[Interview] Low-socioeconomic Education Talk With Sunshine Project OCP

By Alifia Afflatus

We should take education matters seriously, for there’s an unaging principle that education is an important key of life. It integrates solutions to many problems, and pushes sustainability to a higher level. Education constantly changes due to a developing world, yet we’re still finding the best of its system.

However, we can’t let go of the fact that many children and people around the world still find decent education formidable, which is proven to be ruining the other aspects of life. Common studies show that countries with a poor education system tend to be poor as well – economically or socially.

During the first two months of 2019, AIESEC in Diponegoro University proceeded on a special project called Sunshine. It has been the 10th batch of the project helping low-socioeconomic schools and communities to attempt education improvements.

As the project’s local volunteer, I feel honored to be given an opportunity to involve myself, also to interview Yohanes Marino, the Organizing Committee President (OCP) of Sunshine 10 project – who also made it to Sunshine 8 and 9 as local volunteer and organizing committee member. Last January, I met him in Halo Diner Café, in Semarang uptown, where he received my questions enthusiastically. Meet Marino.

Hello Marino. So what are you up to?

Hello. It’s been good today, I find it great to be interviewed on this afternoon.

Sounds wonderful, it seems that we can jump onto my first inquiry. So, how do you describe Sunshine project?

Sunshine itself stands for “Sunny Smile of Children Experience.” We approach low-socioeconomic schools because we see the gap between rich and poor education –  the education quality and experience.

As the luckier people, we want to help them experience education that they never had. Besides quality education, we bring up exchange participants for children who would feel excited to meet people from foreign countries that teach them. Another point of this project is about the art of teaching, it’s not about making a quiet class that listens to you. We’re appreciating a class that express themselves in the learning process. I don’t mind that the kids will run around or shout at each other as long as it’s because of their excitement.

I really agree to your mindset. I hope that after this, I would love children more. *laugh*

So, would you tell me about your brief Sunshine experience? I’m also interested in our seasonal theme. Why did you take “kindness” as our project theme? Did you decide it with the OCs, or did AIESEC UNDIP staffs work on thinking about this theme?

Before the OCs were elected, I had to think where Sunshine would actually go. I had a brainstorming with the vice president and the other OCPs. Initially, we firstly would like to bring “power” as the coming-up theme of Sunshine, in order to help children recognize their diverse strength.

Later I considered, imagine there are 100 children in class, there will be 100 powers, and we’re unable to control that.

I had my eye-opening moment when the vice president advised me to put “kindness” as the theme. The reason came when I think that low-socioeconomic people tend to disbelieve that they can actually create kindness without money, while in fact, it can be performed by anyone, it’s a universal action. And we’d like to open their mind that anyone can do such action.

Really interesting. In your viewpoint, how far Sunshine’s attempt has been affecting education in Semarang?

I can’t say we made a big impact, we only worked for 6 weeks. But leaving something worthwhile to our learning partner has propelled us to keep working. On Sunshine 5, they made a project called The Dream School, where volunteers attempted to transform the school into something approaching their dream school.

We donated supplies, which motivated them to learn and keep dreaming. Another project we did was called “Buku Jendela Dunia,” we threw a crowdfunding to help a school supporting its literacy by setting a mini library. Us volunteers really hope that if we leave something positive to our partners, they would recall it. We hope that how we gave them something, would motivate them to ‘give something’ also to other people, not us but someone else out there.

That’s really wonderful. Some people – when they see it in the “lucky people” perspective – might think this project doesn’t mean anything. But when we put our shoes in those children’s, it can be something demonstrative. That’s exactly what also motivated me to volunteer here.

I’m also curious, how do you think Sustainable Development Goals number 4 (quality education) could be ideal based on conditions in Semarang?

Actually, SDG number 4 itself has 7 points. What Sunshine tries to bring here is point 4.1, about how every child has the same chance for equal primary and secondary education. There are more points that could be implemented in Semarang, right?

Now, let’s take a look at the abundance of citizens in Semarang, and how we can see the gap between the poor and the rich. Merely to make their education equal has to take forever. SDGs number 4 might not cover all problems in Semarang, but that’s why in one project we can focus on one SDG. I bear in mind that as long as education quality isn’t equal, every child’s experience is also inequal. For instance, someone’s confidence to practice English can be lower when they’re in low-socioeconomic education surrounding, which is unsupportive.

How have you and your team been promoting sustainability and influencing commoners? And if there’s something you haven’t tried or done, what would it be?

First, I contacted the government, consulting about our syllabus for their agreement. Also, we contacted the school, showing our project design to know whether they accept our plan or not.

Early this year, Sunshine has made to its 10th batch, and we inferred not to leave our previous school, actually. So they have a sustainable project in their school. I decide to keep one school to continue the project and release some of the others, continuously flutter our wings without completely leaving our previous partner.

About the project idea, indeed there’s something I thought about that we haven’t executed in Sunshine. I think about, why don’t we create an event in 24 hours with the exchange participants – where we can take two kids from an orphanage to have a day-out with the EPs and the LVs. That just came up in my mind about two days ago.

It’s reasonable because I really want the EPs and the LVs to delve into the life of these children. These children can grow knowledge about another type of life. Currently, we’re unable to implement it in Sunshine 10, for we already signed the letter of agreements with our partners including project rundowns. But I believe it might work for the next seasons.

And – Marino – my last question may sound random. But what do you think you’ve ever learned from the children?

Awe! That is so deep.

Maybe one, telling what comes up in their mind is not a problem. It’s solely about raising your hand and asking. But how come college guys – 18 or maybe 20 years old began losing their ability to raise their hands and ask? For these children, it’s so genuine and simple. They’re brave enough to make decisions. Can you imagine that they –  approximately 6 years old – when you come, they see you as someone that they never knew before?

You ask them to come forward, that can be frightful for the children, right? They don’t know you, but they let themselves experience what’s going to happen nevertheless. That’s the second lesson I acquired. I imagine how adults look really hard to make decision – which is time-wasting and sometimes losing their opportunities.

I think, difficulty of decision making can be a part of traditional education effect. The system creates a class that works like robot factory. We work as the way we’re designed, we can’t bear independent mind and action.

Exactly. That might be the effect of pressure, when someone is forced to perform something out of their willingness.

The third lesson I learned was about how they seem to enjoy their life. I can say they don’t need money and requirements to have fun. They can even have fun by coming out when the day is raining. I learned that happiness is not made, we can just find it. Happiness was already made, so you need to find it – whether inside yourself, or even by seeing others’ happiness can make you feel happy.

Even right now, just by making you smile, or just doing this interview, can make you happy, right? Me too. We don’t know the reason, it’s a part of human nature. I do wish these children won’t lose their ability to find sincere happiness when they grow up.

That’s a mind-opening value you shared. I am sincerely thankful for the opportunity you gave me to ask you lots of points.

Back to you. I’m thankful that you choose Sunshine 10 as your winter project. And I’m exceptionally grateful that we have this conversation today, for it brings up the thoughts I haven’t spoken up before. Thank you so much.

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