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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seeds of Corruption

One of the cultural challenges living in Indonesia is the corruption that permeates every level of society. Honesty and integrity are sadly, rare commodities, but even after dealing with the Indonesian people in many and various ministries, projects and enterprises since 2004, I was actually shocked at the latest revelation.

The children have just completed their end of year examinations. When the exams started, Tambun who is one of our two brightest kids was told by his teacher to come to school each day at 6:30 am instead of the normal time that the exams started which was 8:30. He was told that he would do the exam so the teacher could pass on the results to various students. You would be forgiven for asking what on earth for!

The system works like this. The teachers, like most government employees including the army, police, office workers, etc pay huge sums to gain entrance into a government job, many going into debt. The reason is twofold. First they get a pension, and secondly it puts them in a position of power to extract 'fees' for doing their jobs. For example, we needed to purchase birth certificates for most of our kids to enable them to register for school, and the standard price is Rp115,000. Each time it has cost us Rp1,000,000 and if we didn't pay it there would simply be no birth certificate. We would just be told 'not ready, come back tomorrow (ad infinitum), and that's just the tiniest tip of the iceberg.

The teachers get their graft by handing out answers prior to the exam, for which Indonesian parents who are able to pay gladly do so. Why do the parents do that? Because their kids would fail, and not because they are stupid or lazy, but because the teachers are incompetent. And the teachers are incompetent because you 'pay' to become a teacher. Both Kadek and Yohana originally wanted to be teachers but when they applied, they were asked how much they could contribute. They said nothing as they were relatively poor. They never heard any more about their applications after being told they would have to pay Rp200.000.000.

So why did the teacher need Tambun to sit the test to get the answers? Because the teacher didn't know them! And he didn't know them because he paid the money, and if you pay the money you get your teaching certificate. We actually pay for a tutor who comes to the kids home 5 days a week. Besides being bright, that's the reason our kids do so well.

I need to add that this situation doesn't apply to all government schools, just most. Christian schools are considered by far the best schools, even wealthy Muslim and Hindu families will send their children there if they want their kids to be 'properly' educated.

So Kadek took Tambun to school at 8:30 and picked him up each day after the exams.

The bottom line is everyone, including the government, teachers, parents and kids all think its normal. Seeds are planted at a tender age.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Knitting up a Storm in Kerobokan Prison


Virgy and some of her girls with their latest creations

On returning from Oz in March Virgy brought back a pattern for a 'Trauma Teddy' used by the Red Cross. The girls just loved it and once they had mastered the basics they proceeded to dress them up (with a little help from Lindsay). It is such a blessing to watch them and see their excitement and enthusiasm knitting, sometimes for their kids, sometimes for sale, sometimes for themselves. They are holding their Teddy Bears in the picture.