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A tale of Indonesian soldiers’ care for boosting Papuans’ literacy

West Papua Blog (ANTARA) – Indonesian soldiers, stationed in Papua and West Papua, have demonstrated exemplary capability in maintaining peace and stability in both provinces for decades in their endeavors to safeguard the country’s territorial integrity.

The soldiers are chiefly tasked with securing peace and stability in the country’s easternmost provinces. However, they concurrently also live and mingle with members of local communities, thereby offering them a close glimpse into the challenges faced by native Papuans in their day-to-day lives.

The two provinces are reeling from a shortage of teaching staff on account of the fact that native Papuans not just reside in coastal areas but also in remote mountainous and hilly areas.

Consequently, the development of human resources in Papua and West Papua remains a tricky challenge, as the human development index of scores of these provinces remains lower than that of other provinces in Indonesia.

Referring to Indonesia’s 2019 human development index, the scores of Papua and West Papua were recorded at 64.7 and 60.84 respectively.

In dealing with this challenging reality, commanders have assigned soldiers, particularly those stationed near the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea (PNG) border areas, to serve as voluntary teachers at schools.

Several members of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea (PNG) Border Security Task Force in Merauke District, Papua Province, have adeptly shouldered this responsibility.

They have extended voluntary assistance to teachers at 12 elementary schools in the sub-districts of Sota, Neukenjerai, Eligobel, and Ulilin in Merauke District since July 2019.

They teach reading, writing, and mathematics to students, Commander of the task force at the Army Strategic Reserves Command’s (Kostrad’s) MR 411/PDW Infantry Battalion Major Rizky Aditya noted in a statement made available to ANTARA last February.

As a live example, the army personnel have been edifying the students of the Sota Christian Elementary School, one of the schools located in the Indonesia-PNG border area.

Aditya highlighted his men’s keenness to fill the gap of teacher shortage there.

Major Sergeant Catur Budi Satriyo, a member of the Kout Sota Command Post, is among the soldiers regularly teaching reading, writing, and mathematics at this Christian Educational Foundation (YPK)-owned school.

The students and teachers warmly welcome t‏hese voluntary teachers. Edowardus Burman Tenjap, a fourth-grade student at YPK’s elementary school, expressed happiness and pride on being taught reading, writing, and mathematics by the soldiers.

“Thank you for teaching us,” he stated.

Julianus Noya, speaking on behalf of all teachers, also expressed gratitude to Indonesian army personnel for the assistance extended to their pupils over the past six months.

“This voluntary teaching program is immensely valuable to our students,” Noya remarked.

The Indonesian army personnel are not merely filling the gap of teacher shortage but are also providing transportation services to the students.

The Raiders Battalion 300/Brajawijaya Command has sent its trucks to drive local students to their schools, though the students are unable to avail transportation services daily owing to the limited number of these vehicles.

“We help the students get to schools on time. The schools are located at quite a distance if they are to be traversed by foot,” Commander of the Raiders Battalion 300/Brajawijaya Command Lt Col Ary Sutrisno explained.

If the trucks are not available, the local students have to cover some 15 kilometers on foot to their schools, he pointed out.

Bastian, one of the students regularly taking the TNI truck, admitted to the transportation service regularly provided by the TNI as being immensely helpful, as it enabled him and his peers to reach schools on time.

Papuan Students’ Literacy

The Indonesian soldiers also care for boosting the native Papuan students’ literacy.

The Indonesia-Papua New Guinea Border Security Task Force from the 125/Simbisa Infantry Battalion has demonstrated its care by developing the habit of reading and piquing curiosity through a mobile library service.

Operated by three army personnel, led by Second Sergeant J. H. Manullang, the mobile library serves the students of Sota Village, Merauke District, Papua Province, according to the task force’s commander, Lt Col Anjuanda Pardosi.

The mobile library serves students living in the Indonesia-PNG border area amid the ongoing global pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has disrupted learning activities at schools.

The mobile library service is envisaged to stir local students to develop a habit of reading since it will broaden their mind and expand their knowledge of several aspects of life.  

“Books serve as a window of the world,” he emphasized.

Through books offered by the mobile library service, a habit of reading can be cultivated among the local students, Pardosi affirmed, adding that apart from rousing their curiosity, the free library service is also part of the task force’s territorial operational program.

The residents of Sota Village are appreciative and glad that the mobile library service is being offered by the border security task force.

“We thank the task force personnel for their care for our kids,” stated Alfons Katop, a resident of Sota Village in Sota Sub-district, Merauke District, whose administrative area is part of the Indonesia-PNG border area.

The literacy-related community services offered by the Indonesian soldiers since several years have contributed notably to the regional and central government’s endeavors to enhance the quality of human capital in Papua and West Papua.

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This Blog has gone through many obstacles and attacks from violent Free West Papua separatist supporters and ultra nationalist Indonesian since 2007. However, it has remained throughout a time devouring thoughts of how to bring peace to Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia.

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