May 5th 2017
Today my Hoshizora colleagues and I visited a young man in his home in Bantul, not far from where I have been working at the Hoshizora Foundation in Indonesia.Tiwi and Nico were kind enough to accompany and motorbike me over to his part of the village. We went to his house and met his father and mother. Putuis one of Hoshizora’s Adik Bintang who has received a scholarship to complete primary and secondary education (basic education through high school). I came to visit their family to experience and understand the impact Hoshizora is making on the local community.
Putuhasfinished his secondary school studies! This means he will move on towards university.He finished three days ago, and his graduation is this Saturday, his parents smile and look proud yet slightly concerned once they think beyond that date. We sit traditionally on the living room rug, cross-legged, barefoot,chat over crunchy snacks and warm sweet drinks. Putuhas two younger sisters but they are both at school today. I attempt to use the little Indonesian I haveto apologize for not being able to speak more Indonesian. Luckily Tiwi and Nico are really great at carrying the conversation whiletranslating questions and answers for me. I try to make eye contact with everyone even as I’m speaking English, upon hearing my voice the look on Putu’s face is quite amusing, he looks perplexed. My English must sound strange because while they are taught English in primary and secondary school the students rarely (if ever) get to hear or interact with native speakers.
We talk abouthis interests,about school, how he came to apply for school fundingwith the Hoshizora Foundation, and the future. Putuacknowledged that he lives ashort motorbike trip away from the Hoshizora Education Center yet wasn’t made aware of their existence till a teacher in primarily school told him he should apply. When Putuwas offered a grant he was very happy because he has a lot of extra curricular interests and a desire to go to university. Putualso mentions that he was intrigued by the opportunity because he wanted to meet other students and make connections with the Hoshizora student community.
Putu’s family does not have a lot of money, because his fathers occupation is finishing wood furniture and their livelihood depends on the current demand. When Putu’s father has an order, he works, earns money but once the order is complete, the work is finished until his services are needed again. His father and uncle also work with auto-motives, Putuhas been picking up these same skills and working with auto-motives since last year, just like any teenage guy in the U.S. would in their last year of high school. Though his father is proud of him and encourages him to develop these skills he still dreams that Putuwill be able to attend university.
Putubegan learning and practicing his abilities to work with auto-motives through an internship with his uncle, this remains to be his main area of interest though healso participates in extracurricular activities such as traditional printing and Indonesian Taekwondo. Putu’s uncle can afford to pay Putuvery little but Putu’s father assures him that the money is not the important part; he tries to instill in Pututhe principle of hard work for the sake of knowledge rather than to earn money. Putu's father says that he believes Putuis a hard worker and for this reason one day the money will come, one day his hard work will pay off because he believes in his sons abilities. Yet in between Putu’s father talking I see out of the corner of my eye weak moments when he holds his head momentarily as if he is worried about the future of their financial stability,or maybe it is a cultural difference I am not familiar with, or maybe he's just hot, the heat is sticking to all of us.
The tension in the room rises as we talk about Putu's results from the national exam. The Indonesian National Exams area standardized set of tests that defines the students fate with university. Though Putuwas alwaysin the highest ranking of all his courses he did not do well on his National Exams; his mother struggles not to cry as she talks about it. Putuwent to a vocational school, and not only does this mean his high-rank standing is considered lower than regular and expedited high school, but he was not prepared well enough for the exams. Putuand his father still push the idea of university; still keep this goal in mind. They converse with Nico and Tiwi about their options in terms of scholarships and information regarding the cost. Hoshizora has been developing university scholarships for girls but hasn’t come far enough yet to provide any for boys, this is a long-term goal.
It really cuts me deep when I see the manner and reaction Putuand his parent’s talk about the exams. The tension rose because they are somewhat ashamed, yet hopeful, and they don’t want to make Putufeel embarrassed. I remember feeling so down on myself when I would do poorly on tests. The way I have heard the Hoshizora staff talk about the National Exam is very serious. If you do not do well people will judge you, yet the exam requires you to be proficient at everything, Bahasa Indonesia, English, Science and Math. The staff expressed to me they think it is a serious problem with the education system because not all students will continue their education in every field but still need the opportunity to attend university for their specific interests. Clearly Putuis good at a lot of things, being ranked highest in all of his classes throughout vocational secondary school, with varying extracurricular interests,but how can one be expected to excel at every subject in school? I have also struggled with specifically test taking and have come to realize some people just learn and excel at a more practical level.
We take a couple of pictures together in theirhumble home and the reality of the situation begins to sink in for me. Here itonly costs $12 a term to put an underprivileged youth through primary and secondary school (finishing basic education through high school), and these students not only can’t afford the basic school fees, but their families are also barely managing to raise their living standards. Their house is what someone in the U.S. mightconsidera shack, but I’ve been enough places now to know that atile floor and real constructed roof makes it a house. I feel that Putuwould have had to drop out of school to help support the family of five if it hadn’t been for the Hoshizora Foundation, I feel like he is luckier than most in similar situations yet I still feel disheartened by the possibilities of the future.
Indonesia is a developing country which has been gaining momentum, more people are getting through school, people are able to purchase transportation vehicles (motorbikes mainly), my local friends note there is an in-flux of new money. Yet here, in this humble home, in this village, is where the highest hurdles remain intact. Putustill looks toward to the future, towards university, he’s already made it past high school, which less that 60% of the population do, but his next step will be the hardest. The Hoshizora Foundation and the support he received has given Pututhe courage tomakeit this far, andI can still see the courage in his eyes, he’s determined to continue his education, his education that was already in jeopardy once before.