Sparkling Eyes, You Can Do It!: Motivating Bali Mandara Students to Dream and Achieve BIG

A Talk at Bali MandaraI saw many bright eyes when visiting this high school of SMA Bali Mandara, Bali, Indonesia last time. I had previously heard that the school has been around for two years old and quite unique. Why unique? This school is composed of a strong leader’s vision of helping disadvantaged, but enthusiastic young people to study, motivated teachers, and the sparkling students. I was informed that it is a mutual partnership Sampoerna Academy and the government of Bali to assist disadvantaged students who cannot study because of various reasons, such as poverty and other family issues.

It was when I had a transit at Changi Airport that I contacted one of the persons I am aware to be a part of the school, Mbok Mirani Kusuma Dewi (note: mbok means an older sister, not necessarily a relative, in Balinese). I offered a similar thing like the one I did for my colleague in Ganesha University of Education (see link) that I was willing to share perspectives and experiences of studying in a Western context, like Australia. After several messages, it was agreed to share about studying abroad in general, including scholarship opportunities.


I arrived at 1.45pm, 15 minutes earlier than the agreed time to meet the students. I went to ask a group of students, who seemed to practice singing, where the school’s office is. They smiled while greeting, “Om Swastyastu,” the Balinese way of saying “Welcome.” They then pointed out the office which is across our place that time. While walking, I could also listen to some traditional Balinese instruments being played from afar. Then, I met several people I know, some are my former students who appear to be the school’s teachers now. Good to know!

I then met Mbok Mirani who cordially introduced me to the Headmaster. To my surprise, I know the school’s headmaster. He is Pak Nyoman Darta, the former headmaster at SMA N 1 Singaraja; a school where I graduated some years ago. We then talked in brief about the history of the school, school system, donation from Sampoerna Academy, school’s daily activities, and students’ backgrounds. I forgot to tell you that all students were awarded a scholarship by Sampoerna Academy to study. There was a very strict selection procedure done before one could be awarded a scholarship. This is very good! As I told you earlier, all students come from disadvantaged family. Prominent issues, like the family is being poor, it has too many children, they are orphans, single-parent issue, one of the parents was involved in a crime and sent to jail, and many more. A lot of issues! Then, they were selected, given the full scholarship to study in the high school, live in the school’s dormitory, and have a bunch of positive activities based on their interests. To my surprise, they use English in daily classes and conversation! This is something I would rarely see in a normal school in Bali. Therefore, the initiative is a very good in my view.

At around 2pm, everyone gathered and Mbok Mirani, together with Pak Nyoman Darta started the session by having the school’s yell. A very energetic one, I believe. I then started to talk. Another surprise was they could understand most of the talk which I delivered in English. This is not ‘normal,’ if I may use my previous experiences dealing with high school students. But, these young happy faces, they are ‘different’!

Here is my embedded talk. It was a simple and general talk about scholarship and living abroad. However, I could see their eyes got sparkled and smiles appeared from their enthusiastic faces. And yes, they asked a lot of good questions, too.

They seemed to enjoy and be motivated more than the first time I saw them an hour earlier. They know they are not rich, not lucky as they have many issues, but I kept assuring them that anything is possible if we dream BIG and put efforts into it. In relation to getting a scholarship, I said “Intelligence is not the most, perseverance is.” It was actually evidenced that many of the students at this school won International and National prizes. A good start for a two-year-old school!
One funny thing happened during my talk. It was cloudy and then raining hard during the talk. While I was explaining living abroad, the rain started to fall, and suddenly, many of them got up and ran outside the hall. I, looking confused, was told by the headmaster that the students went out in a rush to pick up their clothes! Oh my, I quickly nodded, as they live at the schools, they should wash and dry their clothes at the school area as well! 🙂

After the talk, many students smiled, shook my hand, and put it on their forehead. I was so moved by their sincere hearts. We took pictures afterwards.

A Talk at Bali Mandara 1

A Talk at Bali Mandara 2


A Talk at Bali Mandara 4

??????????After that, I had a chance to look around the school and found that this school is promising. The garden, the library, ICT Center, dormitory, etc. They are not of the very best, but I can feel this is only a start. A very good start!

(Future) ICT Center
(Future) ICT Center
Students' Paintings
Students’ Paintings
Student's Dormitory
Student’s Dormitory
SMAN Bali Mandara
SMAN Bali Mandara

As the school would not be funded by the Academy for the whole time, these supporting learning environments should be sustained. One of them is by finding any relevant personal and institutional bodies for donation. The head of the school kept asking me for an opportunity of having sister schools. So, my friends, if any of you know any information about this, please kindly contact the school, or me. So, I can forward it to the school.

Thank you for reading and I am happy for any constructive feedback 🙂

Note: I also wrote this earlier in my website but decided to put another backup here for future purpose.

©mhsantosa (2013)
I am happy to share this. Please feel free to reblog or share the link, all with my accreditation. Thank you.

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