Seniati is a grade 1 teacher at SDN 4 Tegal Maja state elementary school in Tanjung District, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB). Seniati’s classroom was without chairs and tables, and its floor was lined with a single orange tarp. This was a daily sight for Seniati. The earthquake that shook North Lombok back in August 2018 collapsed the school building where she used to teach. However, her enthusiasm for teaching did not waver. Seniati even taught in the yard while a new school building was being built. In May 2019, Seniati returned to teaching at a permanent school built by the government.

“Because of that earthquake, our school was totally destroyed. The tables were gone; we studied in the yard, lined with a tarp. We studied for three months in the yard. There was only one small tent; we used it as an office,” said Seniati, recalling her early teaching days after the earthquake.

Seniati is a teacher who participated in the “I Like to Read” program (known as “Saya Suka Membaca”, or SSM) that was implemented by the Tunas Aksara Foundation, INOVASI’s partner. The SSM program aims to equip mentored teachers in an effort to improve early grade literacy skills—skills like identifying the alphabet, spelling, and reading syllables by using guidebooks, posters, and alphabet cards—through delivering instruction in an interesting and fun way.

“In the SSM program, I learned many things that I had never learned anywhere else. There are songs and different teaching methods and alphabet cards from SSM that can be used as learning media. There is also a guide book for teachers. We just need to follow the instructions. This has made teaching very easy,” explained Seniati.

It takes most of Seniati’s students about 30 minutes to walk to school, which sometimes makes lessons start late. Teaching in a school that is difficult to access is certainly not easy, but that challenge does not diminish Seniati’s enthusiasm to keep giving her best for her students. The methods taught during the SSM program have helped Seniati continue to strive to deliver interesting teaching methods for her students. She frequently modifies certain materials so that her students can participate more.

“I divide the students into groups. Then I distribute an alphabet card to each group, after which I ask them to vocalize what is on the card (the alphabet). Following that, I teach them certain movements. Before they go home, I give them an alphabet card; whoever can vocalize it can go home early. I do this to teach them about the sound of the letters,” she said.

Seniati said that the methods taught during the SSM program have helped improve the literacy skills of her students and that this has resulted in significant changes in her students.

“There have been so many improvements in the students since receiving the SSM lessons. Before the SSM, they were passive and lacked enthusiasm. After the SSM, they are now excited to learn. They even come early. Before practicing the SSM method, there was a test from the SSM program, and there were many students who did not recognize the alphabet. Since implementing the SSM in the class, almost all of the students have been able to identify the alphabet. Students have also started raising their hands in class to participate more,” explained Seniati.