Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My School

On Wednesdays I don't teach students. Instead, I visit different departments on a rotating schedule and "teach" the teachers English. Theoretically, I'm there to help them practice what they know and teach them key phrases. Mostly they just smile at me, take my photo, and watch me fidget and watch them for 3 hours. It's rarely my favorite day of the week.

Today I went to the guidance and counseling office. It was a typical session except for...the board. Behold the board of wonderfully useful demographic information! I remember when I first arrived in Magelang. I asked all of these questions about the school's demographics. How many students? Are they all Muslim? How many girls really go here? No one could answer my questions with a definitive answer. They should have just taken me by the hand and lead me to the the guidance office. This board takes up an entire wall of this office and displays a level of organization that made my heart happy. It basically tells you all the information you need to know about the students.

The first chart refers to gender by department and class year. The total number of students, I was surprised to discover, is 1586. There are no girls in the machine department [I teach half of my classes in this department]. The most girls are in the electronics department. And finally, there are a total of 185 female students at our school. That is 11.66% of the student body. Considering that more than 10% of the students are female, it is strange that the staff continues to maintain that this is an all-boys' school.

The second chart divides the students by class year and religion. Of the 1586 students, 1520 are Muslim. There are 28 Catholics and 37 Protestants. One lonely 11th grader is Hindu. There are no Buddhists.

The third chart shows the occupation of the students' fathers. The categories are military or police, government employee, retired, farmer, merchant, and "other" [which includes a large percentage who are unemployed].

The last chart shows the students' ages by class year. They range in age from 15 to 21. The mode age is 18.

I found the chart fascinating. All of this information I had been asking about! In one very organized place. I asked if I could take a picture...they looked at me like I was crazy. The best thing was that my interest finally got them talking. They started to tell me about all the problems the students have here. Most of them are from very small villages around Magelang City. Many of them can not afford to pay tuition [education is not free in Indonesia and is actually very expensive] because their parents are unemployed. The counselors described all of the house visits they go on to access each student's living situation and level of need. They were appalled by the condition of many of the "homes" and said that many of them could not really be considered houses. If Indonesians were appalled, I can't imagine what Americans would think. The board helped me to get better acquainted with my school. Our conversations about the board reminded me how lucky I have been to grow up where education is free and in a home that is a house and where there has always been enough money for all necessities.

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