Sunday, 14 August 2011

Reblog - Passport by Rhenald Kasali

This article is not written by myself. It is a translation of an article titled "Paspor", written by Rhenald Kasali, first published in the newspaper "Jawa Pos" on 8th of August 2011. Rhenald Kasali is an Indonesian academic and business practitioner and a professor (Guru Besar) of Management Science at the Faculty of Economics, Universitas Indonesia (UI). Hopefully this article could inspire myself and other people to open their eyes and see more of the world!

Whenever I am lecturing, I always start by asking my students, how many of them have already owned a passport. Not surprisingly, only around 5% of them would raise their hand. However, when asked whether they have flown on a plane before, many more students would say yes. Almost 90% of my students have seen a cloud from the top, yet, most of our young people are only local traveler.  

Therefore, instead of giving written assignments and papers like other lecturers, in my classes I begin by asking my students to complete the required paperwork and get a passport. Every student must have this ticket to the globalised world.

Without a passport a man will be lonely, short-sighted, narrow, and thus will be a sterile leader. Two weeks later, the students can already be proud of themselves because of their passports. They would then ask, what is this passport for? I would say, go abroad, outside of the Malay-speaking regions, outside of Malaysia, Singapore, Timor Leste, or Brunei Darussalam. Go as far as you could, to the farthest place that you could reach.

"What about the money for purchasing the tickets, Sir?"
I told them I don't know.
In life, what I know is that only foolish people would start his life mission and purpose by asking a question about money.
And as soon as a beginner asks where the money would come from, then he would be trapped in his constraints. Almost surely, the only answer that will come out is no. No I do not have the money. No, I simply can't. No, it is impossible.

Those questions come up not only in the minds of students, but also those lecturers who have not traveled enough. For those who have not seen the world, other countries would seem far away, expensive, luxurious, unreasonable, and simply a waste of money. Unsurprisingly, many lecturers feel apprehensive about continuing their studies overseas, therefore choosing to do so in their own alma mater.

An open world translates to millions of opportunities to move forward and better yourselves. You can get many seemingly unimaginable things: knowledge, technology, maturity, and wisdom. Luckily enough, such doubts never cross the minds of avid travelers, one of which is the group of students often known as the backpackers. They tirelessly hunt for extra economical tickets and accommodation, sling a worn out backpack and wear a pair of flip flops. Whenever money runs out, they would go to food stalls and work as dishwashers. Their attitude in traveling actually do not differ greatly from Minang, Banjar, or Bugis teenagers who migrate to Java to try their luck despite their limited money and provisions. Many simply have not understood that going abroad is no longer as intimidating, far, and luxurious as it used to be. One student from the countryside, whom I encouraged to travel to faraway places, now travels regularly. He is now a part of PKI (Pedagang Kakilima Internasional - International Street Vendors), whose job is to collate information about large scale trade fairs organised by the government. They would then open a stall there, taking a risk, selling various handicrafts, doing some sightseeing, participating in courses, and of course earning some dollars before going back home. On his graduation, he came to me and showed his passport with immigration stamps from 35 countries. He sure knows his theories well, but more importantly he has the sharpness and confidence that allows him to sense when an opportunity comes by. When his cum-laude friends are still looking for jobs, he had become an executive in a prominent company overseas.

The Next Convergence
In his book, The Next Convergence, recipient of Nobel Prize in Economics writes that our world lies smack in the "third century of the Industrial Revolution". Since 1950, the average incom of people all over the world have increased twentyfold. Therefore despite the large number of poor people, it is normal for us to find a poor women with only elementary education from a village in Madura shuffling regularly between Surabaya and Hong Kong.   

Of course, we can also find university students who are only busy protesting in the streets and never went overseas at all.
Such a student will not know the cost of a plane ticket, let alone having a passport or going overseas. Thus, in my opinion it is essential for educators to bring their students to see the world. With just five hundred thousand rupiahs (US$ 59), Elementary School children from Pontianak can ride on a bus through the Indonesia-East Malaysia border at Entikong and enter Kuching. In this nine hours bus ride they would get a very important civics lesson, that is the decline of nationalism due to our negligence in maintaining the areas near the frontier. Shabby houses, potholed roads, small traders neglected by the local government, and inadequate infrastructure are the features of this part of the country. The very contrast of this condition exists only across the border. The eyes of children who have seen the world would be opened, and they will lead our nation with conscience in the future.

In the University of Indonesia (UI), I made it compulsory for every student to have a passport and see at least one other country.
I used to be their 'shepherd' and guide myself. We travelled through Chiang Mai and witness how the poor in Thailand and Vietnam struggles again the waves of globalisation. Later on, I changed my mind. When will they have the courage and initiative, if the lecturer oversees them all the time?
Thus the students embarked on a journey full of uncertainties. When Indonesian students are afraid of not being able to speak English, those from Korea and Japan, with much more complicated writing systems and indecipherable pronunciation have explored the world fearlessly.

Amazingly enough, 99% of those students with a passport finally managesto go overseas. Again, do not ask how they get the money. The students save money and search for cheap guesthouses They and racked their brain in order to get a ticket, even contacting sponsors and asking for donations when necessary. Of course when they are almost there, his lecturer would then chip in with some too.

Now, even students with seemingly unsophisticated (ndeso) faces have one or two overseas immigration stamps on their passport. Are their parents so rich that they can buy the tickets for their children? Of course not. In UI, some of our students' parents are civil servants (PNS), or even farmers and fishermen. Nevertheless, they do not want to lose out to less educated Indonesian migrant workers (TKW), many of whom are now fluent in foreign languages.

Those sent overseas on their own have also heighten their innovativeness and level of initiative. Their confidence were boosted. As soon as they came home, they bring a wealth of experience, stories, and pictures which shapes their vision.

I think it will be good if educators highly encouraged the students under them to own a passport. It is a ticket to see the world. From a passport, a muslim boarding school student (santri) from East Java becomes a businessman overseas. In Italy I met Dewi Francesca, a Balinese women who owns a stunningly beautiful cafe in Rocca di Papa. Because of that very passport, Yohanes Surya also obtained a scholarship to study in the United States.
Come on, do not let people like Gayus Tambunan or Nazaruddin, who only have their state-funded passport to themselves, beat you.

*Written by Rhenald Kasali
  Guru Besar Universitas Indonesia

I found this great article thanks to a few great blogs, namely Catatan Fauzan and a journo

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