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Jakarta Post

The extra mile: East Nusa Tenggara teacher visits students at home amid pandemic

  • Markus Makur

    The Jakarta Post

East Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara   /   Tue, May 5, 2020   /   07:37 am
The extra mile: East Nusa Tenggara teacher visits students at home amid pandemic Students study in their classroom at SMP 10 state junior high school in Gulung hamlet, Ruan village, East Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) in this undated file photo. (JP/Markus Makur)

While the COVID-19 pandemic forces students to study from home and interact with their tutors through the internet, a teacher in East Nusa Tenggara has made it his mission to literally go the extra mile to ensure his students still get the best education in these unprecedented times.

Dominikus Jematu, a 26-year-old English teacher at the Santo Stanislaus junior high school in East Manggarai regency, believes the presence of teachers is as vital as the wisdom they impart on their students, especially in the current period of great uncertainty.

As such, Dominikus has grown accustomed to riding his motorcycle 30 kilometers from his residence in Borong to Compang Teber village in Ranamese district, where most of his students live.

“I visit several [students] in their homes to give them lessons and assign homework. Between April 27 and 29, I taught 17 students in Ranamese district, East Manggarai,” Dominikus told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, adding, however, that damaged roads hampered his daily commute to the village.

Remote learning, while convenient on paper, is riddled with challenges in practice, according to him. During the pandemic, his students had only been assigned homework and had little to no actual interaction with their teachers, he said.

To complicate matters, Dominikus said only a few residents in the district could afford access to electricity and a stable internet connection, making remote learning far from the viable alternative it was touted as for all students.

“Considering such issues, several schools have decided to task teachers with providing direct assistance to students in their own homes instead,” he said.

For many students in East Manggarai, the reality of remote learning is worlds apart from the high-tech imagery typically advertised by the government amid the current health emergency.

Eight-year-old Meila Apil, a second-grade student at the Munda elementary school in the regency, has no choice but to complete her homework in near-total darkness, using only the dim light of an oil lamp.

“We don’t have a generator. We can’t do anything about it. Our daughter is used to studying at night with an oil lamp,” said Meila’s mother, Rosalia Lona.

Read also: No internet, electricity force residents of East Manggarai to study old-fashioned way during school closures

A recent survey conducted by the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) revealed that about 76 percent of students were not enthusiastic about online learning for a host of reasons, including the failure on the educators’ part to accommodate students who were unable to afford the electronics or reliable internet access – essentials for remote learning.

East Manggarai Youth and Sports Agency head Basilius Teto instructed all students and teachers in the region to study from home on March 20 to minimize the risk of coronavirus infection.

The agency has since extended the study-from-home period until April 20, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated.

As of Sunday, the East Nusa Tenggara administration has confirmed 10 COVID-19 cases. (rfa)