Inauguration SMPN I Cigalontang

The crisis following a devastating earthquake destroying the Headmaster’s 800 students’ middle school tested his perseverance. He inspired his teaching staff and his students to continue as if nothing happened. In simple tents that dilapidated rapidly, teachers and pupils fought dehydration, mosquitoes, waterborne diseases and a punishing heat.

Seven months later. Three quarters of the school is rebuilt; unrepaired parts and rumble are in several corners of the school square. They tell the story of a society that lost many lives and even more houses and schools when Indonesia’s Ring of Fire on 2nd September 2009 made another move and this time in Cigalontang, Kabupaten Tasikmalaya. With an average income of 100 USD per head per month and small government budgets there is not much space for reconstruction. Others must step in to help out.

Many did. And today the school celebrates. Not only that the disaster is beaten, but how. All students passed their exams! All are lined up on the school square. There is excitement. Not only because a new part of the school will be opened with the school’s drum band, with songs, dances and speeches – more importantly the best students will be rewarded with simple but important gifts. As usual, the best student is a shy and intelligent girl. She trembles in her blue and white traditional dress when she steps forward.

Pupils in front of their new school. In the center in the front, in blue and white, the school’s best pupil

When the Head of the School takes the floor his personality is enough to silence the crowd. In well chosen words he starts his speech – but he breaks down totally when he commends his teachers and his students for their brave behavior. Minutes long his emotions forbid him to speak. As in a wordless common prayer the crowd joins him in the grief, in the burden that was carried.

After the opening of the school, after the handing over of the presents to the best students, it is time to visit the next school. The Head of School gives a traditional farewell bow, then takes my hand, then embraces me. So that is what life is about. Princess Gabriela, Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta, Leon Halders, Elmar Bouma, all colleagues in the PA Group and particularly Uce and others in Jakarta: hopefully you can feel what you have meant to this school and share in their happiness that you care.

More pictures from Cigalontang

Head of SMPN I Cigalontang


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