From the South of Banten to United Kingdom: Eva’s Hope to End Community-School Cycle of Inequality.

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Eva ar the London Eye. Source: personal documentation

If you’re rural and highly isolated, it’s going to be very difficult to succeed”

It’s the one statement that Eva have always got every time she shared her dream to study abroad. While it is not entirely relevant, there are certainly some ugly truths to it. However, despite the struggles she has encountered throughout her journey, she made it.. She is now a Master of Science graduate in Education, Public policy & Equity from the University of Glasgow through LPDP scholarship. Her experience as a double minority of being santri (people often refer it as someone who studies in Islamic boarding school and has little chance of studying abroad) and lived in a small village in the south of Banten didn’t stop her to explore the world, and she did.

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Hi Indonesia Mengglobal, I am Eva Lathifah, or it’s just Eva as my friends call me. I studied and spent 7 years in Islamic boarding school or it’s usually named Pesantren, before finally making my way to take B.Ed in educational administration at Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI) Bandung. During my undergrad study,. After completing my undergrad study in 2017, I worked as research assistant conducting various projects on educational policy and implementation while also did some volunteers at Darul Ulum Jaha Foundation, a non-profit organization as senior lead education specialist, designing learning programs and strategies of rural development through curated vocational classes for vulnerable youth in Anyer Management.

This was Eva’s decrepit school building in elementary in Anyer. Source: personal documentation.

The story that led me to do Masters in the UK, how it all started.

In 2015, during my undergrad study, I experienced  a life-changing moment when I assigned to teach and live in rural village at west Bandung in which most residents there lived below the poverty line. This was actually not new to me, since I have been living in a rural environment myself my whole life. Yet this particular moment has somehow shifted my perspective on equity education and made me understand that this huge gap in educational opportunities that I constantly learned from my professor’s lectures in class, was everywhere.  I realised that I was so lucky to be able to continue my study to higher education despite the fact that I shared the same experiences as the children in the community.

From that day on, my work and interest has consistently involved equity education and social & economic assistance policy for disadvantaged family. Having lived in rural Anyer, Banten and experienced the struggles of the community who have been left under-utilised and unprepared in this advanced technological era, I decided to deepen my professional knowledge on that particular matter with a mission to help improve the quality of living of million youth and children of rural Banten through education by doing postgrad study in the UK.

Eva in front of the main building of the university of Glasgow. Source: personal documentation

Chasing my dream to the UK through LPDP scholarship.

For those of you who might be wandering why it has to be the United Kingdom? Well, it goes back to the time in my junior high school when I was in Pesantren. There’s this Reading lesson in our English class where the background of the story was United Kingdom and Trafalgar square was described as this large – one of the most vibrant pedestrian square in the middle of a big city, London.

  Miraculously, 10 years after that, in 2019, I got the chance to fulfil the dream of a young girl that I once thought impossible through the scholarship of Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP).

Eva and her husband took a picture at the famous Trafalgar square. Source: personal documentation

I first introduced to the scholarship by my favourite lecturer in my undergrad study, Dr. Taufani Kurniatun, M.Si (Bu, if you’re reading this I want you to know that your support for me will always be appreciated beyond words).

 I then continued attending LPDP seminars to gain in-depth information regarding the requirements and steps that I have to follow. What surprised me was the high minimum score of IELTS!. I have neither learned a proper English in my early education nor participated in an intensive English course like my fellow students. The only time I was taught English was in Pesantren with some confusing – hard to digest grammar and pronunciation lessons. Basically, I have never heard about English until I was in Pesantren which at that time, I was fourteen and I can’t even introduce myself. Now, you might be asking, how in the world did I master English so fluently now? Well, honestly, it’s been one hell of a journey but definitely worth every second of it. It was the time when Youtube and internet were not the typical things you would go for learning, let alone using all these super education apps that are available today for free!. I had very limited sources back then and went conventionally. I remember during my time in pesantren, I would wake up in the middle of the night, every single day, to memorize one English word as simple as “tea”. So that by the end of the week, I would have had 7 words and 28 words for a month. I did this for 3 consecutive years along with practicing speaking English daily.  

Eva with other Indonesian students fellow wearing batik on independence day. Source: personal documentation

What’s inside Education, Public Policy & Equity Program at the University of Glasgow?

Now the scholarship was secured, here comes the confusion part! I have to choose one program that is most relevant to my needs and work experiences. 4 out of 5 universities in the UK that I have applied to, offered me an unconditional letter of acceptance, which was great yet full of questions at the same time..

After a week of thorough analysis and considerations, I finally settled on the MSc Education, Public policy & Equity, an interdisciplinary program part of the School of Education, College of Social Sciences, offered by the University of Glasgow.

The subjects that are taught were varied and very multi-discipline ranging from education policy, educational change and equity to international development and economics of education. I was channelled to this program right away. The curriculum and syllabus listed on the website program, the learning methods promoted, the multi-cultural and competitive environment it had, the historical and incredible city where the campus located, were just connected to me perfectly. I even almost managed to do study visit to IIEP-UNESCO (International Institute for Educational Planning) in Paris which was part of the program before the Covid-19 hit and the university had to cancel the trip.

Transitioning My Journey to The Next Phase: Where to from here?

Acknowledging the fact that early education matters on my mission to help improve the quality of living in rural Banten, especially in Anyer, I am currently building Little Ali Academy, a creative learning studio for children in Anyer. It was named after my father for his endless support and believe in me to study abroad and one day helped the community. Through this project, I want to create great quality of educational opportunities for every child, especially in this technological era where many children in rural community are left behind and cannot keep up with the rapid changes in the world of modern education. This gap between urban and rural opportunities needs to stop. The kindergarten children of today will graduate in 2033, who knows what the world will look like then?. That is why, in Little Ali, I tried my best to make sure STEM learning and other advance technological tools in education are accessible for every children in Anyer for now, hopefully this continues to grow and reach every corner of disadvantaged family in rural Banten.

Eva during socialization of Little Ali Academy to the local schools in Anyer. Source: Personal documentation

Each and every educational journey I have experienced throughout my life has made me who I am today. Whether it is in a decrepit school building in rural Anyer or an incredible enormous campus at the University of Glasgow in the UK, both educations are valid to my achievements that led me to this filled with gratitude stage of my life. The takeaway for you, my fellow rural students, is to not be afraid to explore your curiosities and get out of your comfort zone. No single opportunity is based from your background, so don’t be discouraged and limit yourself if you come from a really small village and have zero access to advanced technological tools in education. There is always a way for you to grow, design your life and conquer the world around you. Besides, there is no one more qualified to create your story than you. Good luck!


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In 2017, Eva Lathifah received her B.Ed. Cumlaude in educational administration from Indonesia University of Education. Following this, she worked as education specialist at Darul Ulum Jaha Foundation, conducting various projects on rural education strategy. With her passion on equity education, she continuously improved her professional knowledge and in 2020, she finished her M.Sc program in Education, Public Policy & Equity at the University of Glasgow thtough LPDP scholarhsip. Eva is currently building Little Ali Academy, a creative learning studio aimed at creating quality education opportunities for every child in marginalized community, with a mission to break the community-school cycle of inequality in rural Banten, Indonesia.

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