Here’s the best information I was able to glean from another teacher friend of mine. Apparently the school you are talking about is not really a school – it is more like a community activity center, which includes a school. All schools in Indonesia start with the letter ‘S’. The organizations you are referring to are often started by entrepreneurs. The Indonesian government will give a subsidy for private schools. Becoming a teacher is a career pursued by many people. If they can get a job in a public school, the pay is quite good. However, Lombok has an excess of teachers. So many, very good teachers choose to “volunteer” at other schools to gain experience. Usually a small stipend is paid to these teachers.
A good administrator can start a private school, find the best of the unemployed teachers, and supply better facilities than public schools. With good teachers and good facilities, many parents pay extra to send their kids to these private schools. With expenses low and students paying a high tuition, the administrator can make a good profit. Part of the scam to get grants and donations is to tell everyone that the students are from poor families and the teachers are volunteers. Creative bookkeeping helps out.
Several facts prove the point. First, Cakranegara is part of Mataram, a metropolitan area and people must be relatively wealthy to live in the area. Poor families live in rural areas where they work in the rice fields. They build small bamboo huts in a community village and live very frugally. Another thing, 40 children is a very small school for a private school, which is providing free education. In rural areas where no public schools are available, a private, non-profit school would jamb hundreds of kids into an single classroom area. The small fee paid by the students is barely enough to keep the building maintained. This is a true private school – no supplies, no toilets, leaky roof. Only enough money to buy a blackboard and chalk. But the schools do teach the kids the alphabet, enough math to count money, and basic Indonesian language skills.
Here are some options if you want to help.
1. You could donate supplies in the form of writing paper, pens, a cassette player, but a cash donation has a very good chance of being diverted.
2. If you were in Lombok, you could work with a local builder to repair the roof, provide toilets, or even arrange for nutritious meal (such as fruit, meat soup, etc.) for the students.
3. The most popular way for tourists to help students is to pay tuition for 5 or 10 students to go to public school. The cost per student is about 10 Euro per year (including uniforms and a little extra spending money). Often kids who are good students in the first few grades cannot continue because their families are poor. If you are in Lombok, you can spend a little time making the arrangements. That generally includes talking to one or several teachers, choosing the students you will help, talking to the headmaster, and perhaps making a handwritten contract with multiple signatures. That way, the parents know they can send their kids to school, the teachers will understand the arrangements (and often communicate with you via e-mail), and the headmaster has no choice but to remain honest. Each year you can wire the headmaster money, then inform the teacher(s) of the continuing arrangements. If you want to feel closer to the situation, you can have the teacher take pictures and maybe have the students write letters to you once in awhile.
If you are not in Lombok, you have the problem of finding someone who you can trust to make the arrangements. If you do not already know someone in Lombok, I would be happy to work with you. I can send you the name (and e-mail address) of a man whom I helped in the past. He could serve both as a reference and someone for you to discuss the pitfalls (and joys) of getting more closely involved in the local community.
Feel free to e-mail me directly if you want to pursue this further.