Rizki, My Genius Student

This article was originally written in Indonesian, but to share it to the world, I thought that I might translate it in international language. I have time to do this because currently I was told to have bedrest due to my sickness. No it’s not a heavy sickness. I just had cold recently, and when I recover, I will make sure that I wear my mask everywhere… grr…

it is an article written by Erwin “Wiwin” Puspaningtyas Irjayanti (a young teacher in Majene province, West Sulawesi, Indonesia)

She joined www.indonesiamengajar.org which is a movement which recruits the best scholar in Indonesia to be an elementary teacher at remote areas in Indonesia.

The indonesian version can be view here http://blog.indonesiamengajar.org/erwinirjayanti/2011/01/14/a-story-about-rizki-my-genius-student/

I’m sorry if there’s any grammatical error :D, feel free to correct me.

The Old Man said, Everyday has its miracle. I am not the Old Woman, but I believe it too:


This story came to your computer screen after a teacher in remote elementary school bringing traditional cleaver ran cheerfully for 45 minutes with her 3 students who were also bringing sharp bamboo to drive away pigs – in case they meet one – to “Bukit Harapan”, or “Hope Hill”. That’s how the hill is called because recently they found GPRS signal at the hill. This article is typed patiently on a keyboard of Nokia E63 handphone, and this is the story that the teacher wanted to tell you:

About Rizki.

His friend, third grade of elementary school, told me about him: that boy, his name is Rizki. Rizky Ramlan, 9 year old. This last 4 months, he never goes to school. No reason. But rumors said that he is too lazy to wake up in the morning. With his less than 20 times presence in class for a semester, his friends know him as a clever boy. Rizki. He lives in Tamaluppu.

About Tamaluppu.

It is a place which is more isolated than Passau – which is where I live right now.

Here is a statistic about Tamaluppu (T) versus Passau (P).

  • Houses : 13 (T) vs 60 (P).
  • Electricity : no electricity (T) vs. Village electricity generator from 19.00 – 22.00 (P).
  • GSM Signal : no signal at all (T) vs Max for SMS at certain spot (P).
  • Distance from Majene to Mamuju : 6 – 7 km / 1.5 – 2 hours travel (T) vs 3 km / 45 minutes travel (P).
  • Can be reached by : walking from Passau (T) vs Motorcycle, if not raining (P).

About an idea to teach in Tamaluppu

on the day when I said that I wanted to give additional lessons twice a week at children at Tamaluppu, many people told me not to, because it’s far, difficult, and troublesome. Children at Tamaluppu are also more shy than the most shy children in Passau. So why bother? Why don’t you tell them to come here to get additional lessons?

I kept quiet. Smiling and softly answered people’s objection “I’ll still go there, even if I have to be alone”

About Tamaluppu that I know

Activities of teaching at Tamaluppu have been three weeks running: every 3 o’clock in the afternoon, every Tuesday and Friday, I go to Tamaluppu to teach children there. We study everywhere: at Ali’s (6th grade student) house, at the backyard, under coconut trees (which is not bearing fruit at the moment). I recalled Tamaluppu in several pieces of memories.

  • it is a place where 8 of my 63 students live, in which, when it’s raining, those kids wouldn’t come to school.
  • Because when it’s raining, the road that they usually take will turn into a river and waterfall.
  • Those kids would go to school bringing sharp bamboo, because during the travel from Tamaluppu to Passau, they often have to face wild boar.

Between me and Rizki Ramlan

I never know this kid, touch him, talk to him. I can’t. He is untouchable. So far from my reach. Every time I tried to come to him after I finished teaching other Tamaluppu’s children, he would run away. Peeking me from a place he thought the safest place on the earth: his hideout. I would stop then, I choose not to force him.

Until one heavy rainy afternoon, which didn’t stop until evening came, I decided to accept the offer from Ali’s parents who asked me to stay for a night at their house.

That night, that shy Rizki, in a chance after I finished my evening pray, from behind the door, threw me: a paper which has been squeezed into a ball shaped. Two pieces, three pieces, until six pieces. Then he ran away.

He ran away, still untouchable after hundred-th attempts.

I opened those papers. The content, made me stunned:

it was math problems which I taught children at Tamaluppu, 4th grade, and 6th grade, three weeks ago.

In another paper, there’s math problem that he made by himself, and he answered by himself. And 80% of his answers are correct: these are math problems for 4th grade and 6th grade students. Rizki, this 3rd grade student, has been 4 months not attending school.

I was shocked, and stunned.

In the light of torch, I wrote in a piece of paper: “You’re very clever! Where is your school?”. I squeezed the paper.

I went out from Ali’s house, looking for his whereabout in darkness, and found him peeking at me from under the stairs. I threw the paper in a place which he could see, but quite far from where he was hiding, and then I went away casually as what I threw was only a garbage.

Not long after, from the window that I deliberately opened, came in another squezeed paper.

“No school. No teaching. No teacher.”

I smiled. My guess was correct that he was going to reply my letter. But then, without closing the window, I overslept. I didn’t know that a kid was curling under my window, waiting for a reply from a squezeed paper he had just thrown. Only when morning came, I came to realize: window was opened. I looked over, finding a small body curling on a bamboo chair. Sleeping. His hand was holding paper and pen.

About a day named Tuesday, 14 December 2010, around 15.30 GMT + 8

it was almost raining. I have travelled 30 minutes from Passau. I will arrive in Tamaluppu in 15 minutes. In my doubt, while looking at dark cloud, I decided to continue my travel. In 5 minutes, rain started to pour heavily. I stood under quava tree with my foster sister who is also a volunteer teacher, Kak (a call for older brother/sister) Yani. One minute, two minute..

in a distance, under raindrops which blurred my sight, I saw a child. Not wearing any shirt, wearing brown-like shorts. He was holding a traditional cleaver on his left hand, banana leaves on his right hand. He came over, closer and closer to us. He offered his banana leaves, one for me, one for Kak Yani.

Kak Yani and I looked each other…

I asked which was translated directly by Kak Yani to his language “what are you doing here? Are you coming from the farm?”

He didn’t answer.

His chest was moving up and down, up, down, up down, up and down quickly. The raindrops, maybe, has blurred – if correct – his teardrops.

He cried.

Yes he cried.

Then, with my messy Mandar language, I asked “mangappai i’o sumangiq, Rizki? Why are you crying, Rizki?”

I offered my hand, reached for his wet body, and for the first time, he kept quiet. Not running away. Rizki, finally I can touch his tiny body.

And suddenly, he hugged my waist.

“Puang, yakkuq meloq massikola.”

in rain, he drown his head in my stomach, defeating the sound of the heavy rain with his voice “Puang, I want to come to school.”

he hugged me, tightly.

I stunned. Moved. Happy. Filled with happy feeling.

I remembered that morning, when that kid curled sleeping under the bamboo chair with papers and pen, when I placed papers near his head “come to school. I’m a teacher there, I’ll teach you about secrets you want to know. Everything. Come to school”

This morning, 15 December 2010

There’s happiness when I saw Tamaluppu children arrived at school. There’s Rizki among them. With his torn uniform. When I entered the school yard, he was holding badminton racket.

When I looked at him, he humphed, pretending not to see me. He is still shy.

When I came closer, he still ran way.

He become far once again.

He become untouchable once again.

But I know, the next days, he will throw his squeezed papers to me again. Just like this afternoon, when he threw me with a squeezed paper “when will Tamaluppu have snowy season just like in America?”


Warm greetings from “Bukit Harapan” (Hope Hill)


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