Sekolah AIS Batam  – The Al-Kamfi Islamic School

The AIS School (pronounced ‘ice’) is a Muslim school operating in at least 2 campuses that I’m aware of. While discussing the visit, Ibu Mia explained a few of the rules that we would have to follow; wearing a head scarf & no singing or clapping. The headscarf rule was the easiest one to follow however the no singing or clapping eliminated our plans to sing either of the songs Marg had created resources for, so instead we planned to teach a game popular with our students. 

In the car on our way to the middle school campus, Ibu Mia handed us the head scarves we borrowed for the day. She also pulled out her chador which is a black face covering that ties over the jilbab and covers her entire face except for the eyes. Ibu Mia wore this only briefly; to get from the car to the girls only school building and once inside the door, she untied it and put it back in her handbag. However many of the teachers and students, instead of removing the chador when inside, flipped it over their head once inside the building, where it can be repositioned quickly should a male appear. Occasionally male teachers from the boys school teach here too. 

This campus is a boarding school where the genders are strictly segregated with only minimal & I’m  guessing, fully supervised contact between the sexes. As we only visited the female student building, we can only assume the boys building operates in exactly the same way. 

The female students’ building has 3 stories. On the bottom floor, one of the rooms was being used as a canteen and as this was the only room on this floor that we entered, I’ve no idea what the other rooms off the corridor are used for. The second floor was all dormitories for the boarding students and the top floor is currently being used as classrooms even though originally designed as dormitories. They are currently building more classrooms to meet growing enrolment numbers. 

The game ‘heads down, thumbs up’ was enormously popular, even though volunteers had to be slightly coerced!! Ibu Mia offered a house, a bike and even shopping vouchers to whoever volunteered which had us all in fits of laughter. While it relaxed them all, we still had to resort to eenie meenie minne mo to nominate volunteers. 

Due to time constraints, we only played this game with 2 classes. Other students were also keen for us to visit them, so in order to visit them all briefly in the remaining time, we didn’t play any more games, we simply invited questions however this too required coercion. After choosing a random student using eenie meenie minnie mo, if they didn’t have a question for us, we asked them a question instead. We asked about their favourite food, their hobbies, their families or their pets. Most of the questions we were asked centred around our impressions of Indonesia/ Batam (what do you like about Indonesia/ Batam?) and my ability to speak Indonesian (where did you study Indonesian?).  Once we had finished talking, we were swamped with girls asking for our signature!! We felt like movie stars!!

From this campus, Ibu Mia drove us to another campus much closer to Batam Centre. This campus caters for students from playgroup to year 12. As we parked, we noticed that young kindergarten students were being collected by parents. This campus is for day students and it was interesting that only a few of the mothers collecting their children were wearing the chador; most wore just a head scarf or jilbab (hijab), which we also put on once we got out of the car. 

As with the previous campus, just inside the door were shelves for shoes and this one also had room for motor bike helmets. It was lovely walking around on the cool tiles in bare feet. This campus was air conditioned which was gorgeous after the previous campus which purely relied on ventilation through open windows. 

Ibu Mia had included this campus in our day to give us the opportunity to work with primary aged students. After a welcome cup of tea, we were accompanied to a year 4 class where the boys sat on one side of the room and the girls on the other. No matter what we did with the class, there was a clear division between the genders; they did not mix together. When playing heads down, thumbs up, the boys only selected boys and the girls only chose girls and when guessing who had touched their thumbs, the possibility that it was someone from the opposite gender was never considered. 

We made 2 friends in this class who stuck to us like glue whenever possible and provided us with a steady stream of  drawings, letters and finally a banana each, wrapped in pastry, which by the time we ate it was a little stale but still tasty. 

The teachers at this school were incredibly welcoming and so grateful that we were happy to spend time with them. While teaching, we were filmed and observed by several teachers who stood at the back of the classroom watching us. 

While teaching, my scarf kept falling down off my head into my shoulders. It was a large square, folded into a triangle which was possibly why it kept slipping backwards. Catching my reflection while wearing the scarf made me smile each time as it totally changed my appearance!! Thankfully, the teachers encouraged me not to worry about repositioning the scarf while working with women and children. Marg’s head scarf though, was a length of material which sat perfectly over her hair and did not once slip off!! 

After our first lesson, we were ushered back into the staffroom where we were provided with a delicious lunch and beautiful mango juice!!

Meanwhile all the students also enjoyed a break from lessons. Some ate and some enjoyed the freedom to run up and down the staircase connecting the 2 floors. Also allowed in the staffroom were children belonging to staff. While we ate they either ran around or lay down together on the tiles playing on their mums phone. 

Lunch time also gave the principal and a few of the English teachers time to chat with us in English about education. I really enjoy and appreciate opportunities such as this to chat candidly about a variety of topics. 

While chatting amongst women, the chadors were lifted but were replaced when the cameras were taken out. 

Our day here finished with us talking in front of the entire school to enable everyone to have the opportunity to ask us questions. Once again the genders sat separately with the boys st the front and the girls towards the back. 

The students were very noisy and Ibu Mia had to threaten several times that we would leave if they continued to be noisy and disrespectful. Thankfully, they quietened down well before Ibu Mia counted to 3!! As we listened to the staff introducing us, we noticed that each child had a sheet of paper and a pencil in their hand. My heart dropped. How on earth were we going to provide them all with our autograph? Ibu Mia came to the rescue with a clever suggestion – class photos!! We all trooped outside and stood under the school entrance to have our photo taken with the various year levels & genders!! 

What a brilliant day. It was truly amazing having the opportunity to meet and work with the staff and students of this terrific Muslim school. We are incredibly grateful to Ibu Mia for connecting us with them and look forward to distributing the penpal letters given to us by the older students once we get back home. 


Visiting SMK1 Batam – Sekolah Ibu Mia 

We have been so fortunate that Ibu Mia organised visits to several schools while we were in Batam. With Good Friday also being a holiday here in Indonesia, we had to squeeze our school visits into 2 days which has actually worked out well. 

Our first school visit was to Ibu Mia’s own school where she is one of the English teachers as well  as the first aid officer. SMK 1 Batam has over 100 staff and 1600 students and is situated on a 5 hectare campus. Unfortunately the principal was absent the day we visited and in her place, we were warmly welcomed by 5 of the 6 deputy principals. 

After the obligatory photos in the (absent) principal’s office, where we appreciated her air conditioning, we headed out to the reception area to photograph the official presentation from our school. Our gift was graciously received by one of the deputy principals on behalf of their absent principal. 

Ibu Mia’s school is a ‘SMK’ school, which in SA we used to call a technical high school and now has more in common with the programs offered at TAFE campuses. The pathways available for students at her school include computer, automotive,  engineering, welding, architecture and megatronics. SMK schools pathways vary from school to school just as TAFE programs vary from campus to campus.  

From the 1000 who apply each year to study at SMK1 Batam, only 400 are accepted. It is a highly regarded school for students seeking training in the above courses. 

Ibu Mia invited us to work with 2 classes from her school so that they could experience interacting with native English speakers. Thus, after some deliberation, we decided to use the materials Marg had created for our partner school in Medan, even though Ibu Mia’s students are considerably older. The ‘wheels on the bus’ props were disregarded in favour of ‘Old MacDonald’ which turned out to be hugely popular with 2 of her year 10 & 11 classes. 

I was able to incorporate some TPRS circling questions which was very exciting. They responded so well which was encouraging………   Is Budi a cow? No Budi is not a cow! Is Budi a cow or a mouse? Yes, Budi is a mouse!! For this reason, we disregarded the dog prop!! Didn’t want to upset anyone by suggesting they were a dog!! I also used Jason Fritze’s idea of a rhyme like eenie, meenie, minnie, mo to select volunteers when necessary! Worked beautifully!! 

Ibu Mia then played a game where the students sang the song together and then had to guess which animal Ibu Mia was going to sing about next. Anyone who called out the incorrect answer copped a penalty. They had to sing an Indonesian children’s song in front of the whole class. Before the lesson, I had mentioned to Ibu Mia my hope to video students singing this song, so it was a clever way to achieve this!! Two students, even though very embarrassed, sang beautifully with the rest of the class joining in the chorus. 

The next class offered to sing for us in appreciation of us spending time in their class and asked for our requests. I happily requested 2 songs; firstly the song my year 6/7 students are studying at the moment: Lupa, Lupa, Ingat and then secondly ‘Aku punya anjing Kecil’. Jeffery lead the singing with the latter and did a beautiful job even though it’s no doubt been a long while since he last sang it!! Stay tuned for the video!! My plan is to collect various people singing the song throughout this trip and slice them up to create one video. 

After visiting these classes, we were taken out for lunch to a kelong restaurant which was located after the 4th bridge past the Barelang Bridge (see previous post).  The restaurant is called a kelong, and like the kelong we photographed on Bintan, floats above the sea yet is much lower to the surface of the water and obviously is a restaurant and not a fishing vessel! This kelong also rested upon enormous plastic barrels and was connected to a building (the reception) that was anchored to the ground with concrete pylons. Around the edge of the platform where customers sat to eat were several enormous ponds with their frames made from PVC and covered in netting. Each pond contained a different type of seafood from which you could choose either prawns, squid, shell fish, crabs or fish. Following Ibu Mia around while she chose what she wanted, was a young lad carrying a stack of buckets and a fishing net on a pole (think butterfly net size). Once a choice was made, he dipped his net into the water, caught the required amount and placed them into their own bucket to keep everything separated. Then the buckets were stacked inside each other to keep those that could, from escaping. 

In the very centre of the restaurant was a larger pond in which were several enormous fish (see above). There were some in this pond that looked remarkably like ugly puffer fish!! There was also a long stripped snook looking fish and a humongous barramundi shaped fish that would win any fishing competition!! All were deemed too large for eating. 

Once we’d finished choosing the seafood, we sat at our table enjoying the cool breezes and es kepala mudah (coconut water with ice) which was delivered in an enormous green esky from which we served ourselves using a ladle. The ice was delivered on the side for those of us who can tolerate icy cold drinks. 

Our dishes were carried out to our table by waitresses as they were cooked. Altogether they made a colourful display. There were ginger/chilli prawns, chilli crab, steamed fish with ginger, capcay and kai-lan in kecap manis.

A huge thankyou to to Pak Hudawi, who drove us out to the kelong and then paid for our lunch. We are especially grateful considering that he had eaten earlier and wasn’t all that hungry! 

Thankyou so much to the staff and students of SMKN 1 Batam for your enthusiastic and warm welcome. And an even bigger thankyou to the amazing and entertaining Ibu Mia for making it possible. It was truly a memorable day.  

Pulau Batam (Batam Island) – Kepri

The next island on our tour is to the west of Bintan and is called Batam. Batam is just an hour  by ferry from Bintan. The ferries leave each half hour and as ours was less than half full, there was plenty of room in the suitcase corral for our suitcases. We have come to Batam to visit the irrepressible Ibu Mia who visited us 2 years ago. 

The morning we left Bintan, there was a power outage, so I wasn’t able to contact Ibu Mia to give her an idea of our ETA. Thankfully she wasn’t waiting outside in the baking hot sun, so we caught a taxi and headed straight to our hotel. 

The Hotel Eska has turned out to be a true gem. It is directly behind the Kepri Mall, meaning that  not only do we have access to a huge mall for meals and other necessities but we are also shielded from the busy traffic on the main road in front of the mall!! It is a great location and also not far from Ibu Mia’s perumahan (housing complex). 

Batam has been very hot and humid. In Bintan when grey clouds threatened, the rain and accompanying breezes would arrive to cool us down. So far in Batam, the grey clouds have gathered on the horizon and then appear to pass straight overhead and continue on towards Bintan!!

Batam (with a population of just over a million) is the largest city of the Riau Islands (Kepri) and is the capital city of Batam Island.  The island itself is just under 6km south of Singapore (35 mins by ferry) and is Indonesia’s closest point to the Singapore mainland. In fact it is so close you can see it from Singapore! 

I love this quote from Wikipedia regarding the history of Batam: 

Before Batam became a boom town, like its neighbor Singapore, fishing, maritime trade and piracy were the main activities. 

Since 2006, Batam has become a tariff and tax  free zone for goods shipped between Singapore and Batam.  In 2007, a law was passed to guarantee this zone for 70 years! No wonder it is a ‘boom town’! Ibu Mia explained that cars here in Batam are significantly cheaper than elsewhere in Indonesia due to them being tax free however cars bought on Batam can only be driven here. As soon as you head off the island, the car incurs a tax which is based on the length of time you plan to be away. 

One of the most popular destinations that tourists head towards would have to be the Barelang Bridge, also known as the Jembatan Habibe because he was the one who was behind its construction. It is actually a series of bridges connecting 6 different islands and takes it name from the 3 larger islands: BAtam, REmpang & gaLANG. The original reason the bridges were built was to encourage and support the development of industrial zones based on Galang and Rempang islands. 

Can you spot Ibu Mia and Margaret in the photo above?

Batam has been a fascinating place to visit. However, as this has been more of a work stop-over, our sightseeing has been limited to what we pass by on our way to schools or if taken out for lunch. I wonder if Ibu Mia has done that deliberately to ensure our return?? 🤣