Papua education
Sister Mariecen Kuayo poses with the children in Learning Activity Studio YPPK Tillemans in Paniai Regency. Courtesy of Mariecen Kuayo.

A ‘learning studio’ run by nuns teaches Papua’s neglected children literacy


West Papua No.1 News Portal | Jubi

Nabire, Jubi — Nato Tekege. 16, wanted to go to school like other kids in Papua. But he did not have access to any formal education, so when a Catholic nun, Mariecen Kuayo DSY asked him to learn in her “learning studio”, he gladly accepted.


“I wanted to go to school, so when Sister invited me, I said yes,” Tekege told Jubi through phone interview recently.

Tekege is one of 115 kids who learned at the “learning studio” run by Sister Mariecen and her colleagues in Enarotali, Paniai Regency in Papua.

The children, for various reasons, did not get access to formal education. One of the reasons is they were orphans or had no one to take care of them after their parents got divorced.

Sister Kuayo opened “Sanggar Kegiatan Belajar” YPPK Tillemans or “Learning Activity Studio” YPPK Tillemans in July last year to welcome and give such children an education. She saw them on the street when other kids went to school. So she asked them whether they wanted to learn. Some of them did noy say yes right away, but the Sister saw a glimmer of interest in their faces.

She asked them to visit the convent the following day. “They wanted to learn, but they were too shy to say yes. I saw in their faces that they wanted to go to school, so I told them to visit the convent the following day,” Kuayo told Jubi.

In the beginning there were six children learning there. But the following afternoon, there were seven more coming to the convent. She began the teaching on July 13, 2020. Later, she expanded the invitation to not only street children but also those who stayed at home and did not go to school.

Now, almost a year, the learning studio has accepted 115 students, aged 5 to 22. Mariecen hired more teachers and now the studio had a total of seven teachers: three sisters, two contract teachers, a priest and a vocational high school student.

The children did not live in the convent, but they still stayed at home with their own family. But every day they came to the studio to learn. “Every day the children come and we will learn together,” said Kuayo.

In the first month, the class ran only from 9 am to 10 am. “But the children came at 7 am,” she said. Now, the studio ran four classes for the children and they added the lesson to 7 am to 10:30 am.

For six months, the students learned the alphabets, including writing them. Since January 2021, they began learning how to read.

Kuayo said the stayed in the class for four days in a week, from Monday to Thursday. Every Friday they would learn practical knowledge about how to keep the environment clean. Every Friday they eat nutritious food together, so the studio called the Friday program “Healthy Friday”.

“Their high spirit gives me the reason to teach them. They come even though it rains. I think they really long for an education,” she said.

The learning studio had four levels of classes: early education (4 to 6), elementary school (7-11), junior high (12-15), and high school (16 and older).

Sister Kuayo said some of the children were addicted to sniffing glue but after they were in the learning program, they stopped doing that.

Kuayo applied a peer monitoring system in which a friend would remind one another when they saw someone buy glue or other transgressions.

“They have changed. Those who got addicted to sniffing glue had overcome their problem,” she said.

Sister Kuayo said she contacted the Paniai Education Agency to open access to her students to sit in a state exam equivalent to formal education level. She said she had yet to get any replies from the administration. She also had applied for permits, but she never got any replies as well.

Former Papuan councilor, Jhon NR Gobai demanded Paniai Regency administration, through the Education Agency and Social Agency, to pay attention to the welfare of children who were abandoned or drop outs. “They should have taken care of these children so they could get a good life,” he said.

Reporter: Titus Ruban

Editor: Syofiardi

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