Good leaders lead by examples, the saying goes, and Janur Damianus does just that as the principal of SDN Mboeng in remote Kaju Wangi village in Manggarai Timur District, East Nusa Tenggara.
He would be among the first to arrive at school, riding his motorcycle and navigating the rocky road in the mountainous area for half an hour before reaching the school. The lanky man did not have to rise his voice to make himself heard, but his calm demeanor and stoicism earned him much respect.
“The principal is a kind man and fatherly, but he’s very discipline, making us feel embarrassed if we don’t follow his lead. If we make mistake, he gives reasonable advice instead of being angry. He’s very open and willing to admit mistake,” said Elfrida Iman, the homeroom teacher for 4th grade students.
Having been teaching for 31 years, Januar, 53, was transferred to SDN Mboeng in 2015. He recalled how he arrived at around 7.15 every morning only to find the school almost empty. Many of the teachers would be there way after the classes supposed to start at 7.30.
Janur said he did not get angry, as he understood the challenges faced by the teachers and the students who have to walk through harsh terrain to get to school. Come rainy season and the bamboo structures would leak and the school would be flooded that the students would be asked to stay home for a couple of days.
But he consistently showed up early for the first few months and it paid off: the teachers started to come on time. “I treat them like they are my own children,” said Janur, who originally came from Golosari Village in the neighboring subdistrict of Sambirampas.
When KIAT Guru program selected the school as part of its pilot, Janur was ecstatic and welcomed the idea as he felt there were many rooms to improve but the school and the community did not have enough resources. The pilot is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Team for Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TNP2K) and governments of five districts with disadvantaged villages, including Manggarai Timur. Yayasan BaKTI implemented the program, with technical support from the World Bank and funding from the Government of Australia and USAID. The pilot aims to improve education service delivery in remote villages by empowering communities and tying payment of the remote area allowance with either teacher presence or teacher service quality.
KIAT Guru facilitator Angga Yoga S. said the principal became a focal point for the pilot as he has strong presence and is very well-respected in the community.
“He helped approach the village government to support the program, and he fully supports the Education User Committee (Kelompok Pengguna Layanan, KPL), which comprises of parents and local community figures, even though he knows that the Committee would monitor and evaluate his performance,” he said.
When an issue emerged as a teacher demanded to be promoted as civil servant, Janur settled the problem amicably, giving understanding to the teacher that such decision was at the national government and the most important thing is for students to receive quality education.
Angga said Janur is very open to suggestion even when it comes from a much younger person.
“I told him about a school principal in Yogyakarta who likes to do rounds at the school to see for himself condition of the students; he thought it was a good idea and did the same ever since,” Angga said.
Janur initiated the library at the school after the students requested it. He said he sought the books from other schools, as well as from his relatives and grown up children in Jakarta. The school managed to get a couple of hundred donated books this year.
Another of his initiatives is the rule obliging everyone to only use Indonesian Language at school from Monday through Thursday. The rule was implemented after he saw the results of KIAT Guru baseline survey how many students were still lagging behind in Indonesian language as they mostly use local dialect.
“I’m not promoting KIAT Guru but it is indeed a very good program. We as teachers learn a lot. The most valuable lesson is discipline and attendance,” he said.
He hoped that the pilot would be implemented in every school, or at least at his eight-year-old daughter’s school across their house. Janur said he did not enroll his daughter to SDN Mboeng because it was too far and the harsh terrain would be more severe when it rains. He was however concerned with the late attendance and lackluster performance of the teachers in his daughter’s school.
“It’s ironic that I work hard assisting the program to improve SD Mboeng while my own daughter’s school is ignored,” Janur sighed.