Responding to the challenge of lack of access to education in Papua, a large plantation company operating in the area has developed early childhood education to empower Papuan people through the Early Childhood Care and Development Resource Center (ECCDRC).
According to ECCDRC Project Manager Nindyah Rengganis, the key challenge in Papua is the lack of access to education.
“We know the key challenge here is the lack of access to education. Schools have been built but there is a lack of resources,” Rengganis told The Palm Scribe. She explained that parents in Papua do care about their children’s education but they are constrained by lack of facilities.
Given the fact that there are still many problems in education that are still not handled by the government, companies from the private sectors actively put some effort to ease the Government’s burden. One of the companies, PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJ), which engages in agriculture in West Papua, has supported the early childhood education program run by ECCDRC.
“We are working on this program in five places — the company’s employee residence, Benawa, Sumano, Kuragi, and Tawan Giri — with 250 to 300 young children in total,” Rengganis said. She hopes that the children following this program are now ready for elementary level.
Rengganis explained that the ECCDRC program encourages families in West Papua to carry out educational activities in their homes.
“At the family level, we encourage the home-based parenting, because home is a complete and effective learning resource and the existing tools at home help to learn counting and others.” Rengganis also talked about the future plan of early childhood education program integrating with the South Sorong City Education Office.
Rengganis further explained that with ANJ’s entrance to West Papua, there have been quite a lot of social changes. Most people used to hunt for livelihood but now they have a job. Infrastructure in the region has been improved, providing ease for Papuan people, thanks to ANJ.
“ANJ has brought a big impact. People used to take one full day to walk from one place to another and now it only takes 30 minutes for the same distance,” she said. “This is the answer to their prayers. It is now the time for companies to ‘grow people’, that is, to provide decent education and bring teachers here,” Rengganis added.
Not only does the presence of ANJ help the community education development but it also improves the surrounding community’s knowledge and skills in farming. This is acknowledged by Hariyadi, a Bogor Agricultural Institute lecturer who is also part of the Paramitra NGO.
“These people need to be empowered. They were initially hunter-gatherers, and they do not have the farming skills. ANJ has this community program to help them grow crops,” Hariyadi told The Palm Scribe.
He explained that the challenge is that local communities in West Papua are not used to grow crops, and that requires intensive assistance from all parties.
Hariyadi viewed this farming program as a great benefit for the community as it can give better economic impacts for their welfare.
“People have become independent and, moving forward, they will be able to supply vegetables to the company, so there is some kind of give and take,” he said.