Indonesien: Hermawati

Our dream is simple: that children can read and write. That is all I can do for them.

— Hermawati

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.

Like many poor Indonesians, Hermawati had only a few years of formal schooling. In fact, she only completed elementary education. But she believes that experience belongs to the past, when schools were available only in big cities and poor parents were not aware of the importance of education. Now, things should be different. Hermawati was appalled that Pulau Burung Island, where she lived, did not have a school. The children had to take a boatride to get to school on the mainland. In most cases, the children were not allowed to get any education at all because their parents, who were mostly poor fishermen, were either reluctant or could not afford to send their kids to school. "It is very sad to see that many children here could not go to school, they could not read or write. We are living in the modern age, progressing forward, but the people here seem to go backwards," Hermawati was quoted by Kompas, a national newspaper. So, in the early 1990s, relying on her own limited academic skills and her own funds, Hermawati started a free school for children on the island. In 1993, she managed to build an 18 square meter school building in her backyard using her family savings. Her lone crusade to combat illiteracy received little support. The government considered her curriculum inadequate and refrained from giving it formal recognition. Local residents were at first reluctant to send their kids to Hermawati’s school because they could not afford to buy books. She almost closed it down in 2001 due to a severe lack of books and equipment. But providence was on her side. In 2004, an article about her work published in Kompas caught people’s attention. Several people now help her as part-time tutors. Books and school equipment have been donated. More than 40 children now attend her school which, however, remains unaccredited by the government.

SD Tunas Nelayan