I guess not many of us know that yesterday (2 May) is Indonesian National Education Day. I even just realized it when I saw Liputan6 news streaming on the net. There was this retired teacher who was being a guest on Liputan6 Pagi. Who was this retired teacher? He was Sartono. Still didn't ring a bell?

Terpujilah wahai engkau ibu bapak guru

Namamu akan selalu hidup dalam sanubariku

Semua baktimu akan kuukir di dalam hatiku

Sebagai prasasti terima kasihku

Tuk pengabdianmu

Engkau sebagai pelita dalam kegelapan

Engkau laksana embun penyejuk dalam kehausan

Engkau patriot pahlawan bangsa
Tanpa tanda jasa

Yes, Sartono is the creator of that song Himne Guru that we used to sing it every May 2 during our school days. He is a retired junior high school teacher and now resides in Madiun, a small quiet town in Jawa Timur province. He never got promoted to permanent teaching staff level and stayed as a temporary teacher for more than 20 years until his retirement. He never got any royalty from the song that he created, except only a 'priceless' piece of certificate of gratitude from ministry of education which is still hanged neatly on his wall.

I was a part-time teacher for around 3 months before I furthered my study here. I was teaching mathematics subject in a vocational high school (Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan). I found that there were no full time teacher worked there. The school is owned by a middle-class consultant company, and all the teachers were actually consultant staffs who spent their extra time teaching at the school. There were some of them who really were professional teachers, but they were not permanent teachers employed by the school, but they were employed by some public schools nearby.

See the point here? Even if they're permanent teaching staff, employed by public schools, they still need to teach outside. And it's a common practice in my beloved country. They are underpaid! What could be more ironic than knowing that teachers, who are the pillar of education in a nation, are underpaid. To me, this is the major mistake of the former Indonesian leaders by not prioritizing the education sector as a core of nation's development. When Indonesia, and so did Malaysia, had oil boom in the 70's, both countries did the different way in spending the profit from the oil exports. Malaysia spent most of the money to develop their education system. They sent their teachers and graduates overseas, including Indonesia, to be educated and prepared to be given roles in their nation's development. What did our leaders do? They prefered to buy all the imported goods and stuffs, beside enriching themselves with luxurious houses and the most expensive cars. They didn't care of the education system. They didn't care of many school buildings got older and nearly broke down. They didn't care that many schools in remote areas didn't have tiling so the students and teachers had to do their activities on dirt. They didn't care of the limited number of classrooms in a school so the schedule had to be shifted to morning and noon. All that they did was changing curriculum everytime the president appointed a new minister, -and the students was forced to buy the 'new curriculum' textbooks without being able to use their seniors' textbooks- changing the school name from SMA (Sekolah Menengah Atas) to SMU (Sekolah Menengah Umum) back to SMA again. They didn't even think how much it costed to change the signboard over and over again, summed for all schools in Indonesia.

Education is the pillar of a nation. I really hope that the new government realizes that very simple statement. Definitely it's not an easy work to do, but at least we can pass on the work to our next generation.

Selamat Hari Pendidikan Nasional!

Picture: http://www.bakti.org

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