TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Alvian Wardhana founded Literasi Anak Banua to teach thousands of children in villages in South Kalimantan using methods that enable them to understand lessons better and no longer performing poorly in school.
ALVIAN Wardhana is always moving from one activity to another. After researching youth empowerment in Malang, East Java, for a college student creativity program, he returned to his home village of Saranghalang in Pelaihari subdistrict, Tanah Laut Regency, South Kalimantan. In between his online lecture activities, Alvian, an Urban and Regional Spatial Planning undergraduate student of Brawijaya University, Malang, East Java, leads a literacy community in South Kalimantan. "We provide free courses to elementary school children," said 19-year-old Alvian on Monday, March 15.
Beginning from a mission to teach children to read, the literacy community is now present in 14 villages in South Kalimantan with 1,800 children as members. Founded in March 2018, the group, Literasi Anak Banua (Banua Children Literacy) became a finalist of the Wenhui Award 2020 organized by UNESCO Asia-Pacific. They made it to the top 100 best social projects in 2020 according to the Friends for Leadership, an international network for youths.
Literasi Anak Banua is also listed in the top three of educational initiative category in the Desamind Award 2021 organized by the non-governmental organization Desamind. Alvian, the founder of the community, has recently been chosen as one of the nine Ashoka Young Changemakers 2021 by Ashoka, a global organization based in the United States.
Alvian initially founded Literasi Anak Benua to teach children in Kunyit village in Tanah Laut Regency, to read. He had previously come to the village as a volunteer of the Forum Anak Daerah (Forum for Children in the Regions), an organization under the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, to disseminate the rights of children. When playing with the children, Alvian was surprised to discover that some third graders were still unable to read. "Literacy is basic rights that could improve the welfare of a person and the society. Seeing those children was like a slap in the face," said Alvian.
Together with five friends, Alvian returned to the village to find out why the children could not read. Some were able to comprehend lessons in school, but many were left behind. Those less performing students were unable to understand the teachers' explanation due to the same learning system being implemented for all children. From there, Alvian and friends were inspired to provide free courses in reading that could accommodate children based on their learning styles.
According to him, there are three styles of learning, namely auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Auditory learners tend to more easily understand lessons delivered through listening, while visual learners focus more on what they see. Kinesthetic learners, meanwhile, enjoy learning that involves movements. Alvian, who at the time was an 11th grader in High School, understood this very well, having himself improved his scores in school after discovering his own learning style. Prior to that, he was considered an underperforming student. "From the elementary school to the 7th grade of Junior High School, I always had bad scores. Once, I got 0.8 and the teacher summoned my mother to talk," he said, laughing.
When in the 7th grade of Junior High School, Alvian tried to find ways to make studying more fun and help him better understand the lessons. He came upon the three learning styles. After finding one style that suits him, Alvian's scores improved immediately. The next semester, he was in the top 10 of his class and joined the class for high-performing students in the 8th grade. During high school, he was routinely among the top three.
In March 2018, Alvian and his five friends came to Kunyit village with the intention of teaching children based on their individual styles of learning. But the locals rejected, at first. Residents of Kunyit were unconvinced that the high school students were able to teach their children. A local youth community also objected because the children there were already attending a Qur'an reading and writing class. Alvian and friends then met the village chief. "The chief gave the permission, but we were asked to collect signatures from 125 family heads in two days as a sign of approval from the community," he said.
They came to the villagers, door to door, explaining their intention and gave examples of some community empowerment activities by the youth. They managed to collect the signatures. As for the local community who initially objected, Alvian discussed with them the meaning of the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad, Surah Al-Alaq. The first verse in the surah translates into the command to 'read.' "Reading in this context is not limited to only the Qur'an, but also includes others," said Alvian. The community finally accepted. Alvian and his friends managed their schedule around the community's activities. Literasi Anak Banua started after three weeks of dealing with permission. About 100 students from the 1st to 3rd grades joined in. Alvian and friends grouped them after observing and testing every child's learning style tendency.
Teachers in the auditory style group rely more on sound to facilitate learning, such as by using loudspeakers, to enable children to better understand lessons. The visual group uses pictures as a learning aid, like YouTube videos. Meanwhile, the kinesthetic group employs demonstrative tools and props such as hand puppets. They began to see that the children were making progress. "Those who were unable to write the alphabet could now write. Those who were unable to read could now read," said Alvian. After seeing the progress, Alvian and friends were inspired to practice the same method for children in other villages, particularly those in the outermost, frontier, and least developed regions. As of 2020, they have expanded to 13 other villages. One of them is Bajayau village in Daha Barat subdistrict, Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency, which is a six-hour motorcycle ride from Kunyit.
Alvian also asked his other friends to become members of the community and volunteers. One of them is Hikmah, a volunteer from Pemuda village in Pelaihari subdistrict. Hikmah is well aware of the quality of education in his village, where it is not a main concern for the residents. There are only very few teachers there. "Sometimes one teacher has to teach all classes. The 6th graders could be receiving 4th grader lessons," he said.
After the children learned how to read, they move on to other subjects, such as math, Indonesian language, and English. They are also taught other skills outside of school lessons, such as storytelling. They learn about concepts like tolerance and equality as well.
Tiatira Nadine Ratih, a 20-year-old girl from Riam Adungan village in Kintap subdistrict, Tanah Laut, saw the improvement in children in her village after Literasi Anak Banua came at the end of 2019. Her younger brother Doni, a 2nd grader in the elementary school, joined the community. Doni, who was reluctant to study at first, is now more enthusiastic in class. His scores also improved along with his rank, from the 20s rising to the top 10. "They are excited to see the teachers even as they just parked their motorbikes," she said.
Alvian and his team are now further developing Literasi Anak Banua in order to reach more children and youth. They made programs either for those who want to become volunteers or to learn, and promote them on social media. The Great Banua Program, for example, invites youths from all places to teach the children in villages. The theme of the teaching is related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Youths who want to contribute could send their recordings to Literasi Anak Banua, who will later deliver them to the children in the villages. "We want to facilitate our friends who would like to contribute to the society, but not sure how to do so," he said.
NUR ALFIYAH, DIANANTA P. SUMEDI
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