Fellow Since 1996
Pondok Pendidikan Bedhog
This description of Jati Kuswardono's work was prepared when Jati Kuswardono was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
Jati Kuswardono, after having developed and implemented an alternative curriculum for the education of the children of the rural poor, street children, and other marginalized groups, is now organizing a "university" for these children to prepare them to reenter the real world equipped with skills and learning that will allow them to make a living.
The New Idea
Jati is establishing a "university" for marginalized children to create a "missing rung" on a ladder that helps them find their way back into society. He is filling a need that exists once the children have actually left the streets by helping them either learn marketable skills that they can use in the job market or prepare to move into the traditional university system.The program for street children is based on the idea that they have highly specific, individual needs and that any attempt to educate them must take into account their particular situation. Since they are outside the mainstream of society, any attempt to bring them back in must be tailored to their own requirements and must be based on their own recommendations and suggestions. Only then will such an attempt be successful.
The existing formal education system is often not accessible for "marginal" children, including children of the rural poor and of urban laborers, child laborers, street children, or school dropouts. Many of these children have had little opportunity to experience this system, and many leave school early due to the poor economic circumstances of their families. The education fees are not high, but they are still too costly for many poor families.There are limited educational opportunities for marginal children. The formal education system is extremely rigid in both content and teaching methods and allows no flexibility or alternatives or differing needs. The children are the objects, not the subjects of the system. There are no facilities for them to obtain skills to help them to develop their potential. Their situation only prolongs the cycle of poverty, as they have no new avenues of income generation, particularly in the rural setting. They are neither equipped to join the mainstream nor make their own way in life.
Jati started out by systematically creating an alternative curriculum in a community near Yogyakarta, based on the idea that marginalized children have special educational needs unlike other children who have grown up in the traditional system. From 1994 through mid-1996 Jati developed his curriculum through the Cakra Center for Social Study and Community Development which worked with Jati to develop an educational institution for marginalized children. The school has 50 students, and the community has built a shelter to house it. The curriculum includes drawing, dance, drama, local traditions, bamboo handicrafts and a children's bulletin called Jenthik (meaning Window on Childhood) that consists of their own drawings and writings.The idea of setting up the "university" was born of his experience in setting up the alternative curriculum and was seen as the natural next step in helping these children. He recognized the gap that still exists between getting children off the streets and fully integrating them into society as productive citizens. Other nongovernmental organizations working with street children in Indonesia learned of Jati's work in developing and implementing the alternative curriculum for the children and approached him to see whether he could work with their "graduated" street children. Jati's method in developing the project was that of participatory action research. He worked directly with six local social workers and eight student volunteers to carry out family surveys. The information was used to involve parents and children in discussions about their problems and needs, in order to work out together in the community a plan for the school. Local research led to local solutions and a plan for the future.Jati's creative and entrepreneurial abilities can be seen in the way he was able to recruit volunteers and local people to work together in an innovative way. They have been able to uncover modest, but valuable, economic and human resources in the local community, and there has been no need to charge fees so far. The teachers are both members of Cakra Center and volunteers from the community. The high levels of participation and shared responsibility are important pre-conditions for the school's success.Jati is the "rector" of the "university" and at present there are some twenty students who take courses in skills such as batik, screen printing and fiber glass handicrafts, as well as general courses in reading and writing, English language, drama and newsletter production. Local input is assured since all the rules, times, etc. are worked out in close collaboration with the children. This is essential when working with marginalized children, as they are highly individualistic. Jati is now working on developing a second campus in a rural setting for teaching agricultural skills and carpentry. Students must agree to stay on campus during weekdays and promise to complete the nine-month course work. Teaching methods are non-formal, with high degrees of individual attention. The flexible, alternative curriculum aims to have a combination of three basic educational elements: the awakening of a broad awareness in the individual, the development of relevant practical skills, and the improvement of personal and organizational skills, especially those of creativity, initiative and confidence.Jati intends to work with other citizen organizations and Ashoka Fellows in order to attract children from across the country to his program. Local children and children from other cities are sent to the university on the basis of referrals from those who know of his work. His contacts with numerous nongovernmental organizations throughout Indonesia allow his project to be a vital resource for other organizations that deal with marginal populations but may not have the specific resources that are needed to devote to marginalized children.
Jati, born in 1969, is a graduate of Gama University in Yogyakarta, from the Faculty of Economics and Development Studies. He worked part-time in the University's Economics Department while still a student, which explains his strong focus on local research methods. Jati has been active since high school in social organizations and the Catholic Church. In his first year of college, he joined and later became a leader of a group working in grassroots community development projects, such as road and house improvements and the tutoring of children from remote or overcrowded areas.He became dissatisfied with the relatively superficial levels of action in the Church and when he graduated, set up his present organization. There are nine members of his organization, six staff and three student volunteers, with Jati as the Director. The organization's focus is on alternative education, and he is currently cooperating with Ashoka Fellow Didid Adidananta in his project for marginalized children. Jati is working toward behavioral change, through education, with the long-term goal of re-integrating these children within the wider community.