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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Indonesia: A young new school


Rev. Fr Rector OSA,
SMA Katolik Villanova,
Jl. Inamberi, Susweni,
Manokwari Timur,
Papua Barat, INDONESIA

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"Papuan students".

Owned by the Order of St Augustine, Villanova Senior High School held its first classes at the start of the Indonesian academic year on 16th July 2010.

It began with Grade Ten students only. The enrolment on the opening day was forty-eight Year Ten students, being 35 boys and 13 girls aged from 15 to 19 years for the same Year Ten grade level. Twenty of them are Catholic, 27 Protestant and one a Moslem, and all but four of them were indigenous Papuans.

The plan of having Grade Ten, Grade Eleven and Grade Twelve classes by July 2012 had been achieved. The master plan will allow for as many as four streams of each Grade, thus providing for a maximum enrolment of 360 pupils, which will take many years to reach. The enrolment in July 2012 is 132 in Grade Ten, 45 in Grade Eleven, and 24 in Grade Twelve. There are now four Grade Ten classes, three Grade Eleven Classes, and two Grade Twelve sections (science, and socio-economic). About 66% of the students live on the school property; seventy live in the girls’ hostel and sixty-four in the boy’s hostel.

Within the expansive metropolitan area of the city of Manokwari, the capital city of the governmental Province of Western West Papua, Villanova is located in the Susweni district, which is occupied by poor indigenous people who are mainly subsistence farmers. No initial capital or recurrent financial assistance was received from the Government but, in the normal practice in Indonesia, some small financial subsidies are presently being received now that the government formally recognises that the school is operating to the required standards.

Villanova Senior High School, July 2010.

During early 2011 a boys’ hostel residence was built, a square building of 975 square meters, including its central courtyard. The hostel is intended for up to eighty students from jungle areas as far as 200 kilometres inland. A girls’ hostel was built soon afterwards, and is conducted by the Augustinian Sisters of Divine Mercy, who are another member congregation of APAC. There is now considerable financial pressure on the Augustinian Order, which owns the school, as a matter of urgency to provide even more student hostel accommodation as the school enrolments continue to increase.

What may seem surprising to persons in other cultures is that during its first year the enrolment of Villanova actually decreased, but this was to be expected. In that the school had sought indigenous students in order to promote their higher secondary education (which is still too rare among West Papua’s indigenous people), some students left Villanova either because of academic difficulties (they had been insufficiently taught in rural community schools during their earlier years to be ready for the academic demands of senior high school) or else because of insufficient self-discipline (unmotivated to study sufficiently and/or to attend classes regularly). Others may have come from families who sought a school in which corrupt practices rather than attendance at class and diligent study would lead to the granting of a graduation diploma, and they have now tried other schools.

School uniforms.

At present about 85% of the enrolment is ethnically Papuan. As a matter of social justice Villanova has actively encouraged enrolments from the native Papuan people, who are now a racial minority in their own Papuan homeland. To assist this goal, students from remote villages are able to attend Villanova because of the operation of the two on-campus hostels. The use of hostel accommodation also assists Villanova in another way, because the hostel students are generally not the source of discipline problems, as can be “town” students who can be adversely influenced by their peers who variously might belittle education, are employed and thus have money to spend, or else are unemployed and unfocussed.

The early departure rate of students from Villanova is a high 40%, and is compounded by factors such as students’ loss of face at being unable to keep pace academically with fellow students, discipline problems (absenteeism and alcoholic abuse by young males), the lack of practical support of educational persistence from families (who often hope that schooling will be an alternative to joining the 37% unemployment rate), and the insufficient quality and quantity of primary school education that some of the rural students had received.

Villanova has consciously made its task more challenging by imposing educational standards higher than average for Manokwari, yet still below those in major centres in Indonesia. 

A number of trends can be seen to be emerging. For example, the student gender ratio has been 40% male to 60% female, which is a significant statistic in a culture in which the education of girls has not received an equal emphasis to the education of their brothers. 

There have been at least four or five Augustinians involved in the school each year, with one as the Rector (Fr Anton Tromp), and the others as part-time teachers or live-in supervisors at the boys’ hostel. There have been changes in the Augustinian personnel each year, as a number of them are students still in initial formation who are assigned a pastoral year as part of their theological education. 

The Rector (Fr Anton Tromp OSA) reported, “At the end of the 2016-2017 academic year in June 2017, the school population had gone down to 310. On Saturday, 6 May 2017 we had 65 Grade Twelve students graduate, i.e., 34 hostel-girls, 23 hostel-boys and 8 externs. The number of drop-outs from that class that began three years ago in July 2014 is relatively large. This fifth graduation-year started three years ago with 130 students, and in 2017 had declined to 65 alumni. So, fifty percent of them dropped out for various reasons, e.g., they could not cope with all the study and/or could not adjust to the rules of the hostels.”

Looking back over Villanova’s years of operation, the Rector (Fr Anton Tromp OSA) continues to speak with a hope that is tempered by the cold reality of experience. “Villanova has now earned a place on the education map in Manokwari and its surroundings, as indicated by facts such as the enrolment’s doubling this year, and its receiving official recognition and some small subsidies from the Government. Among the non-government schools Villanova has already become known to be of a better quality than the others, which is all the more remarkable in that 85% of our student population is autochtoneous Papuan (in a land more and more ‘occupied’ by non-Papuan Indonesian migrants).”

Villanova Senior High School – probably the youngest Augustinian high school in the world - steps into the future with major challenges, yet with a firm step!  







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