Floating School for Islands Children

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Three weeks ago, on a Sunday, dozens of teens and children from the Satando Island, South Sulawesi, assembled on the shore. They played together as they waited for a special boat to dock. Named the "Floating School," the boat routinely transports volunteers equipped with their tools of trade: two blackboards, several laptops, books for studying and writing, along with stationery and craft materials.

    The children were not the only ones cheerfully awaiting the boat's arrival; parents, such as Ramlah, 44, were equally excited waiting for the boat from the Maccini Baji Port in Pangkep. The Satando resident is happy that her children have been able to study with Floating School volunteers on the weekends. "The children used to only fill their time playing games or going fishing," she said.

    Ramlah's children began studying with the Floating School last year. Both -one a middle-school graduate and the other a high-school graduate-are taking computer classes, one of the seven classes available besides photography, writing, drawing, dancing, music and craft. According to Ramlah, her children chose to take computer because it suited their interests.

    The Floating School is a non-formal education program owned by three young people from Pangkep: Rahmat Hidayat Mato, 30, who works for Dompet Dhuafa; Rahmiana Rahman, 30, an English literature graduate from the Makassar State University; and Nur Almarwah Asrul, 28, a lecturer at the Alauddin Islamic State University, Makassar.

    Rahmat explained that the program was created because he was moved to empower youngsters who live in the small islands around his region. There are 117 small islands in Pangkep, 87 of which are inhabited. "We don't want islands children to continue to be isolated," said Rahmat.

    In February 2017, he and his two colleagues began running the Floating School with the motto "Sail to Serve." They received an initial funding of US$15,000 from the Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) program. The name "Floating School" was chosen for two reasons: one, it is catchy, and two, their school operates on a boat rented from Pangkep fishermen.

    In the past, the Floating School would anchor on three islands every Sunday. The islands of Saugi, Satando, and Sapuli are 15 to 30 minutes away from each other by boat and were elected because they are all administratively located in the village of Mattiro Baji.

    But Rachmat found the method not very effective and later decided to change tactics. Classes were then held on one of the three islands every week. "So we first pick the children up from the two other islands," he explained.

    Classes take place in the open beach, under the shade of trees, or on the mosque's porch. "Except for computer classes, because they have to be held indoors," said Rahmat.

    Read more inspiring Outreach stories in Tempo English Weekly Magazine