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—JP/Emanuel Dapa LokaThis is the story of a former teacher, who at one time refused to receive his pay because most of his students were very poor. Now engaged in nature conservation, he still can’t resist the call of the educational world.
In April 2008, Amron Trisnardi, 46, was diagnosed with kidney disease; he was told his kidneys were only 9 percent functional. His doctor recommended hemodialysis. The diagnosis was a tremendous blow to the man, who was born in Bantul, Yogyakarta on May 10, 1966. Driven to despair, Amron questioned God about why this condition had befallen him.
However, he still retained the conviction that God would take care of him. So, Amron defied the medical advice; up to now, he has never had a dialysis session. “I’m resigned [to my fate] and fully believe that God will allow me to live. Besides that, I’m on a very strict diet,” he said.
With his impaired kidneys, Amron continued to work with a national private television station as a writer, creative team member and finally program and production director until this year. In early 2012, he established PT Hamparan Bumi Lestari, a company engaged in reclamation and seedling development in East Kalimantan, where he is president director.
While focusing on the mission of nature conservation, Amron is developing his desire to devote his efforts to education via his company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) scheme. While he was a teacher for eleven years in Yogyakarta, he taught students from remote and impoverished areas, some of whom had to walk more than ten kilometers to reach the school.
“With my students living in dire poverty, I didn’t have the heart to receive my honorarium. I just wanted to help them to transform their future. When I arrived in Palaran, East Kalimantan, I was reminded of that situation from the past,” he added.
In Bukuan village, Palaran district, he came across an Early Childhood Care and Education (PAUD) room, or PAUD Persahabatan. It had been converted from an unused merchandise shop measuring 4x7 meters. With its dingy walls, dilapidated desks and 21 children crammed inside, the room was stuffy.
Amron realized that run-down PAUD facilities were everywhere: some were situated in garages and others even occupied village patrol posts. While stroking the hair of some of the children in the room, the movie and television screenwriter listened to the complaints of Bu Eko, the PAUD manager. “The kids can’t settle for long in the classroom; they prefer to learn outside,” she said. In his response, Amron promised to help.
Two weeks later, the room was completely transformed. Its earth floor is now covered with ceramic tiles and the dull walls are bright with various funny pictures. Decrepit desks have been replaced with colorful and comfortable carpets. “Thank God, the children are more enthusiastic. Even after class, they continue to play inside and lie on the carpets. It makes us happy,” said a delighted Bu Eko.
As far as Amron is concerned, children should receive attention and have a proper place to study with comfort and joy. After transforming the classroom, he contacted the Association of PAUD (HIMPAUD) in Palaran to initiate a seminar on character education, which was welcomed by local PAUD activists. This prompted him to write a book, Karakter Anak: Harapan Bangsa (Children’s Character: The Hope of a Nation), which he distributed to teachers and parents as a guidebook.
“Teachers and parents should be the first to understand character education to enable them to teach their students and children properly,” Amron, who also writes children’s songs, pointed out. Being aware of the limited contribution he could make, Amron explained: “If many companies are concerned about these issues [and become engaged with them], the nation will eventually be strong. We should give proper care to children from an early age; otherwise we will be in trouble later on.”
The fast population growth of children in Indonesia demands attention. “Especially in major cities, impoverished children arrive in large numbers. Who cares about them? This country prefers to focus on increasing the number of policemen to handle them when riots or mass fights break out, rather than dealing with the basic issue of early education,” he said. “We should build solid foundations. Without strong characters, we’ll never have a bright future,” he stressed.
Amron expressed his pleasure, however, in seeing so many people working on behalf of children. “They are PAUD teachers dedicating themselves to children’s education, despite being paid only Rp 100,000 [US$10.60] – Rp 200,000. I’m proud to be their friend,” He added.
What about the choice of Palaran? “I wanted to see the Indonesia that existed in East Kalimantan. I won’t say this region is the least developed but the children here evidently need something new. The PAUD teachers also need dialogue partners, new information, guidebooks and good songs for kids,” he observed.
It is in this region that Amron will also be trying to live his “critical” life in the best possible way. “If I have a long life, I will devote part of it to God through nature and education. I believe God has directed me to this place. But if God sends me to another place, I will follow. I’m convinced I am being cared for, because I haven’t needed the dialysis,” he concluded with gratitude.