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Kota Kinabalu: Universitas Terbuka (UT), Indonesia’s 45th state university, paved the way for non-graduate Indonesian teachers in Community Learning Centres (CLC) all over Sabah to obtain degrees in their preferred fields while following the official opening of the university here, Monday.
Currently, the university has 53 undergraduate teachers from Kota Kinabalu Republic of Indonesia Consulate General (KJRI) and 23 from Tawau KJRI.
All 76 undergrads are volunteer teachers who teach children of Indonesian migrant workers in CLCs in the State.
The Indonesian government, in a show of appreciation for the sacrifice made by these teachers, has offered them full scholarships.
“This distance learning programme is offered to Indonesian teachers here with the hope that they will be able to complete their four-year degree here and when they return to Indonesia, they will be able to secure better jobs,” said Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Herman Prayitno.
“In developing Indonesia, I think there is no other way but through education. We want all Indonesians to be well educated,” he added.
Herman said this after officiating the opening of UT at Kota Kinabalu KJRI Office. Also present were Kota Kinabalu Indonesian Consul General Akhmad DH Irfan and UT Rector Prof. Tian Belawati.
“The Indonesian government had consented to awarding these teachers scholarships considering they are far from us and we want to lighten their financial burden.
“The university also welcomes applications from other Indonesians in Sabah who would like to pursue higher education in several fields such as accounting, communication and management.
“Those who wish to do their post-graduate programmes can also do them in UT,” he said.
In terms of collaborative programmes between UT and other local universities in the country, particularly Sabah, Herman said while there are already various collaborative programmes between universities in both countries, he does not see how UT can emulate traditional universities in forging cooperation with one another.
To be fair, he added, Indonesian and Malaysian universities have done numerous collaborative programmes such as student exchange and tutor exchange in the past and present.
“UT is a distant learning facility where students are not required to attend classes. They are supplied with text books, take their tests online. This system enables them to continue working while at the same time earn their degrees.
“The system had been put in place especially to cater to those who did not have the opportunity to further their studies immediately after graduating from high school.
“We hope that successful candidates will better skills, deeper knowledge and as teachers, they can be more professional in their careers,” he said.
In the meantime, Irfan said he is overjoyed that finally Indonesians in Sabah now have the chance to fulfil their dreams of obtaining higher education with candidates who work in oil palm plantations eagerly coming to the office since Sunday.
“The hundreds of kilometres in distance between their workplace and Kota Kinabalu did not deter their ambitions.
Some of them work so far away from Kota Kinabalu, 500 to 600 kilometres away and yet here they are.
“They have come not only to take part in this auspicious ceremony, but also to attend the inaugural lecture session by UT for this first batch under the Elementary School Teacher (PGSD) programme,” he said.
Prof Tian later delivered the lecture as well as a briefing to the undergraduates about the distance learning system, study tips, tips on how to use learning resources, online tutorial and effective study strategy.