John Rahail

Ashoka Fellow
Jayapura, IJ, Indonesia
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when John Rahail was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
To counter disproportionately high school dropout rates among traditional communities in Indonesia, John is repositioning education as a critical tool for indigenous survival rather than an imposition that undermines their culture and threatens their livelihoods. Through the creation of Sekolah Kampung (Village School), John has helped village heads and customary leaders repurpose their roles to champion a new form of learning for their children that is relevant, sustainable, and builds confidence for them to succeed in the formal education system. Using a contextualized curriculum that converts traditional games into learning materials that involve parents in their children’s education, John is helping to bridge a critical gap that instills interest in learning for both children and parents. Building on this, he incorporates community members, particularly mothers, as teachers to instill methods for learning skills relevant to their families and environment. To maximize results from learning, John integrated improved health, nutrition, and hygiene practices into the curriculum. As a result, children feel psyhchologically and physically ready to enter a learning culture that historically has been foreign and alienating. The children’s experience is transformed from one of failure to one of love of learning.

Important to this shift is creating a governance and sustainability structure that is owned by the community. The village heads and customary leaders regulate the functioning of the school, involving community members as teachers and health post leaders. They also oversee the functioning of a social business—virgin coconut oil—whose profits help to sustain the school while generating income for families of the students. John’s model has shifted the perspective of the people in Papua who are trying to understand their place in the modern world, especially parents, who were skeptical and against education, now engage in monitoring their child’s development and take pride in their progress. Currently, John is spreading the model to five districts of Papua province.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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