from this educational project. Moreover, this would allow the establishment to be open to the surrounding area and also encourage the participation of the community in the educational project.
Even though there are many local Asramas which don’t provide their pupils with meals because of the organisational and economic difficulties it would entail, our project in Atambua has chosen to offer them. The objective of this is answering the local problem of poor nutrition and its consequences for health and academic performance.
The piece of land in which the boarding school will be located offers ample space, which will be dedicated to growing vegetables and fruits and also to raising animals (chicken and pigs for the most part). This small livestock and crop farm seeks to sustain and feed the boarding school, also driving the operation costs down and boosting sustainability. Part of the boarding school’s all-round education will be the collaboration by shifts with the farm’s work. Likewise, the pupils will help with the cooking, cleaning and laundry as we believe it is an important educational value.
 Social indicator created by the United Nations which takes three statistical parameters into consideration: having a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and a decent standard of living.