The cheers of young children filled the air, “Strong Children, Strong Nation!” they yelled, excitedly chanting the motto for Anak Tangguh, a community center where children of the village come to play, read, dance, paint, and much more. At the time, I had very little understanding of the impact this simple slogan would have on my experience in Guwang. On my first day in the village I was taken to Anak Tangguh to see where we would be teaching English. It was empty at the time— a lone structure, open to the elements—complimented by a few smaller rooms filled with books and children’s games. I began to imagine the open space filled with kids as KL and I taught by the large white board at the front of the room. The spacious room would be perfect for activities and games that would make our English classes a hands-on experience for all types of students.
When I returned to Anak Tangguh the following Sunday I realized that it is much more than just a building. I was startled to see the place filled with children, parents, neighbors, and large bags of trash. It was Trash Art Day, and the children had just started to rummage through the recycled goods and find the jewels to create their art. An activity as simple as making art from trash not only let the children develop and express their artistic abilities, but also exposes them to a noticeable problem here in Bali: pollution. Moreover, making art from trash with mostly recyclable goods reinforces notions of conservation and helping maintain a precious environment, making it a unique learning experience that extends beyond the walls of a classroom.
In a place where the educational system can be difficult to maneuver, with villages often times suffering because of lack of adequate schools, community centers such as Anak Tangguh serve as a place of relief for the children of the village. After school they can find solace in the library of books and are often seen hanging out in the small room mulling over books and games. On Sundays they can retreat to the center to explore the local environment, work on art pieces, or take dance classes.
Even though the children that attend our English classes have been in school all day, they are always still eagerly awaiting our arrival and ready to being class immediately. As we sit on the floor, they surround us, full of curiosity and zeal to learn. It never ceases to amaze me that even though they could be out playing freely, they come to class, books in hand, filled with questions. In stark contrast, many people in my hometown, who are lucky enough to receive an education without much struggle, often take that education for granted, seeing it more as a chore than an opportunity.
From my own childhood, my parents always stressed the vital importance of a good education and went to difficult lengths to guarantee that I received the best education possible. Now, living in Guwang, I was confronted with the fact that in many places in the world, education is not necessarily such a given thing. However, instead of merely relying on the government to educate their children, parents here in Guwang have taken it upon themselves to be the educators. Whereas in schools children may sit in desks all day and read from textbooks—if even available— in centers like Anak Tangguh, children are given hands on experience in the arts and learn first hand about the natural environment of their village. As eager as the children are to learn, their parents are equally excited to help cultivate their minds. With continuous support of the whole village to educate these children, they have the ability to flourish and I am thankful to have been a part of that journey. Strong children, Strong Nation.
Class of 2010