ACTNews, JAYAWIJAYA, MENTAWAI - Cold air surrounded the Al-Istiqomah Islamic Boarding School in Walesi Village, Wamena, Jayawijaya, Friday (5/10). For those not accustomed to doing outdoor activities in the cold, it may take a while for them to adjust to the freezing cold especially when it is raining.
A traditional Papuan house known as Honai stood in one corner of the pesantren (Islamic boarding school) complex. In addition, there is another building used for teaching and learning activities. The students consist of local Wamena residents, both native Papuan children and those whose parents come to Papua for work. However, in the pesantren, they study together side by side and coexist peacefully.
Hendra, one of the teachers at the Al-Istiqomah Islamic Boarding School, told the Aksi Cepat Tanggap team that students study in the pesantren for free. The school also fulfill their basic needs. "We don't have permanent benefactors. We live here despite limited conditions. But it does not dampen the students’ spirit to study," he said.
Similar situation can be found in the Darul Ulum Private Islamic School in Sikakap, Mentawai, West Sumatra. The pesantren, which is located four hours away by speedboat from Padang City, also does not require its students to pay tuition fees. They are given free religious and nonreligious education. In addition, the majority of students who come from underprivileged families also get a place to stay like any other Islamic boarding school.
Handover of food packages to students and teachers at Darul Ulum Private Islamic School in Sikakap in March 2019. (ACTNews)
Last March, ACT had the opportunity to visit Darul Ulum. There are two classrooms that ACT built in 2015. However, only one room is used for learning, while the other room is used as a boarding house for male students. As a substitute, the langgar (small mosque) is used as a classroom for 12th-grade students.
Iswandi, the principal of Darul Ulum Private Islamic School said that his students came from various parts of Sikakap. They are children of underprivileged villagers. Although the school funding is uncertain, they are not required at all to pay for tuition fees. "Our learning space is limited, and we eat poorly, but we will never give up to be religious teachers in Mentawai, especially Sikakap," he said last March.
Many santris, students of Islamic boarding schools, in Indonesia live in limited conditions. They have to face several problems from poor educational facilities to food scarcity. Nevertheless, many remains enthusiastic to continue teaching and learning Islam in the pesantren.