Hello from Jakarta! Thank you for following the 2018 GW UNESCO Fellows blog. This year’s Fellows cohort is the largest to date and is comprised of eight masters students posted in seven different nations spanning four continents across the globe. The group is extremely excited to be posted in such diverse places and we cannot wait to share our experiences with you all. We will be regularly updating this space with content on our work at UNESCO, thoughts on the amazing places and people we are lucky enough to interact with, and adventures throughout the course of the summer. So please keep checking back!
I am eager to begin sharing my first two weeks in Jakarta, Indonesia, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the attacks last month in the second largest city of Indonesia, Surabaya. My thoughts and concerns are with the victims, as well as families, and friends who have suffered from the loss of their loved ones in this deplorable display of violence. I am sure the people of Surabaya and the nation of Indonesia will persevere using the kindness, warmth, and resilience I have felt in my short time here. It is in such times that I am reminded of the importance of UNESCO’s work around the world encouraging international collaboration across science, education, and culture. Archibald MacLeish’s poetic words in the preamble to the UNESCO constitution are as relevant today as when he declared in 1945 on behalf of the founding nations of UNESCO, “That since wars begin in the minds of men [and women], it is in the minds of men [and women] that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”
There is no easy transition into sharing the truly amazing people and places of Jakarta and Indonesia, so I’ll begin by giving some background information on the nation. It is as wonderfully biodiverse as it is culturally diverse, incorporating 17% of the world’s life forms and comprised of over 300 different ethnic groups. With a population of almost 261,000,000 million people, it is the world’s largest archipelago state. Additionally, it is the world’s third largest democracy, and with roughly 87% of the population practicing Islam, it is the largest Muslim-majority nation. I arrived in the megalopolis of Jakarta, one of the world’s largest cities, roughly two weeks ago just as Ramadan was beginning in Indonesia. It is a beautiful, sprawling city defined by
juxtaposition. New high rises and luxury apartments jut into the sky next to streets lined with vendors selling Nasi Goreng (traditional Indonesian fried rice dishes). I feel as though I could spend years here and not truly experience everything the city has to offer but in my short time here, I will certainly try my best to take in as much as I can.
Jakarta is notorious for its traffic. A reputation that rings true. This didn’t come as a complete surprise because of the ominous warnings of the staff at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington D.C. as they saw me off with a wry smile saying “Enjoy Jakarta! And the traffic!” I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of the UNESCO office but leaving the area can be difficult. Due to the traffic travel time is unpredictable and can take 3 hours to travel 10 kilometers at times. Though, if traveling alone, moped ride sharing is a great option. Supposedly, riding on the back of a moped is inexpensive and because they are able to speed in between the larger cars, it is a much faster than hailing a taxi. Think Uber for mopeds. Considering it may be against university policy due to the risk that accompanies speeding through traffic on the back of a stranger’s moped, and of course I would never do anything unsafe that may be in contradiction to established protocol, I won’t be jumping on the back of one anytime soon.
The UNESCO Jakarta office is located in the quiet (relative to other areas) Senopati neighborhood of Jakarta. Found in streets lined with small parks, palm trees, and other vegetation, the area seems like somewhat of an oasis in the middle of a metropolis. I have completed two full weeks of work in the office, which consists of two beautiful houses, connected by an outdoor pedestrian bridge. There is even a pool in the courtyard between the two houses!
My first assignment is to assist in the compilation of all of the work and achievements of the office into the 2017 UNESCO Jakarta Annual report. Considering it is the Regional Science Bureau for the Asia-Pacific region, as well as a cluster office covering all mandates of UNESCO for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste, there is no shortage of content which deserves a place in the report. I’m excited to start out with such a broad assignment as it will give me more insight into all of the different work underway at the office.
I have also had the opportunity to assist with a two day, sub-regional event focusing on the themes of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Inclusive Education, Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and Education, Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET). During the productive two days, representatives from ministries of education of the five cluster countries came together to discuss their progress, achievements, and challenges in these areas as they strive to meet the targets set out in goal number four of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by people whose professional lives are dedicated to the betterment of their nations and the international community through education. And it was an honor to witness firsthand the type of international collaboration UNESCO was founded on.
Between the incredible food, coffee, people, and work I have been exposed to I am sure I could go on. To save the time of anyone who has suffered through my ramblings thus far, I will end it here. Thank you for taking an interest in and supporting The University of George Washington, the GW UNESCO Fellows program, as well as the United Nations and UNESCO. Please check back periodically as I and the rest of the Fellows share our experiences throughout the summer.
Matt is a Master’s candidate in International Education at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development with a concentration in Education Development in East Asia. If you would like to know more about his summer please follow him on Instagram or find him on LinkedIn.