Monday, February 06, 2006


First published in The Jakarta Post, February 5, 2006


Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Serang, Banten

In this era of global capitalism, materialism has rigorously marginalized the value of humanity. In education, for example, subjects that are perceived to be able to broaden one's knowledge and skills to survive in the era, such as economics, have become the darling among many students.

Education is now merely taken for jobs -- for money -- and no longer for molding character by instilling values such as honesty, sensitivity and tolerance. Other social sciences that are somewhat considered to be "less money-oriented", such as Indonesian literature, are increasingly marginalized.

"So we need to break this `literature deadlock'," argued Wan Anwar, head of the Literature and Bahasa Indonesia Department of the Faculty of Education at Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa State University (Untirta) in Serang, Banten.

The department conducted a one-day seminar called "Enhancing the Quality of Literature and Bahasa Indonesia Teaching at School" on December 17, 2005.

While it was open to the public, the seminar attracted many schoolteachers, particularly from Banten province, as it aimed to explore an enjoyable but effective way of learning and teaching literature at school.

Guest speakers of the seminar were Riris Sarumpaet, an Indonesian literature professor from the University of Indonesia, Abdul Chaer, an expert on teaching Bahasa Indonesia from Jakarta State University (UNJ), and Ahmadun Y. Herfanda, a Jakarta-based poet whose poetry and short stories have been widely published in the national media.

Riris, who is also chairwoman of the Association of Scholars of Indonesian Literature (HISKI), lamented that many Bahasa Indonesia teachers needed to respect the profession that they had chosen for themselves, and should not lose their zest for teaching literature. Riris urged that the teachers "re-internalize" literature.

"How many of you cry when you read a heart-breaking poem? How many of you really urge your students to appreciate literature and explore the depths of its meaning?" she challenged the overwhelmed audience.

Meanwhile Abdul Chaer, a prolific writer of books on linguistics, shared his long-time experience in teaching Bahasa Indonesia. He specifically defined literature as a "language phenomenon" that has received appreciation around the world, but not so much in this country. He shared the theoretical and academic aspects of teaching literature, and also practical know-how to tackle potential problems in class.

Ahmadun Y. Herfanda, drawing upon his creative experience as a poet, said expectations were high that the study of literature would not merely end with a mastery of literary theory, but also with a sufficient degree of writing skills. Succumbing to the audience's enthusiasm, Ahmadun eventually read a few of his poems in his usual, unique aura of spirituality.

Perhaps because of this encouraging atmosphere, several participating teachers began to stand and address questions to the speakers, while others read their own poems to the applause of their colleagues.

More notably, the participants appeared delighted that the seminar also marked the inauguration of the Banten branch of HISKI. HISKI Banten is headed by Untirta's Chussaery and Yudi Juniardi as, respectively, chairman and secretary.

Untirta is very much aware of the problems faced by teachers -- particularly literature teachers -- ranging from conflicting government policies to insufficient facilities and to low salaries.

It is because of this that the department has initiated regular activities to promote literature awareness among HISKI students, such as the bimonthly "Afternoon Appreciation" program, which that involve students to encourage them to appreciate literature through reading, writing and performing plays.

The program has invited many figures from the literary and cultural communities, including: Jakarta-based poet Jamal D. Rahman, Yogyakarta-based short story writer Joni Ariadinata, Tangerang-based short story writer Khusnul Khuluqy, Bandung-based drama actor Ayi Kurnia Iskandar, Bandung-based actor Wawan Sofwan, Bandung-based novelist Dewi Sartika, Jakarta-based poet Dodi Ahmad Fawdzy and Chaedar Alwasilah, a professor of English at Indonesian Education University of Bandung (UPI).

The program was also marked by the launch of a book by several Aceh-based poets titled 8.9 Skala Richter, Lalu Tsunami (8.9 on the Richter scale, then the tsunami).

For 2006, it plans to invite Taufiq Ismail, a senior man of letters, novelist Gola Gong and Lampung-based poet Isbedy Setiawan, who has earned the title of "the pope of Indonesian literature".

Poet Wan Anwar, who is also an editor of national literary magazine Horison, cannot agree more with Riris that during the contemporary era, in which moral degradation is so pervasive and corruptors rule this country, "people in the literary community can come to the fore as a moral force by sharing with our students the spirit of humanity, the values of which are abundant in the world of literature".

But he also stressed that "we need earnest cooperation from all concerned parties to make this possible -- to make literature an enjoyable and meaningful subject at school".

The writer is a lecturer of the Faculty of Education at Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa State University, and also contributes opinion pieces to The Jakarta Post.

1 comment:

Alpha Amirrachman said...
February 13, 2006
Untirta and Literature: Indonesia

Why is literature in Indonesia so marginalised?. With so much creative within the country, Alpha Amirrachman reports on breaking the literature deadlock in Indonesia and the many ways this can be achieved.