Old Dutch schools rekindle the past
By Ida Indawati Khouw
Unlike so many colonial buildings in Jakarta which have been demolished over time, many schools built by the Dutch in the early 1900s still exist. Local authorities have named five school buildings for the list of protected historical sites in Jakarta. This is the 30th story in a series of Jakarta's historical protected buildings and sites published in the Saturday edition of The Jakarta Post.
JAKARTA (JP): In the early days, Dutch schools in Jakarta were once dubbed as the most prestigious in the country.
At that time, only children of ruling colonial masters and the wealthy pribumi (local residents) were allowed to study at these colonial schools.
If you have any doubts about this fact, just ask your grandmother or grandfather. They might not only tell you about how Indonesian children struggled for the opportunity to learn there but may also continue to relive their memories by telling you more about this historical period.
Four of the five buildings, most of which have faced several renovations, are located in Central Jakarta.
They are the SMPN I junior high school in Cikini, STM I technical high school on Jl. Budi Utomo in Sawah Besar area, nearby SMUN I senior high school and SMKK Negeri Jakarta vocational high school on Jl. Sutomo.
The other building is on Jl. Manggarai Utara I in South Jakarta and is now the SDN 01 Manggarai Utara elementary school.
The five buildings, now all run by the state, were mostly designed using Indische architecture with high ceiling and wide windows to beat the tropical climate.
The 91-year-old Cikini school building was originally the prominent Hollandsch Inlandsche School (HIS elementary school) and also for students of the Meer Uitgebreide Lagere Onderwijs (MULO junior high school).
Built in 1909, the building still has its original high roof and extra wide windows in its classrooms. Those who once had the privileged opportunity to attend lessons in these classrooms would instantly be taken back in time to their childhood.
The same atmosphere also exists in the SMUN I building, which used to be the Algemeene Middelbare School (AMS). It would have been equal to a senior high school today.
Built in 1930, the construction of the building remains solidly intact with its broad corridors. A courtyard in the middle of the building is still used for sport activities as it was in its former days.
At one time, the AMS building was once used as the headquarters of the Indonesian Navy (BKR Laut Pusat), before being occupied again by Dutch soldiers (NICA).
A few years after independence was granted in 1945, the building was the state-owned SMUN I school, also known as SMUN I Budi Utomo.
In 1977, a three-story building was built at the rear of the main building to help accommodate the large number of students.
The school authorities received an award in 1993 for its remarkable work in maintaining the original design of the building.
Next door is the STM I technical school, which used to be the Koningin Wilhelmina School. Here, however, some minor damage can be found to the building.
SMKK Negeri Jakarta was constructed in 1932 and used to be the Europeesch Lagere School (ELS), an elementary school for Dutch children.
Another protected school building, SDN 01 Manggarai Utara in South Jakarta, used to provide classes only for children of top officials of the Dutch Staat Spoorwegen railway company since the school was constructed in their housing complex.
Built in 1916, the building was originally called Marschalk Land. The roof was built with another directly above, both at the same degree of angle. The small space in between allowed a continuous flow of air to ventilate the rooms below.
A small tower was constructed at the top of the roof.
Like SMUN I Budi Utomo, this school also got a similar award from the government.
Education expert J. Drost said the Dutch colonials started to introduce the formal schools here simply because they "needed people to work at the colonial service".
Previously, the school system was initially in the form of religious institutions, such as pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) and those run by the Dutch Christian missionaries.
A historian from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Lee Kam Hing, wrote in his book Education and Politics in Indonesia 1945-1965 that the first major step in educational development here was started in September 1848 "when the Dutch came to realize that without some Western-type education, the Indonesian nobility and village heads, upon whom the system of forced cultivation or cultuurstelsel relied, could not be effective".
Another education expert, H.A.R. Tilaar, wrote in his book 50 Tahun Pembangunan Pendidikan Nasional 1945-1995 (50 Years of the Development of the National Education 1945-1995) that the discriminative education system was aimed at maintaining Dutch rule here.
"That's why education at that time was so selective and was provided only for elite indigenous people, while at the same time limiting the majority of children from having broader or higher education."
However, Tilaar said, the education had a boomerang effect on the colonials as through the Dutch schools, intellectual Indonesian nationalists were born.