Growing into Hope

Inclusive education programme in Bogor, West Java

Annisa Elok Budiyani
Farhan playing game
UNICEF Indonesia/2019/Fauzan Ijazah
03 December 2019

It was easy to spot Farhan among the hundreds of students gathered for the inclusive sports and arts festival that morning. He stood tall, all smiles, despite the scorching heat of the dry season sun in Parung district, Bogor. Out of the 20 schools participating, Farhan’s school, Madrasah Tsanawiyah Cakrawala Cendekia, had just swept all the awards for collaborative games. He and his friend Icha could not stop talking about it on their way home.

“I also joined [the festival] held two years ago in the district,” Farhan said proudly. “It was on a bigger field. I worked even harder [than this].”

Farhan in his room
UNICEF Indonesia/2019/Fauzan Ijazah
Farhan in his room, Parung, Bogor, West Java.

There were times when Farhan’s mother, Neng Maryati, would not dare to dream that Farhan would grow into the promising young man that he is today. When he was barely five, Farhan had to wear a tube from his head all the way down to the space inside the belly where his stomach and bowels sit. He had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus.

“I was given three warnings,” Neng Maryati said.“That his brain could shut down, that his eyes could be fixed in a downward position, or that he would be paralyzed.”

Against all odds, Farhan has thrived. He needs support from his elbow crutch, but he can race the other kids on his bicycle. He is ranked among the top ten in his class. He said he wants to be a doctor, although like most children his age he switches his interests often.

Regardless, Neng Maryati is hopeful.

Farhan and his mother, Neng Maryati
UNICEF Indonesia/2019/Fauzan Ijazah

“Farhan is full of confidence and has no issues getting along with his peers. Whatever he wants with his life, I will support him."

Neng Maryati

“I was initially worried that he would find difficulties in school. But they [the school community] have been very supportive. He is now in 9th grade, and the classroom was supposed to be on the second floor. But his school decided to move his classroom to the ground floor in consideration of Farhan’s needs. Now we can drop him off by motorbike and he can just walk a short distance to the classroom door.”

Husni Thamrin, the school’s principal, has high hopes for Farhan. He was informed about inclusive education from Maskanah, the school supervisor. Husni advised Farhan to further pursue his education in the senior secondary school where Husni’s former colleagues [who had been trained] are currently employed.

“They would know what to do to support you,” he advised.

Neng Maryati is beyond grateful. “Farhan is full of confidence and has no issues getting along with his peers. Whatever he wants with his life, I will support him. I am happy that his school does not treat him like he is different. That’s what he is for me – one of my boys! I treat him no different than his brothers.”

Agnia and her mother, Sri Jarwati
UNICEF Indonesia/2019/Fauzan Ijazah
Agnia and her mother, Sri Jarwati, Parung, Bogor, West Java.

Like Farhan’s mother, Sri Jarwati once felt hopeless about her daughter, Agnia, who was born premature at only 24 weeks. The two spent most of Agnia’s early months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. At age three, the doctor said that Agnia may go blind and that she would lose her hearing.

“I have no other wish than for her to survive,” Sri Jarwati said, recalling the days when all hope seemed to be lost.

When we sat with her that afternoon, Agnia was exceeding all expectations. She was cheeky, curious and full of life.

“I wanted to be a writer in 2018. But now I am into psychology.”

Agnia in her room
UNICEF Indonesia/2019/Fauzan Ijazah
Agnia in her room, Parung, Bogor, West Java.

“Sometimes I understand what my friends are saying,” she commented nonchalantly about her hearing disability. “But I go ‘huh?’ because [their stories] were too long and I wanted to talk about something else.”

Agnia reads lips and does not want to depend on her hearing aid. Her ultimate weapon is her pen and papers. In her room, we found poems, letters to her father when he was away from home working, and piles of books she has collected.

“I wanted to be a writer in 2018. But now I am into psychology.”

Agnia in Inclusive Sport Festival
UNICEF Indonesia/2019/Fauzan Ijazah
Inclusive Sport Festival in Parung, Bogor, West Java.

Sri Jarwati is grateful that Agnia’s school, Madrasah Tsanawiyah Negeri 1 Bogor, has been very supportive of her daughter’s needs.

“Agnia is placed in the front row so that she can hear better. Her teachers also regularly confirm with her if she is able to follow discussions or not.”

Agnia’s school hosted the inclusive sport festival that day. The festival is one among several interventions for the expansion and strengthening of inclusive education in Bogor, supported by 1in11 partners.

Another important step in this process is to improve the capacity of and commitment from cross-sectoral service providers to support inclusive education. Cross-sectoral working groups, which include education, religious affairs, social affairs and health among others, have been established. These working groups have allocated a budget for inclusive education, which includes training teachers and school principals. In total, 263 teachers and school principals have already been trained. A communications campaign is also currently running based on the Communication Strategy to address the barriers to accessing education for children with disabilities.

Agnia and Farhan were in the company of boys and girls just like them, showing off their talents, and growing into their dreams.