The morning atmosphere is special in the shallows of the Kuala Kapuas River. The people in the villages are stirring. Vendors begin to make the rounds with a full assortment of fruits and vegetables in their wooden kelotok motorboats, groups of school children and government workers line up to ride on longboats, while small children and their mothers bathe at the edge of the river near their houses. Canoes and small barges moving goods up and down stream are also a special morning sight in the villages along the edge of this Central Kalimantan river. Then suddenly the scene gets disturbed by the noise of the chainsaws, which begin cutting logs and trees on the other side of the river.
It becomes increasingly different and more quite when travelling further along the river to where the Kuala Kapuas meets the Kapuas river. Especially when you enter the famous peat forest called “Mawas” area. Here, there is only one tiny village, Tuanan, which is isolated from others, (in Katunjung region, Mentangai subdistrict, Kuala Kapuas district) Central Kalimantan. The morning scene is very quiet there. Only the occasional small wooden boat floats past on its way to the village. Even the calls of birds from the forest are faint.
The morning bustle of people in Tuanan is not as dynamic as that of the people near the administrative subdistrict, which is now a two hour journey by speedboat. It is understandable that there is a lack of activity, because there are less people here. This hamlet consists of only 22 families, and it is isolated.
It is unusual to see children in school uniforms riding kelotoks to school as in the villages described previously. This is because there is only one school, which was established with the initiative of the residents. The school is called the Kapakat Atei Kindergarten, which means a school established through the commitment and consensus of the people, it is fully supported by T
he Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation and contributed to by a nearby sand-mining facility.
“In 2004, this hamlet was given a school. However, there was not one teacher who wanted to work in a place as remote as this. So, I teach the children.” explains Ghufron, the only teacher here.
Ghufron, communication assistant of BOS in Central Kalimantan, has the task of educating the local people about nature conservation concerning the Mawas Conservation program. But because there was no teacher in Tuanan, he now concentrates on teaching at the Kapakat Atei kindergarten and the complete running of the school.
Ghufron is the only person from Java amongst the Dayak people and he has fit in very well and has married a Tuanan girl. At first it was very difficult for him, especially understanding the Dayak Language, but now he can speak Dayak fluently. His presence has hugely influenced the dynamics of this village`s life.
In the morning Ghufron rides to school in a kelotok boat, belonging to his BOS workplace. The children already wait near the kelotok when he arrives. They don`t wear school uniforms, some are even bare footed.
After everyone has got onto the boat, he steers the kelotok toward the school together with the students and several Tuanan villagers as passengers. Five minutes later they arrive at a very modest schoolhouse. The children run straight in and grab palm-leaf brooms. They clean the schoolyard and the one and only classroom, before class and learning begin.
Kendati is not like a general school, and Ghufron and the twelve students have to occupy one room less 15m2 in size. The students are divided into class 1 and class II. Class I has four students, the remaining eight students are in elementary class II. Class I studies from 7 or 8 o`clock until 10, and then class II takes over until 12. The students aren`t required to wear uniforms or shoes if they don`t have them.
Ghufron was originally a transmigrant child from Banyumas, Central Java and became a citizen of Kapuas regency in 1984. He has his own style of teaching.
“I always put in extra information about conservation, the environment, animal husbandry, mixed into the lessons I give them,” says the graduate of Teaching and Educational Science in the Biology Department at the University of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.
When teaching the Indonesian language, for example, he might use a reading about floods. He explains the causes and effects of floods. Then he might relate this to the situation on the Kapuas river and the forest near to where the students live.
A large number of the parents of the Tuanan students work as tree loggers in the forest. “The students already know that the floods are caused by frequent logging in the forest and that there aren™t any roots left to soak up the water. Furthermore they know the resulting impacts have been disastrous, especially when it happens in the environment where they live. Explaining these things to children at their age is easier than having to explain it to their parents or the other people in the area,” says Ghufron.
The impact is gratifying. Many of the parents who were previously illegal loggers now choose to work as rubber tappers or fishermen. Although there are still those who prefer to cut wood illegally, they are generally newcomers, not Tuanan natives.
The activities of the BOS organization in Tuanan can also become fodder for discussion among the students, almost every week BOS researchers from within Indonesia and abroad stop by the village before studying wild orangutans at the Research Center in the Tuanan forest (Mawas).
“Sometimes the kids ask critical questions about why we`re here, why the wild orangutans have to be protected and studied. What`s going on, and why are BOS people also measuring the thickness of the peat there? Those are clear opportunities for me to explain in greater detail,” says Ghufron.
He explains that these orangutans are rare animals whose numbers are dwindling, that they are the only ones in the world, and that they only live in the forests of Sumatra and Borneo. Ghufron feels this information sways the children. They`re won over when he adds that the orangutans provide a service by roaming around eating fruit, because they spread tree seeds around the forest, thereby planting new trees. The children become conscious of the environment around them and see that it is worthy of protection and preservation. That includes the importance of protecting the orangutans that live within it.
“When this information is brought home and becomes a topic of discussion with their parents, the awareness and knowledge about nature conservation is passed on, including the information about the importance of the peat forests and the problem of the frequent fires that are happening every dry season,” Ghufron says.
Of course, this teaching and studying doesn`t change the habits and opinions of the people here towards the forest and its biodiversity immediately, but Ghufron is certain that cultivating an understanding of these problems among children is a promising investment.
“If they`re smart, they won`t think about becoming loggers in the forest like their fathers are now, for example. Therefore the next generation can be more wise in their handling of natural resources,” he adds.
Ghufron can`t spread this “wisdom” to other villages yet. However, there are several villages near to BOS that are already asking him to teach them. He`s sad that there aren`t many young people, who are interested in becoming teachers for future generations in the remote villages of Kalimantan like him. Especially if they could teach nature conservation, too.
Musfarayani – freelance writer