In the Cis­arua Refugee Learn­ing Cen­tre, In­done­sia

Vacations & Travel - - On The Ground -

Robyn Hen­der­son is a mum from the North­ern Beaches of Syd­ney, a maths tu­tor and a cham­pion surf life saver. Robyn was one of a group of three women who heard about the Cis­arua Refugee Learn­ing Cen­tre and wanted to do some­thing. This is her story.

“The Cis­arua Refugee Learn­ing Cen­tre is sit­u­ated in Bo­gor, about 75 kilo­me­tres from Jakarta in West Java, In­done­sia.

The area has a large pop­u­la­tion of asy­lum seek­ers and refugees who are mainly eth­nic Hazaras from Afghanistan, Iran and Pak­istan. They are per­se­cuted by the Tal­iban and have had to flee their home­lands. In­done­sia turns a blind eye to them liv­ing there. They need to use their own sav­ings or get fi­nan­cial sup­port from other fam­ily mem­bers abroad as the adults can’t work, get ac­cess to med­i­cal care or send their chil­dren to school. Liv­ing in In­done­sia is only a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion. They have to wait for in­ter­views with the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jakarta in the hope of gain­ing refugee sta­tus and even­tual re­set­tle­ment in coun­tries like Aus­tralia, New Zealand, USA and Canada – a process that can take up to five years.

In 2014, a small group of refugees, in­clud­ing Muza­far Ali and Khadim Dai, two Afghan Hazara refugees, de­cided to start a school as their chil­dren were miss­ing out on an ed­u­ca­tion. The teach­ers and man­age­ment staff came from the young men and women who are also refugees and they vol­un­teered their ser­vices. The school is set up in a house, the rent of which was ini­tially paid for by an Aus­tralian cou­ple and is now cov­ered by do­na­tions.

The school has re­stored a sense of pur­pose and dig­nity to refugees who are liv­ing a vul­ner­a­ble and pre­car­i­ous life in tran­sit. The chil­dren are taught in English and have been able to make friends and learn in a happy and car­ing en­vi­ron­ment free from any con­flict. When they are re­set­tled it will be a lot eas­ier for them to in­te­grate into their new schools and com­mu­ni­ties if they are not too far be­hind in their learn­ing and with some English lan­guage.

The school cur­rently has 110 stu­dents rang­ing in ages from 5-16 years. Most of the chil­dren are from Afghanistan and Pak­istan. There are some from other coun­tries across the Mid­dle East and Africa (like Su­dan). In the af­ter­noons the school is used to teach women in the refugee com­mu­nity English.

I trav­elled to Cis­arua with friends of mine, Gaia and Zoe Grant. We raised about $3,000 from our gen­er­ous friends and fam­ily be­fore we went. We used this money to buy ed­u­ca­tional re­sources which the refugee com­mu­nity had re­quested and other items we knew, from our ex­pe­ri­ence, would en­hance the stu­dents’ learn­ing.

I run a maths tu­tor­ing busi­ness from my home and my stu­dents and their fam­i­lies spent an af­ter­noon at my house print­ing, lam­i­nat­ing and cut­ting out other ac­tiv­i­ties and dis­plays for the school which we also took over with us. This added up to a to­tal of 120 kilo­grams and thank­fully Qan­tas gen­er­ously waived the ex­cess bag­gage.

When we ar­rived at the school, we no­ticed their white­boards were small, scratched and not mag­netic. We were able to quickly source and pay for some

large mag­netic white­boards from Jakarta for each of the class­rooms which will make a huge dif­fer­ence to the stu­dents and teach­ers.

The reaction was over­whelm­ing when we showed the teach­ers at the school what we had brought with us. They were keen to learn how to best use these re­sources in the class­room which we showed them in staff meet­ings on the first week­end we were there and af­ter school hours. We demon­strated use of the re­sources in the class­rooms with the chil­dren and have since seen images on the school’s Face­book and know they are be­ing used by the teach­ers. The joy on the chil­dren’s faces is so re­ward­ing.

The chil­dren and teach­ers loved see­ing posters and charts put up on the class­room walls and com­mon ar­eas and were ex­cited and very ap­pre­cia­tive of the mainly maths and sci­ence teach­ing aids we brought with us. The cir­cu­lar para­chute with han­dles we bought for them to use out­side in their small play­ground has been a fun ac­tiv­ity for the chil­dren.

We will be go­ing back and hope to con­cen­trate on more lit­er­acy-based ma­te­ri­als and gen­eral knowl­edge re­sources. Gaia and Zoe pro­vided some man­age­ment train­ing, giv­ing ad­vice on re­tain­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing staff and solv­ing prob­lems that come up when run­ning a school. They would like to fur­ther help the school with these vi­tal skills and strate­gies when they visit again. This school is an ex­am­ple of peo­ple who are cop­ing with be­ing dis­placed, with an un­sure fu­ture, yet mak­ing the most of the dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion by vol­un­teer­ing, help­ing each other and mak­ing a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­nity.”


The school re­lies on do­na­tions and there is on­go­ing fundrais­ing needed so the school can con­tinue. Do­na­tions can be one-off pay­ments or bet­ter still you can be­come a reg­u­lar monthly con­trib­u­tor. $10 a month pays for drink­ing wa­ter for the school for a week, $25 a month pays for a quar­ter of the art sup­plies needed each month, and $50 a month pays the ex­penses for one teacher.

Like their Face­book page and find out more through cis­aru­alearn­ sup­port-1-1-2

A film has been made about the in­spir­ing story about Cis­arua. The Stag­ing Post made by Jolyon Hoff, will screen at the NSW Refugee

Week Film Fes­ti­val.

Above from top left: Robyn and friends show all the ed­u­ca­tional re­sources they de­liv­ered; Play­ing with the new cir­cu­lar para­chute; Robyn (in pink shirt) with some of the vol­un­teer teach­ers.

Above: The kids just love to learn.

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