A small group of teachers are seated single file onboard an MAF KODIAK airplane. They peer through the windows down to the tiny village where they will be launching a new curriculum to kids ages five to nine—the ones who aren’t served by a primary school because they live too far off the beaten path in Papua, Indonesia.
These passengers are known as the “guru bantu” or teacher helpers. They’re part of an organization, the Yayasan Untuk Masyarakat Terpencil, or Yasumat, which means, Foundation for the People that are Left Behind / Living Very Isolated. It was started by the largest Papuan church in order to address certain regions that aren’t receiving outside help, and where education levels remain low.
“The work these guru bantus do is crucial, and they need our full support!” said MAF pilot Kees Janse, who recently completed a series of flights for the teachers, together with fellow MAF pilots on the Wamena base.
MAF is happy to partner with this group as it works to improve the lives of remote Papuans by focusing on primary education, healthcare, family values, and more. It’s a strong partnership based on reaching very remote people. Yasumat’s members also communicate with MAF about medevacs needed in the villages; and when in Wamena, these servants visit patients at the hospital, many of whom were flown there by MAF.
“They are a perfect fit to what we want to be doing out here. It’s extremely rewarding for them, and for us, to know that we have the same vision. And in order to reach that goal/vision, God brought us, as organizations, together in this place,” said Janse.
The guru bantus work in villages farther removed from the airstrips, to teach basic reading, writing and math. Children can still be learning the basics so they won’t be so far behind when they can leave to attend school at the age of 10.
“In this way, the guru bantus are building a bridge between the far-away official school and the village without any school,” added Janse.