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Supporting local schools in Bali: Stamford teachers help train early-education staff in the northwest village of Desa Ban

Beyond the glittering resorts and carefree tourist laughter is Bali’s flipside, where people live on $2 a day, struggling to eat, let alone get an education. Four teachers from Singapore’s Stamford American International School (Stamford) recently volunteered their school holidays to support local teachers at a new preschool in the island’s northeast.

 

With their mothers now employed at the plant of East Bali Cashews in jobs that just a few years back they could only have dreamt of, 60 preschoolers in the village of Desa Ban have got stuck into learning. Before AnaKardia Kids Early Learning Center opened in April for children aged two to six years, there were no education opportunities in the area for this age group. The preschool fulfils two aims: to care for the children while their mothers work, and to provide them with a valuable education.

“It’s staffed by 10 local teachers who will prepare the preschoolers for entrance into public school,” said Alexandra Cleary, one of the four Stamford teachers on the trip. “Before the centre opened, these children had no prospect of preschool education.”

“The response from villagers has been overwhelming,” adds teacher Jillian Smith. “They see the benefit and value of giving the children education at an early age; most kids in Bali don’t actually start school until the age of seven (and unfortunately a large majority don’t finish). The school motto is ‘Happy, Healthy, Smart’, which truly symbolises how they feel.”

During their visit, the Stamford teachers planned inquiry, play-based lessons using reusable materials that local teachers can easily replicate. “We aimed to make lesson plans sustainable for the school and tried to create lessons using materials that can be found nearby,” said teacher Amy McClellan. “We’ve been using bottle tops and reusable materials that can be used as a resource not just in AnaKardia Kids but also in other village schools. We want to make education accessible and show that learning can be fun.”

The teachers also took educational supplies, including crayons and a train set donated by the Stamford community, and are committed to the ongoing collection of donations.

Two of the teachers at AnaKardia Kids also work at the village public school during the mornings, while the others are finding their way around a classroom for the first time; several teachers themselves only received formal schooling to the age of 10.

“For the local teachers, the greatest challenge will be to truly understand what is needed by each age group, but this is where we come in to offer our support,” said teacher Matthew Holmes. “Two groups of teachers will visit twice a year to ensure that education standards are kept high, and provide ongoing training for the AnaKardia Kids teachers.”

East Bali Cashews

Based in the rural village of Desa Ban, East Bali Cashews is a social enterprise started two years ago by American Aaron Fishman, who saw an opportunity to process Bali-grown cashews on the island, rather than exporting them to other countries. He has successfully attracted investment to expand his facilities for processing and packaging unshelled cashews for sale domestically and internationally, and has plans to expand further. It’s the first village-based, large-scale cashew processing facility in Bali, and the aim is for it to have a positive social impact. Employment has been created for over 200 women, many of whom had never had a job. What’s more, renewable energy sources are used to power the processing facility.

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