“Our students plant and harvest vegetables then sell them in the school bazaar”

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Students learn to farm their favourite vegetables (Merry Agnes Pangaribuan )

Discrimination of marginalised children, Teachers and learning

With little technology available, children on an Indonesian island are being taught how to farm and recycle.

My name is Merry Pangaribuan and I am a teacher at SDN 004 Pian Tengah Elementary School in Pian Tengah, a village in a remote area of Natuna Island.

Established over 35 years ago, this is the only school in the village, accommodating 71 students. The age group I teach is between six and 12 years. We are aiming to increase student abilities, especially in character development.

The village is made up of Melayu and Muslim people, and the children have no new ideas coming in from outside the village. The only way to develop and share new ideas is through education. 

As a result of little to no internet connectivity and technology on the island, I have had to be resourceful in the methods I have used to teach and engage my students.

This year we’re learning about honesty through “Kedai Kejujuran/Honesty Shopping” and about the environment through “Pian Tengah Farming” – on top of daily activities to learn about collecting rubbish for recycling.

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Teachers are helping students make the most of the land (Merry Agnes Pangaribuan )

Kedai Kejujuran/Honesty Shopping was introduced in January 2018 and aimed to see how honest our students are. The system was very simple – the students bought food and beverages from the stall and paId for these themselves without a shopkeeper watching them. 

In the first week we found that the students were unable to be honest, as there was a minus income after the final calculation. But then we implemented a personal approach after they bought foods from the stalls by saying:  

“Thank you for being honest today! See you tomorrow and ask your friends to buy, too!”

By saying these simple words to the students, they had it in their minds that being honest is fun and much appreciated. After the second week we finally got the correct income coming in for the food being bought.

“Students are the best learners, they learn from their misunderstandings to become better!” praised our headmaster about the students.

This January we also established Pian Tengah Farming, where we taught our students to farm their favourite vegetables in a polybag. Why farming? Pian Tengah has great fertile land which is potentially undiscovered. 

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Students are responsible for tending to the vegetable garden (Merry Agnes Pangaribuan )

Local people always buy vegetables from the other village located two and a half hours from Pian Tengah. Thus, other teachers and I love to teach students how to farm and use the land potential as well.

This farming movement became a group project for each class, who chose which vegetable they wanted to plant together. They were responsible for daily watering and giving manure weekly. 

Every week, the class had to choose “Weekly Leader” to lead the team and maintain the seeds so everyone would have a chance to be in-charge. 

For the past two months, they have harvested their vegetables and sold it in the school bazaar. Local people and parents were invited to buy the local products.  

In the end, our students understood a sense of transaction and entrepreneurship besides farming.

I hope this is the beginning of a fresh new start for Pian Tengah students.

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