Ramadhan, children and persistent violence

Khairil Azhar, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Opinion | Fri, August 03 2012, 10:23 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 7

Nearing dusk and carrying an infant on her back, a six- or seven-year-old girl walked toward a traffic-light intersection on a street in Eastern Jakarta. Both of them seemed accustomed to inhaling the polluted air and ignoring their surroundings.

With the perhaps seven-kilogram infant on her back, the girl had to walk several kilometers backward and forward along interconnected streets. She only enjoyed brief moments of sitting when there was no opportunity to beg from jammed cars or passersby.

Not far away from her begging spot, a woman — possibly her mother — supervised her activity. She had more of an angry looking face than a loving one. A fierce glance was enough to make the girl get to her feet again although she was already trembling.

If we try to adopt a “sense of caring”, we may be able to appreciate the woman’s necessity of ascertaining if both the children are able to beg day in and day out. Having a cold, a cough or scabies is commonplace among these children. If we look carefully, we can see swellings or wounds on the bodies of street children who beg.

The use of violence to force children to beg is a preferred choice. We can hear the women shout at their children. If we keep watching for longer, we will also catch sight of the women using sticks, pinches and slaps against the children, or clutching their hair.

During Ramadhan, we see many of these child beggars wearing Islamic symbols, such as veils, and uttering Islamic phrases. However, in certain places, we can see them eating or drinking or even smoking.

In contrast, at almost every intersection in Jakarta, on both sides of the flyovers or crossing bridges, we can see banners in different colors telling us what we should do during Ramadhan. Besides urging us to perform good deeds, there are also ads telling us what to eat, drink or wear and where we can purchase these items.

Our political leaders, despite some of them being under investigation or standing trial for corruption, have often spent millions of rupiah on these Ramadhan banners. In fact, if we read newspapers or watch the news on television, for instance, relatively few of them talk about the suffering and violence that exists on the streets. Their smiling faces look nice on the banners but their intention is aimed more at forthcoming local or national elections or political events.

We can also see the blue banners with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono telling us to practice our Ramadhan rituals. Seemingly prepared by members of his political party, with or without the party’s symbols, the banners show no appreciation of the plight of street children or, quite frankly, any degree at all of social responsibility.

On the other hand, the start of this year’s Ramadhan coincided with the uncelebrated National Children’s Day, which fell on July 23. We know from the media that the President was very busy and the commemoration had to be postponed until an uncertain time.

Regarding the postponement and in evaluating what the state is for the children, Seto Mulyadi from the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak) confirmed that the ruling government has paid very little attention to the providence of Indonesia’s children.

In conjunction with this fact, since the beginning of the reform era we can see that children’s affairs have been regarded as less important than private palatial events, such as the marriage of the President’s son, which cost a fortune.

Moreover, the misfortune of disadvantaged children is regarded more as a political opportunity.
Especially on special days, such as Ramadhan, charity shows appear to be a must.

Political leaders and high-ranking officials perform gimmicky play-acting to show their “generosity”.

Last week in Gowa, Sulawesi, we were reminded of another form of violent exploitation of children. Dozens of orphans had to be hospitalized because of eating food and drink containing poisonous chemicals, which were served at a mosque during a breaking the fast event.

Apart from carelessness or other excuses, orphanages, children’s houses and other social houses have for a long time been treated as economic institutions.

The big idea is that the exploitation of other people’s poverty is a very effective way of making money. In this satanic circle, we find three components: The disadvantaged, the management in the houses and the donors.

For many (not to say most) donors, for example, prayers, fame or political advantages are expected in return for what they have spent on the houses. Sincerity has become a problem of verbal expression instead of a matter between a servant and his God.

How can we say “sincerely” when we always tell others about our endowments or include mention of them on our curriculum vitae?

As to the house managements, how can we be sure that they are managing the poorhouses sincerely; perhaps they’re thinking more about buying a new car or a larger house rather than providing a better education or more nutritious meals for the children? We can see on the street banners that these charitable institutions emphasize that we should give them more money in exchange for heavenly promises instead of detailing their achievements in caring for the children

Perhaps, this Ramadhan could be an opportunity to remind ourselves of the plight of disadvantaged children in the hope that we may find our own ways to help them. Amen.

The writer is a researcher at the Paramadina Foundation and Ciputat School for a Democratic Islam.

Instilling positive values in children should start at early age

Evaries Rosita ,  Contributor ,  Jakarta   |  Sun, 11/09/2008 11:06 AM  |  Supplement

Most childhood education experts agree that building a child’s character must begin at preschool age. During this period, children can be easily shaped and guided to learn about what is right and what is wrong, and to learn to live a value-filled life. They can easily absorb and emulate what they see and hear from the adults in their surroundings.

Thus, teaching positive values such as honesty, courage, responsibility, compassion, integrity, self-discipline, self-reliance, kindness, friendliness, tolerance, respect, love, justice and mercy will likely be more effective when the youngsters are at preschool age than when they are at adolescent age.

In today’s society where academic achievement and performance is at prominence, the importance of character building seems to have been forgotten. We acknowledge kids’ achievements more than we acknowledge their characters. We are more engrossed in finding out our kids’ academic performance than imbuing them with positive values, which will build their character and which can enable them to make the right choices in their future lives.

To counterbalance against something harmful and destructive from the environment the child may experience, instilling good human virtues and moral values is of paramount importance. And, early age is an ideal time to do so.

Unlike academic achievement that can be unstable over time, virtues and moral values are consistent throughout the ages. They are the basic foundation of building a child with noble character, a child who is able to discern what is morally correct and incorrect, and a child who can make the right choices.

Home is surely an ideal place for parents to raise children with character. To successfully help build kids’ character, parents don’t have to be either a child psychologist or a child consultant. What they must do is to be optimistic and have faith in their parental skills, no matter what their educational backgrounds are.

In fact, parents must be aware that they are the best teacher their children have ever had.

Parents certainly have their own typical ways of teaching their kids value systems at home, but they need to understand that simply telling kids the regular dos and don’ts won’t yield any optimal results.

Children don’t learn the values that make up good character simply by being told about them. They learn instead through observing and then emulating what other people are doing and acting out around them.

Among the many ways parents can use as examples to teach how to live a value-filled life, parental modeling is the best way. That is, parents set an example through their own behavior and actions.

Every day offers countless opportunities for children to emulate what their parents say and do in upholding the values they are teaching their children.

How parents do and accomplish daily routines can show children every value in this life. They can set examples of courteous acts to children like respecting people with different cultures, religions and races, valuing honesty and showing compassion and care when others are grieving.

A note of caution, however, needs a mention here. Consistency in upholding values as demonstrated in what parents say and do every day is important and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Parents may teach the importance of valuing honesty, yet never keep their word when they promised children something, like having a picnic on a weekend. They may tell children the value of fairness, yet treat other family members unequally.

If parents do this, their children are likely to emulate and eventually develop these attitudes as well.

Reinforcing positive values can also be done through something that captures a child’s interest. Fiction and nonfiction books, folk tales, poems, plays and television shows are some resources that may draw a child’s attention.

These resources can exert a considerable influence in building kids’ character both negatively and positively. However, with parental guidance and a careful selection of children’s literature and TV programs, parents can direct their children to be critical in discerning what is good and what is bad for them.

The writer used to teach English for young learners. She can be reached at evariestj@yahoo.com.

Quality education: A significant key for children’s success

Mon, 11/10/2008 11:56 AM

Daryl Forde, Contributor, Jakarta

A number of schools have nowadays offered quality education as well as teaching more advanced schooling curricula to improve student performance. The good schools, however, are the educational institutions which also provide professional development opportunities for their teachers and staff.

Education is a prerequisite to development. Quality education will equip people with the knowledge and skills to improve their way of life, to protect themselves from illness, to enhance their professional opportunities, and to take an active role in the family, the community and, in a larger extent, the human kinship.

Equally important, education contributes to attitude change in people which in all countries and sectors is one of the biggest challenges to development. Emphasis on education emerges as a must for any nation’s development.

Many parents now opt for enrolling their children in schools with curricula which are internationally recognized. They look for a quality education that will allow individuals to maximize their learning objectives, but that will also encourage additional training to ensure that they are valued enough in the job market.

Quality education is indeed a significant key for children’s success. Concern about the quality of education has been expressed by philosophers, politicians, parents and educators for centuries.

The concern stems from how individuals perceive the role and nature of education in society and it is a concern that will doubtless continue to exist. Over the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest on how to improve the content of specific subjects, particularly language learning, science and mathematics.

Many countries have revised syllabi in these subjects in order to improve student performance. This focus on content has been very successful in those countries where the attainment of knowledge is regarded as the most important ingredient of a quality education. And to ensure that the quality is maintained, a standard of performance by students is measured by regular testing and the use of standardized benchmarks.

In his new book, Five Minds for the Future, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner describes the need to develop five kinds of minds of ways of thinking and acting that must be offered to students today. Three are related to the intellect: the disciplined, synthesizing and creative minds; two emphasize character: the respectful and ethical minds. Gardner argues very persuasively that the tools of knowledge from one discipline are not sufficient any longer to answer the questions of an increasingly globalized world.

What is needed is interdisciplinary expertise and teams working on common goals to come up with solutions that are creative and wise. A quality education must foster intellectual development and students must be able to distinguish what is relevant and meaningful from the mass of available information. Schools must give students opportunities to take a risk and to take chances to think differently and in non-orthodox ways. It takes courage and a creative mind to challenge the existing orthodoxy. Creative people take chances. Schools must also encourage real respect for cultural differences and demand that students reflect on the quality of their work.

Enhancing the learning environment means blending concept, fact, knowledge and application. There are characteristics to enhance the learning environment. These include a focus on effort and positive attitudes to learning, the use of new tools and approaches to learning and teaching and adopting accelerated learning strategies for those who need to “”catch up”” or for those who should advance at a quicker pace.

There should also efforts to improving the quality of assessment and feedback to students and parents, shared knowledge about best practice as well as energetic and sustained leadership by all. A main role of the school is to ensure balance in all areas and that in this era of international educational reform we use our experience as educators to ensure that students receive an education that will effectively prepare them for the next stage of their learning and give them the skills and the knowledge to make them confident to tackle the unknown challenges of the 21st century.

Selecting the good or right schools for the children may be easy for some parents but hard for the others. ANPS, however, has set the characteristics of good schools to help parents choosing educational institutions. Among the characteristics are whether the school has developed, documented, published, and implemented a set of clear policies, knowledge of and respect for Indonesian cultural values, diversity, and the natural environment, using both Indonesian and English as educational language, professional development and developing and applying national and international learning outcomes in their curriculum framework.

Other characteristics include whether the school emphasizes student-centered learning and has the resources and facilities to achieve learning outcomes. The Association of National Plus Schools has now 64 member schools. Nine members, including Sekolah Tiara Bangsa – ACS (International), Sekolah Bina Nusantara, Sekolah Global Jaya, Sekolah Ichthus, Sekolah Victory Plus, all in Jakarta, Buah Hati-Cita Hati and Sekolah Ciputra in Surabaya, Sekolah Bogor Raya in Bogor and Sekolah Pelita Harapan in Sentul have been accredited as satisfying such characteristics.

Leaders in ANPS schools were aware of the importance of effective and dynamic practices in promoting successful and sustained change. At their annual conference, school leaders participate in a series of meetings which help them to shape and sculpt a vision of educational quality educational for the future. They are also encouraged to develop a professional learning community in their schools. Quality schools have quality leaders.

ANPS also provides information via seminars, and workshops for teachers to engage in practices and activities that foster not only their own growth but also assists the emotional and personal growth of their students.

Founded in 2000, the ANPS aims to promote and develop quality education in Indonesian schools, provide professional development opportunities for teachers and staff, create a forum in which practitioners and leaders could discuss common educational issues as well as extend the means by which educational quality standards could be established and monitored. Information about ANPS is available at www.anpsonline.org.

–The writer is Chairperson of the Association of National Plus Schools in Indonesia (ANPS) and also the Executive Principal of Sekolah Tiara Bangsa – ACS (International) in Jakarta.