The only thing hotter than the weather is the passion for inclusive education in West Java

The day has finally arrived. We’re getting to see, meet and interact with various stakeholders in West Java who are involved with increasing inclusivity within the Indonesian educational system. The focused energy of the entire team is on the children.

We started our day meeting local politicians, teachers, students and members of a working group who are helping improve awareness and supporting inclusiveness in the local educational system.

Local politicians, joined by the wonderful Jennifer Hughes for a panel discussion on inclusive education.

Out of this meeting, one thing was clear: Tilsammans is alive and well in Indonesia. All stakeholders agree that there is a huge cry for change in the educational system with a focus on inclusivity of all children, no matter what their economic, physical or emotional needs. The passion for change is contagious; we all want change and we want it now! It’s everyone’s goal. It was a breath of fresh air, which is hard to find with the local temperature pushing 40OC. Even the local government agrees that there is a systemic problem with the local educational system that needs to change. But they need help to do it in the correct way, that will help the many children while still being economically viable in the long term.

After the meeting, the entire team’s excitement grew as we were one step closer to the focus of our trip. We were about to meet the children who are the direct beneficiaries of all the hard work everyone is engaged with to increase inclusivity within the educational system. But first a surprise stop-off at a local producer of Batik cloth, which is one of the main local industries. Some of these designs are painted by hand and it can take up to a month to create a single sheet of cloth that is needed for only one shirt.

A local artisan, one design for the cloth and completed Batik cloth

Following this surprise side trip, we went to visit a local partner that supports families who are facing many hardships to access the education system. Their work helps to ensure proper education for the many. We were treated to a lunch that included many local dishes including spiced beef, chicken and delicious desserts. It is amazing to see the work groups like this do with very few resources.

With governemt funding and local support, groups like this now have more permanent locations to help increase access and ensure continuity for families in the area.

The team enjoying a wonderful locally-sourced and created meal.

The time had finally arrived. We all packed into our van and headed to a local water park to meet the children and join in some games they were playing while on a wonderful field trip to the park. On our arrival, we were greated by a group of enthusiastic, engaged and fun-loving children, teachers, parents and support staff. The smiles we were met with were at times overwhelming. Everyone’s smiles seem to beam with joy, happiness and the wonderment of the moment.

I was drawn to one child, Agill, who uses a wheelchair due to physical requirments, and I soon discovered that he loved being in front of a camera. His smile would grow whenever someone said “smile”.

When I spoke to one of his support workers she told me that if it wasn’t for the help received by the governement and groups like Save the Children, Agill would not have been able to attend programmes like this. His future would have been very bad—as she put it “no smiles for him”.

My new friend Agill made it perfectly clear that he would not smile until we both gave the thumbs up sign.

We continued to engage in various games and fun until it was finally time to go back, exhausted, to our hotel room to reflect on the day and prepare for tomorrow.



    Raymond Berry