Family business: A Baduy girl learns on how to weave cloth from her mother in front of their home in Kanekes village in Lebak, Banten. It has been tradition for the Baduy community that women work at home, while men work on farms. (JP/Multa Fidrus)
Despite a strong desire among its children to attend schools, formal education is still a taboo in the traditional Baduy community in the hilly Kanekes village, Banten.
Many children say they want to attend schools and study like other children of their age, but their parents did not allow them to because they must abide by sacred traditions as instructed by community leaders.
“I want to go to school because I want to be clever. I want to learn how to read and write, but my parents simply wouldn’t allow me to,” Jani, 9, a Baduy girl told The Jakarta Post recently.
Jani said her parents had told her that the home was the best place for her to learn. Schools would not teach her how to survive in life. Parents are the only teachers to train children in what they need to face their future, her parents had said.
“My father said that school could make me clever and being clever was not good for our traditions because it was clever people who fooled others,” Jani said.
After turning nine, Jani, like most of her friends, began to learn the skill of weaving clothes, from her mother. She is also learning how to make table covers, shawls, sarongs and other handy crafts.
“We must help our mothers do the daily chores and then we can spend the rest of our time playing,” she said.
Similarly, Naldi, 10, one of the Baduy community boys, says he was eager to go to school but there was no way that he could.
“I must accompany my father to the fields to plant vegetables. I am also learning how to make handicrafts,” he said.
No Baduy children have attended school, even though they are eager to do so, Naldi said.
Baduy female children spend all day time at home by making handy crafts while the boys go to the fields to help their fathers. JP/Multa Fidrus
Jaro Dainah, head of Kanekes village and also traditional Baduy leader, emphasized in Sundanese language the Baduy community view of formal education:
“Kusabab dilarang sekola, lamun sekola bisa jadi pinter, lamun pinter bisa minteran batur (the reason why we prevent our children from attending school is because schools can make them clever and if they are *too* clever they can fool others).”
Dainah said that homes and fields are the best places Baduy children can learn, but not in formal schools.
“Besides, they don’t need to be clever. What they need is to learn various skills to support themselves in the future,” Dainah the toldthe Post.
When children turn 6, parents begin to introduce them to the various tools they use for farming every day, Dainah said.
“When those children grow up to become teenagers, they will accompany their fathers to the fields. And that’s the time to put the theory they have learned at home into practice,” he said.
According to Dainah, the Baduy community comprises two layers: Urang Panamping – the outer Baduy community, and Urang Tangtu – the inner Baduy community.
The Baduy area covers an area of more than 5,100 hectares and has a total population of around 13,000.
The outer Baduy live in Kanekes village while the inner live in the traditional villages of Cibeo, Cikertawana and Cikeusik, some 12 kilometers away from Kanekes.
Girl power: Several Baduy girls walk barefoot as they return from a market. None of the girls have the opportunity for a formal education, since their parents refuse to let them go to school. (JP/Multa Fidrus)
Both peoples welcome visitors, but the outer peoples are more exposed to outsiders and therefore they are more open to travelers.
Visitors can reach the Baduy villages by car from Rangkas Bitung to Kanekes.
Around 200 meters from Kanekes, at Ciboleger public minivan terminal, visitors can continue their trip down the lane to the nearest Baduy village.
All traces of modernity disappear past a large stone monument; brick houses and electric light bulbs are replaced with rattan walled huts and oil-fueled lanterns.
Jaro Dainah’s residence is not too far from the monument. Jaro is a liaison between the outside world and the Baduy people. All travelers who want to enter the Baduy villages must pay him homage.
His hut, like many other Baduy huts, is a rumah panggung, a house on stilts, placed on rocks or rooted into the ground with a dried sugarcane leaf roof and bamboo floor.
Leading from his backyard up to a mountain there is a path to other Baduy villages that can take a whole day to traverse. In the mountain, most Baduy people live in small huts surrounded by jungle and sprawling rice paddies.
The Baduy stay away from civilization. Only once in a while, if they are willing, Baduy people go to cities like Bandung or Jakarta to sell handicrafts, brown sugar or honey.