Bali temple hall moonlights as makeshift classroom

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Anton Muhajir, Contributor, Denpasar | Wed, 01/28/2009 3:25 PM | The Archipelago

Eight-year-old Manik Manu Harani likes studying on the floor of the Dharmayana Kongco temple hall in Kuta.

“It is just more relaxing to study here” she said Thursday.

Manik is one of the 25 third-grade students from the state elementary school SDN 1 in Kuta studying at the hall on Thursday afternoons. They all agree that this hall has become a favorite spot for after-school lessons.

Dharmayana Kongco is a Buddhist temple widely used by the Chinese descendents of the Dharma Semadhi community. It became an after-school lesson site two years ago when teachers from SDN 1 state elementary school wanted to find a place where they could gather their students for after-school teaching.

“We used to give lessons at our boarding house, but, for so many students, it was too small and too crowded,” said Desak Nur, one of the teachers giving the lessons.

“But neither could we hold lessons at school because the building was used for students who came in for day-time schooling.”

That was when Adhi Dharmaja, one of the students’ parents and a keeper of the temple, offered the hall of the temple as a makeshift classroom. Desak and the other teachers took up the offer and moved their teaching materials into the hall.

The temple-keepers charge no fee for the use of the hall, though the teachers insisted on donating some money to the temple from the Rp 50,000 (US$ 4.5) each student paid per month.

“It is just to help them clean up the mess after the lessons,” Desak said.

The temple provides tables and a chalkboard for the teachers. The space now available is also a change for the better.

“It feels safer here, and quieter too, because it is far from the main roads. And they have all the facilities they need,” said Kadek Berimo, another teacher from SDN 1.

The after-school lessons are given to students from the first grade to the third grade, reviewing all the subjects that are taught earlier in school, from math to Indonesian.

The teachers switch out the grades every few hours, having first-graders until 12 p.m., when second-graders take over and study until the next designated time.

On that day, the third-graders wait patiently for the second-graders to finish their lesson, before quietly entering the hall.

“This teaches them patience and fortitude,” Berimo said.

He said the temple also provided the students with a sense of religious tolerance, citing the harmonious relationship between the children’s Hindu affiliation and their Buddhist temple classroom.

“We are also learning about interethnic solidarity because we are helping each other regardless of our backgrounds,” Berimo said.

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