Hermawati – Island Pulau Burung of South Kalimantan, Indonesia

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Hermawati (born 1956) is a volunteer teacher in the tiny island Pulau Burung off South Kalimantan, Indonesia. This 49-year-old mother of three children has been providing free schooling for the island’s poor children for 15 years, despite lacking proper education herself, using her own meager financial resources to build a modest school building and purchase learning materials. Her efforts have encouraged more parents to send their children to school.Neither a prestigious university graduate nor a genius is needed to give children a small taste of education. Hermawati, of the tiny and impoverished Pulau Burung Island off the South Kalimantan coast in Indonesia, is proof of that.

Academically, … Hermawati does not qualify as a teacher. She only has a Sekolah Rakyat degree, equivalent to elementary school, which provided her only with basic reading and writing skills. Nonetheless, she has dedicated the last 15 years to teaching children on the island, and all for free. She even built her own school building, with a thatch roof, wooden walls and earthen floor. That was in 1993.

SD Tunas Nelayan is the first school ever on the island. Before then, children had to travel 30 minutes by rowboat to the mainland. For speedier travel by motorboat, they had to pay more. Most of Pulau Burung residents are traditional fishermen. Due to poverty, most parents on the island did not send their children to school in the mainland. The children spent their days playing or helping their parents with minor fishery tasks. Consequently, most children in Pulau Burung were illiterate … She says: “Our dream is simple: that children can read and write. That is all I can do for them” … (1000peacewomen 1/2).


Hermawati – of Island Pulau Burung of South Kalimantan, Indonesia …

… (sorry, my photo upload software doesn’t work anymore, no more NEW pictures are possible, only allready published ones out of an existing file … and my famous software Ingeneer, having built up all this beautiful blog construction, is death by lung cancer … peace and eternal gratitude to his beautiful soul … ).

Hermawati works for SD Tunas Nelayan (named in a list on NISN /Rekap Data).

(1000peacewomen 2/2):  … “I felt sorry to see the children unable to read and write,” Hermawati says. ”

So I thought it might help if we could just set up a school here. A modest one would do, so that the children could at least get a basic education.

She began her crusade in 1991, when she started giving basic reading and writing lessons to the children. Her classroom was a small wooden house she built with the help of her neighbors, using materials donated by a government organization. She named her elementary school Tunas Nelayan, which means the hope of fishermen. She did not charge any fees because she knew it would only prevent parents from sending their children to her school. She even provided the learning materials. The parents only had to spend for the children’s writing books.

Her makeshift classroom quickly disassembled, however, so Hermawati had to find ways to build a new one. In 1993, she collected all her family’s savings and rebuilt her school. Hermawati’s family is not rich, although they are better off compared to the other Pulau Burung residents. At that time, her husband worked as a laborer at a timber plantation.

She finally managed to rebuild the school, in her backyard, a modest 18-square meter three room house made with wooden walls, a thatch roof and floor. Since Hermawati was not academically trained and she knew only basic reading and writing skills, she improvised the curriculum. In order to improve her reading and writing, she attended the government’s illiteracy eradication “Paket B” program. A few dozen children on the island now attend her school, which accepts students from the first to the fifth grade. Sixth-grade students have to continue their studies in an Islamic elementary school on the mainland. Public elementary schools refuse to accept Hermawati’s students, citing the inadequacy of her curriculum.

In the early years, Hermawati taught the children all by herself. She handled students from the first to the fifth grade, in one class after the other, allocating two hours for each class. She taught from morning to late afternoon, making her husband very unhappy about her schedule. He worried that Hermawati did not have enough time to take care of their three children. He often got angry when Hermawati was not around to serve him when he returned home from work.

“I did not dare argue with him,” she says. “But when he cooled down, I would calmly ask him to understand that what I did was important to help give children a better future and that he would be proud to see the fruit of my works in the time to come.” In 2000, Hermawati’s eldest son, Parhansyah, began to help her teach. “I felt sorry for mother, she had worked so hard to teach the children without any help,” he says. He completed junior high school in the Islamic school on the mainland. 

Since Hermawati did not charge any fees, she faced financial difficulties in maintaining her school. She almost had to close it down in 2001 due to a severe shortage in teaching equipment, which forced her to appeal to the government for help, but to no avail. The local ministry of education office sent its staff only later that year to help her teach. Unfortunately, the helping hands lasted for only a year. Meanwhile, her school building began to deteriorate. The roof had so many holes, she had to dismiss her class when it rained. During heavy storms, classes had to be called off for a few days for fear that the building would collapse.

Providence, however, was on her side. In 2004, an article about her crusade appeared in a national newspaper, which described vividly the condition of her school and her tireless efforts to bring education to the children on the island. According to the article, the school was in ‘a more appalling condition than a cow stable in Banjarmasin’ [the South Kalimantan capital city], and Hermawati had no funds left to refurbish it, let alone erect a new one.

The report moved the hearts of the Batu Licin police housewives’ group, who paid her a visit. The women have since been regularly sending its members to visit Hermawati’s school help her teach. Several policewomen have also volunteered to help Hermawati. “I really respect her, ’says Indri Widyaningsih, a policewoman. “She is an extraordinary woman. Not many people these days are willing to work so hard and sacrifice so much for so long without getting financial reward.”

on Hermawati’s struggle. She has since received donations of teaching equipment and money, and her school has also been awarded with education funds by a bank and the regency office.

Hermawati is pleasantly surprised to see the enormous support she has received. She says she did not expect so much. “My wish is simple. I wonder if I could be made a civil servant. But, is that possible? I have not enough academic background. All I have is honesty, commitment to my cause and patience.”

Hermawati’s school was renovated in late 2004 by the local government, which hired two college graduates from the mainland to be part-time teachers. The two teachers, however, have not been very useful; they are often absent, citing transportation problem as their excuse. Still, with the help of her son and volunteer tutors, plus the donations, Hermawati’s burden has become more manageable. Many children in Pulau Burung are now able to read and write. More parents have become enthusiastic in sending their children to school.

Hermawati continues to work hard to help local children realize their dream of getting an education. However, she still has her worries. Her school is still unaccredited, which will make it difficult for the children to transfer to other schools for their higher education. She now has about 60 students, many of whom cannot go to school everyday since they have to help their parents. The teacher, her pupils and their parents are still struggling for a better life and a better future. “Our dream is simple: that children can read and write. That is all I can do for them,” says Hermawati. (On (1000peacewomen).

(Sorry, there are many women named Hermawati, but all with a second name which is missing here for our peacewomen. Dissambiguation is no more possible. In any way her work has to be honored on this blog).

Some links around poor children’s learning:

The Google download book: The School achievement of minority children, By Ulric Neisser, 198 pages;

Children ‘impoverished’ by poor education;

Poor children missing out on after school activities;

Education is the key;

BRAC schools in Sudan for 175 poor children;

EJ156121 – Poor Children Learning to Read Do Not Have Trouble with Auditory Discrimination But Do Have Trouble with Phoneme Recognition;

Reading First and its Impact on Poor Children

Could computers help poor children learn better?

Brightest poor children do worse than wealthy but dim classmates;

Akshaya Patra India;

Children’s under-achievement could be down to poor working memory;

Changing Homeless Children’s Lives;

Lack of transport blights lives of poor children in the countryside – ATL;

A school based study of children with learning disability indicates poor levels of genetic investigation, journal of medical genetics.

Comments are closed.