The Jakarta Post
The young members of Indonesia's growing middle class are not as out-of-touch with social issues as many people may think, says Andrinof Chaniago, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia (UI).
A growing number of them, mostly in cities such as Bandung, Jakarta, Surabaya and Yogyakarta, are offering their time to volunteer with organizations such as Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar (GIM), which sends educated young people to teach in remote areas across Indonesia.
This is proven by the high number of applicants for the program, which has received more than 40,000 applicants from all backgrounds. Of that number, only 367 have been selected over the years.
Andrinof said the perception of modern, urban youngsters as hedonistic and uncaring about their country was not entirely true. 'They just need to be given an opportunity, an outlet to do something positive. When that's not available, sadly the only option is to visit shopping malls,' Andrinof said at the GIM office in Jakarta on Tuesday.
'This is a form of political participation, but not of a negative kind,' he added.
Shelly, one of GIM's volunteer teachers, said that the program gave her the opportunity to learn more about her country while, at the same time, helping others through education.
She also related a memorable experience while teaching in the foothills of Mount Tambora, which erupted in September 2011. 'The schoolkids were still enthusiastic to learn despite their fear that Mt. Tambora might erupt at any moment,' she said.
'Of course, at that time, they were eager to learn more about volcanoes,' she added, chuckling.
Tanti, a consultant, said she wished she could teach in rural areas, but she could not afford to quit her job. 'So I signed up for an 'inspirational teaching' program, whereby young professionals can take a day off from work now and again to teach in the Greater Jakarta area,' she said.
Dini, a journalist, said that she continually encouraged family and friends to join the cause. 'There aren't a lot of events that offer this sort of opportunity to directly contribute to improving education in rural Indonesia,' she said, showing her ticket for a GIM event on Saturday.
Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar will be holding a festival on Oct. 5-6 to promote community service in education.
The event, which will be held at the Ecovention Hall in Ancol, will include a host of activities that participants can get involved in, such as helping to put together 'creative learning mediums' and educational tools to help children with their learning.
Participants will be able to join groups in 10 'playgrounds', each of which will have different activities going on, such as making educational flashcards, composing songs and writing pen-pal letters.
Around 4,000 people have already registered to attend the event, which it is hoped will attract as many as 10,000 participants. Further information can be accessed from the Twitter account, @FestivalGIM, with the hash tag, #KerjaBakti.
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