In September 2014, Red Nose Foundation (RNF) welcomed Meisi Kacaribu as the newest addition to our team. As Education Manager, Meisi is responsible to set up and implement the foundation’s curriculum as well as oversee all teaching and learning activities.
Prior to joining the foundation, Meisi had nine years of experience in various roles in the education sector, including as Child Development Counselor, Teacher Assistant, Curriculum Coordinator, Curriculum Developer, Teacher, and Deputy Principal. Her work has brought her to many parts of Indonesia, including the far-flung provinces of Aceh and Papua.
Here, Meisi shares what attracts her to work at RNF, her future plans for the foundation’s Arts and Education Outreach Program, the challenges she expects to face along the way, and ultimately – the wonderful dream she has for Red Nose students.
When you talk about education in Indonesia, one thing is for sure: the system leaves a lot to be desired and there is so much room for improvement – to put it politely.
I have worked in numerous capacities within the education sector for nine years. I have been in Aceh and in Papua [Indonesia’s westernmost and easternmost province, respectively]. I came to Aceh in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami to help local children overcome post-disaster trauma. Towards the end of my time there, I was involved in a project to develop local schools’ student counseling capacity.
All during my journey around Indonesia, I kept realizing that Indonesia still has much homework to be done in terms of improving its education system. Sure, we can all blame the government and say that it’s not doing enough and it’s not putting education as a top priority. However, I always believe that the people themselves can also make positive contribution to improve this situation – that each one of us can become an agent of change.
In the end, this becomes my personal vision as a human being: I want to do something to help improve my nation’s education system.
So, maybe, the next question will be: why choose Red Nose Foundation to do this?
Well, for me, joining the foundation was not a hard decision to make. I think RNF is unique compared to other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focusing on education in Indonesia, in that it refuses to settle in merely doing the generic things like helping children go to school or training school teachers.
Of course, RNF still does all of that. However, what sets the foundation apart from the rest is that it has a circus program at its core and all the other organizational programs and activities revolves around it.
I think this is very interesting. Education can be a very generic idea for an NGO to focus on. Through using circus arts, RNF manages to come up with something original that you cannot find anywhere else in Indonesia.
The first time I was in Cilincing, the thing that struck me most was how wonderful the children were. They were really polite. They greeted me and asked me questions right away. Some even greeted me in English. Personality-wise, I believe these children are really comfortable as themselves. They are self-confident, happy and highly enthusiastic in learning new things and developing themselves.
I am really excited to work at RNF. I believe there are many great things the Red Nose team can accomplish together. Furthermore, the Red Nose students have great potential. When I was in the field recently, I tried to involve the kids to create a fizz inflator using a balloon, vinegar, and an empty water bottle. They got so excited when they saw the balloon inflates as if by itself. It’s fun, not by-the-book, and even a bit thrilling. Some of the kids got scared that the balloon might pop up but, they did not move away because they wanted to know what was going to happen next.
In the end, the children got to learn science but in a fun and colorful way where they all could have a laugh together. It’s not boring, it’s not just memorizing formula after formula. Science can be so fun that the children do not realize that they are actually learning something important.
I believe it is through fun experiments like this that RNF can offer a creative learning environment that heavily relies on “active learning” that the children most probably don’t get at school.
The fizz inflator experiment
Right now, I am doing a baseline assessment for the Math, English, and Science abilities of all Red Nose students. I wish to find out the academic progress of all the students so that I can formulate the Red Nose curriculum to best suit the students.
In order to do this, we have to always be open-minded and willing to learn new developments in the world of education. The world is always changing and so do the sciences. We must always catch up with all the new things. We also have to be open to partnerships and collaborations in developing our educational programs. There is so many great opportunities for us out there that we will miss out on, if we fail to collaborate with others.
In terms of challenges, I think the biggest challenge for me is in assembling a team of teachers who shares our idea of “fun and active learning”. It is not easy to find teachers who can easily think out of the box – those who think that education can be more than just simply telling your students what to do and how to do it in a classroom. Education can be done by exploring through the neighborhood or by doing science experiment outdoors. Young teachers should be open to trying these ideas and coming up with their own ingenious ways of making learning fun for students.
Another big challenge for RNF, I think, is how to transform ourselves into a bigger “agent of change” with a much wider impact. Educating our students and making them realize that science can be fun is only the first step. They will still have to go to their formal schools, where they will also get science classes in which the lessons are probably taught in a traditional way that may bore them.
This means that the second step is trying to involve the local schools and local community in the discussion about “fun and active learning”. This way, there will be a higher chance that this alternative approach can spread to a bigger arena and have a much bigger impact on the lives of underprivileged children.
In the end, my dream is for these children to one day be an integral part of society that is able to positively contribute to improving the lives of the people around them. If today we are creating this huge project to help them improve their lives, then I hope one day it is them who will be the thinkers and decision makers whose actions improve the lives of millions others.
As for Red Nose Foundation, I hope that we can be sustainable long into the future and develop learning approaches, curriculums, and programs that can be widely replicated by other organizations working in other areas.
Of course, this is not for the sake of our pride. Instead, it is our responsibility as NGO professionals to tirelessly contribute to the development of social development sciences.