A Work of Heart to Lift Literacy in Papua
Primary school teachers boost students’ skills through early grade literacy
Working with heart is what motivates Ibu Wanggai, a first-grade teacher at YPK Kanda Elementary School in Kanda village, Jayapura. Although her background is theology and not in education, her love of teaching inspires her to go the extra mile for her students.
Ibu Wanggai first joined YPK Kanda in 2014 after moving to Kanda village with her husband. She was excited by the chance to help students reach their full potential, but soon realized that most of her students had a low interest in reading, which posed her biggest challenge as a teacher. Due to a lack of support from parents, many of whom believe that teaching foundational skills is the sole responsibility of teachers or are too busy with work to help their children. The literacy rate among students in Jayapura district is below the national average.
“Many students in my class cannot read when they first come (to school in grade one). Even some in grades two and three still cannot read well,” she explained. “I have to think of ways to motivate them and help them improve."
In September 2020, Ibu Wanggai’s school was selected by the District Education Office to participate in the Early Grade Literacy programme along with 15 other primary schools. The programme provides teachers with direct assistance and training at their schools to help improve their teaching methods. Ibu Wanggai actively participated in these training sessions organized by the District Education Office, NGO Yayasan Nusantara Sejati and UNICEF, which included classroom administration, literacy teaching methodology, positive discipline and library management training.
As a result of the training, Ibu Wanggai developed several initiatives to improve her students’ literacy such as delivering Morning Messages before class and reading storybooks to children to teach them punctuation and letter sounds. She also created a reading corner in her classroom to give children more access to reading material and decorated it with paintings of animals and flowers to pique their interest.
Since these changes, Ibu Wanggai has seen remarkable improvements. More children are spending time reading books than ever before. Many can distinguish between capital and lowercase letters and understand basic punctuation. During their Morning Messages before class, the students now recite the days of the week and the months of the year.
The progress made by her students has heartened Ibu Wanggai, who says she is grateful for everything she learned through the Early Grade Literacy programme.
“I have two students, Maria and Robert, who are moving on to the second grade. They now understand letters and can recite the alphabet,” she recalled. “When they first came to my class, they could not do those things. I am so happy for them."
In addition, Ibu Wanggai uses positive discipline in her classroom, which she also learned about in the training. This approach encourages students to use polite language, avoid violence and love one another, which is what Ibu Wanggai always teaches her students.
“I work with my heart and rely on God because I believe that God’s blessing will support my teaching. I would love to bless many people".