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Indonesia: Dedicated teacher rethinks remote learning for offline pupils

When the coronavirus pandemic forced his school on Indonesia’s Java island to shut, teacher Henrikus Suroto knew he could not rely on hosting online lessons for pupils living in remote areas lacking internet access or even a phone signal.

Instead, to ensure the pupils could keep studying, the 57-year-old elementary school teacher decided to go to them - spending about six hours a day travelling by motorbike and on foot to reach a handful of remote communities in the hilly Magelang area of Central Java.

“I’m a teacher, it is my responsibility to do this. I must accompany and teach my students,” said Suroto, whose only complaint is that it becomes particularly difficult trudging up and down steep valleys when it rains.

Pupils and their father plant chillies in polybags as a part of a process to ensure education for students in remote areas without internet access and cellular signal, during the coronavirus disease outbreak in Magelang, Central Java Province, Indonesia. Image credit Reuters, Stringer

In the rural district where he works, many of the households are not set up to use any kind of technology, as in large parts of the sprawling archipelago of more than 260 million people too.

According to the Association of Internet Service Providers Indonesia (APJII), Indonesia has around 60 million households, but only about one in six had an internet connection in mid-2019.

“Well, I do not know what the internet is and other sophisticated devices that are often used nowadays in different parts of the world,” said Martinus Kartijo, the father of one of the pupils.

Meanwhile, Arnasih, a mother of another pupil, appreciates the positive impact Suroto has on the children.

“The children listen and obey the orders from their teachers, more than to their parents’ ones,” she laughed.

Students say they welcome the face-to-face meetings with Suroto, who always takes precautionary measures, such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing for the lessons.

“Studying at home sometimes can be difficult, sometimes is easier, but if Mr Suroto is there, then all subjects become enjoyable,” explained Albertus Jonas Wiratama, a third-grade student.

Image credit The Chronicle herald

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