Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's Childhood Revisited

JAKARTA: Democrat Barack Obama was elected the 44th US president in Tuesday's presidential election.

While the election was participated solely by American citizens, most Indonesians have given Obama huge moral support and are looking to the first African-American president-elect with superfluous confidence and faith.

Obama received his education at Sekolah Dasar Negeri Menteng 01 for primary three and four before leaving for his native Hawaii, spending those two childhood years in Indonesia with his mother, stepfather and half-sister.

School principal Kuswadijanto told Harian Indonesia that Obama studied in primary three in that school way back in 1970, and later proceeded to primary four. He said the school was still not air-conditioned at that time.

Kuswadijanto said the school was under principal Samingatun binti Hardjodarson when Obama was studying there, adding that the female principal had died years ago, otherwise she would be able to offer more details on Obama's school days.

"Most of the teachers teaching this boy, who will very likely become the leader of the world's most powerful nation, have either retired or passed away."

He said all that he knew about Obama's primary school days in Indonesia had been told to him by the senior teachers.

The fifth principal of the school, Kuswadijanto said the whole school was confident this outstanding alumnus could eventually win the election. The US embassy in Jakarta recently sent someone to visit the school and promised to make arrangements for Obma to visit the alma mater if he were elected the US president.

"We hope he will win the election. It's going to be a very touching moment if he were to visit his alma mater some day, I was thinking..."

He also said the school had already planned a series of activities to celebrate his election, which he would choose to announce in public at a proper timing later.

"Whether Obama wins the election or not, he is the pride of all Indonesians. Of course, we hope he will make it!"

He said the school had been closely following up the latest developments in the US election, and was especially excited as the clock ticked closer to the election. Kuswadijanto also said the school was delighted to learn that Obama was enjoying a comfortable lead over his opponent John McCain in polls, and was confident he could eventually win the White House race.

Although the two classrooms at Sekolah Dasar Negeri Menteng 01 in which Obama was studying have gone through the merciless natural ageing process, they are still well preseved today. Even the conventional blackboard used during the Dutch colonial times are still in use today!

The so-called conventional blackboard looks largely the same as the ones commonly used today except that it is only half in length but split into upper and lower halves, allowing the teacher to pull up or down.

Kuswadijanto is very delighted with this conventional blackboard and takes pride in its intact preservation.

The 74-year-old Sekolah Dasar Negeri Menteng 01 was founded in 1934 and has been fully air-conditioned since five years ago. There are currently 24 teachers and five non-teaching staff at the school, while its 463 students are placed in 13 classes.

Kuswadijanto said the primary three and four classrooms where Obama pursued his education have not experienced major changes except that the original five foot tall wall was later built higher because of air-conditioning. (Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Harian Indonesia)

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