Looking up to the Sky, Greeting to the Earth
Meeting with children who have a high spirit to study in school is an amazing opportunity. Together with my two colleagues, we helped the selection interview of hoshiZora scholarship, a foundation which is founded by Indonesian students in Japan’s universities. These awesome students spare their pocket money to support the education of underpriviledge Indonesian children. The founders of this foundation hope that someday Indonesia will be filled by the stars, which referred to successful people who comes from lower economic-class in the society. The symbol of that vision is sky full of stars, or in Japanese language it is called hoshiZora. There was no reason for me to deny their requests to help in selection process. The same reason when I joined “Indonesia Mengajar”: I was helped by a lot of good people so I can continue my education, now it is the time for me to help those who want to continue their education with all of my power.
We interviewed some children from elementary until high school who are called “Adik Bintang” (Sponsored Siblings) to-be (the “Kakak Bintang” / Sponsor Siblings are the university students who give them the scholarship). Every child has their own character and unique story. There was child who was kept smiling when being asked, there was a child who seriously thought before answering, there was also a child who was very confident so he became the center of attention in the interview room. Here I would like to share some of their stories that made me ashamed and also inspired me and could also inspire you all.
Putri (not a real name), is a middle school student. Her parents just got divorced, one week before the interview. Putri and her older sister stay with their mother who works as cleaning-lady in a school. The mother is a high-school graduate who has to support her daughters with limited income, moreover since she turned as single parent. Putri had to move from her previous school because his mother could no longer afford to fund her education. In between her regular activities, Putri helps his mother’s work and also tries to calm her down, as her mother is still shocked of the divorce. But even in this condition, Putri still manages to achieve top rank in her school. Her hope in getting this scholarship is very simple, to lighten her mother’s burden and as a saving to continue to her next level of education.
Ria (not a real name), is a middle school student. Ria lives with his father who is a farmer. Her mother passed away when Ria was 3 years old. Her father’s income is not certain, depends on harvest period, usually every three months. Ria and her sister take turn to do household works. Her pocket money is low because of uncertain income of his father. But, all of this limitation has never put her spirit down to go to school and achieve high rank in her class.
Arif (not a real name), is a 6th grader. Arif has an excellent communication skill. He is cheerful and humorist. He likes to do speech, to read encyclopedias and to sing. His achievement is not only at school, but also in district level. He always gets the highest rank in class so far. His interest in reading books brought him to be the 3rd winner of Interest to Read Competition in the District. Probably because of his passion in reading, Arif is capable to say something with terms that not usually used by children of his age, such as: “I would like to by books for my reference”. When he was asked: “What is reference?” he answered confidently “reference is to broaden our view”. His dream is also a little bit different with other children; he wants to be a successful businessman! But then he quickly revised: to be a bank employee. When he was asked about the reason, he answered that he is passionate to finance-related matter. Then he detailed his plan from elementary school to university. He was also certain about the major to be taken in university: Economy. He is really knowledgeable. But as child who is not coming from fortunate family, Arif is not sure that he can realize his dream, because of funding problem. But in the other side, Arif believes that if he studies hard and prays to God, he can realize his dream. Because of that, he hopes that he can get hoshiZora Scholarship.
Among other elementary school students that I interviewed, Arif was the most capable to explain why he deserved the scholarship. Besides to reduce his mother’s burden, Arif also made clear that his determination to continue his education has made him deserve to get the scholarship. When he was asked if he has house with ceramic tiles, he said yes, but the paint has already peeled-off. Most of the children will only answer yes then stop. Different with other, Arif wanted to emphasize that he really needs it. Another example, when he was asked that he has his own bedroom, he answered that he has his own bedroom and table to study, but the table was very old and damaged. His strategy in explaining his family condition was better than middle-school students.
Seeing Arif who was very cheerful and has high spirit, nobody would guess that he is an orphan. His father passed away at a traffic incident on 3 November 2007 (he remembered the date very well), but he could tell the story of it freely without hesitation. His mother opened a small shop in their home (which according to him, his house is small, so the shop is smaller, and he made gesture with hand to give the idea about the size of it). In the end of the interview, he convinced the interviewer that he really needs this scholarship and that he will use it to support his education in order to pursue his dream.
Another interesting story comes from interview room next door; Ita (not a real name) is an orphan. Both of her parents have passed away. She lives with her step mother, but not an evil-step mother like the one in the fairy tale. Ita idolizes her step-mother very much, who has taken care of her as if her own daughter. When she told us the story, Ita could not hold her tears. Even in a difficult financial situation, her step mother always try to make Ita happy, takes care of her, and push her to keep going to school. In this difficult condition, Ita keeps fighting to continue her education.
In general, all “Adik Bintang” to-be is absolutely want to get the scholarship from “Kakak Bintang”. However, there is one of children who was interviewed, said that she did not want to get the scholarship because she thought that there are other children who needs it more than her. Her parent’s earning was Rp. 800.000/ month; a little bit higher those other children’s parents which are in the range of Rp. 100.000 – 500.000/ month. But considering the school need right now, the money should be spent very wisely. For me, it is not about that child’s financial situation, but it is about her willingness to prioritize her friends above her own needs. While in the other side, there are so many people who already have more than other, but keep asking more and more, even with illegal ways. Just like the thing that happened in my university, when students from rich family applied for the scholarship which supposed to be given to students from underpriviledge families. From this kid, we got a very valuable lesson not to think that we are the one who suffers the most, as if on earth there are always layers below other layers, the same with sky, there are other layers of sky on top the other. When we feel that we are the most underpriviledge, don’t just look up but also look down, there are a lot of people who is more underpriviledge than us. Looking up to the sky will push us to try harder in order to reach our dream, while looking down to the earth will remind us to be grateful for the entire gift that we have.
The opportunity to talk with these “Adik Bintang” to-be has opened our heart. After looking to the sky for too long, to watch people who have more than us, it is time for us to greet the earth, pay attention to those in needs, but always has a high spirit. This country still has hope to keep going forward. People with financial difficulties, does not have to lose their life spirit. They are our reminders to keep grateful and keep spirit in overcoming the challenges. This country was built with optimism, so let’s to be optimist on our generation to pursue our dream. If we have not been able to help them, at least don’t make them more suffer. Pray for those who are fighting and let’s do the best on what we do.
Thursday, 17 May 2012.
Thank you to hoshiZora Foundation for the opportunity that has been given for us (Nanda, Selfi & I).
I hope that all “Adik Bintang” to-be someday will be a star who can turn this country to be “hoshiZora”
Written by: Zaki Laili Khusna
Pengajar Muda Angkatan 1 Indonesia Mengajar