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Educating young men: A CEO’s journey

Having lived in Indonesia for nearly 30 years I have witnessed the economic hardships that come from the lack of access to education. In the North and West of Bali many children were dropping out at the end of primary school, I recognised a great need for more educational opportunities targeting these areas. As a firm believer of education as a path to economic empowerment and social stability, I founded the Bali Children Foundation.

Girls education is incredibly important, but in Bali, girls are actually more likely to continue with their education up to year 12 than boys. Families depend on boys to work and earn a living to contribute to the household income from aged sixteen.

Serving the rural community, we are continually faced with a number of obstacles.  Agriculture is the way of life for many of the families BCF work with and most rely on their children to work the land, more often than not at the expense of their education.

Not educating boys is problematic as their wages are stunted. They may bring home $50-$80 per month without graduating year 12, where they could bring home at least $200 per month if they graduate high school. With a university degree, wages can increase significantly.

Despite this proving that education is a clear path to growing income, boys still feel familial pressure to leave school and start working at a young age. An additional problem caused by this imbalance is that Indonesia is still a deeply patriarchal society so educating girls who live under the power of less educated men can cause conflict.

We are deeply aware that it is the solid relationships and commitments from the parents that will ultimately keep the children in school for the full course of their education.

So what can Australians do to help? The recent trade agreement signed between Indonesia and Australia offers great opportunities in education. Australia’s universities should be setting up satellite campuses in partnership with Indonesia’s universities.

Through collaborative education, relationships, friendships and future business partnerships will grow. This should start at a primary school level. Communicating with children from a different country, creating artwork together, sending books and writing letters would create such meaningful and impactful relationships among both the children in Bali and the children in Australia.

In August 2018, and again this week, tragic earthquakes struck Bali’s neighbouring island of Lombok and the incredibly popular Gili Islands. Hundreds of people have been killed, thousands injured, and more than ten thousand people displaced.

With a firm understanding that after disaster people will more likely consider opportunities than they would otherwise do, we have introduced BCF’s Spoken and Listening English curriculum into the damaged villages.

With more education, there are greater employment opportunities which lead to more income. And with more income, there is usually more stability, better health, and stronger communities. I believe education is the key to sustainable change and the chance to alleviate poverty in the communities of Bali and Indonesia.

CEO of Bali Children Foundation, Marg Barry.

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