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The Jungle School


A People in Crisis . . . A Young Woman’s Adventure . . . A School for Life The Orang Rimba (People of the Forest) are nomadic tribes living in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia as hunter-gatherers. Today, the outside world has arrived at their doorstep. From illegal loggers chain-sawing the jungle to government-sponsored transmigrants working in palm oil plantations, the outsiders are encroaching upon the rainforest. While they have the skills needed to preserve their jungle, the Orang Rimba are ill prepared to deal with land contracts or sale of rainforest products. What can be done to help them? Butet Manurung shares the journal she kept during her first year in the jungle. She tells of her adventures with stinging bees, prowling bears, and motorbikes. Most touchingly, she describes how her relationship with the Orang Rimba develops as she transforms from an outsider to a trusted teacher within the community. Her trials and errors are familiar to anyone who has ever been a teacher, even though her students often wear loincloths and trap animals for lunch. Will learning to read and write be enough to help the Orang Rimba save their rainforest? Butet tells the story of her journey from anthropologist to educator to activist. She explains how and why she founded SOKOLA to bring literacy to indigenous people in areas too remote to access education. The work of this foundation and its adventurous volunteers is an excellent example of how a small number of individuals can effect change. The Jungle School is now a film! Directed by Riri Riza. Praise for The Jungle School “The traditional wisdom of the indigenous people of Indonesia is a truth that we must preserve. At the same time, the dilemma between introducing modernity, development and education while protecting their traditional way of life is another truth. I greatly appreciate the contribution and dedication of people like Butet Manurung who provide true insights into the Orang Rimba. The Jungle School speaks volumes from actual experience, recorded not only in an anthropological way, but also in a very human and personal way. This is a book that not only makes us realize that traditional wisdom and jungles need to be preserved, but also warms the heart.” – Mari Pangestu, Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism “The Jungle School puts a human face on the results of logging and deforestation practices that directly threaten the existence of the Orang Rimba. Although the rights of the often-forgotten Rimba people are protected by our laws, their aspirations are sometimes ignored in the management of rainforests and their resources. Education for the Rimba is truly a gift for life. Butet’s story will change the hearts and minds of those who think otherwise.” – Agus Purnomo, Special Staff to the President of the Republic of Indonesia for Climate Change “The Jungle School comes at a critical moment in the development of the present civilization. It combats all the theoretical complexity of educational developments to smooth the process from literate society to knowledge society; welfare society to cultured and civilized society. Butet Manurung shows that the impossible is possible by touching the hearts and minds of the Orang Rimba, by reaching the unreachable soul of an indigenous community, by helping us to understand what it means to be human. She inspires readers and takes them on a journey of educational adventure that highlights best practices, which can also be applied in any metropolitan jungle that needs intellectual perseverance. Butet shows her intellectual courage, integrity and her sacrifices to become a hero of education. She exercises the intellectual virtues that we all need today to have a healthy mind-set in the pursuit of human rights and dignity. “It is in the minds of men that the defense of peace must be constructed.” (UNESCO Constitution)” – Arief Rachman, Prof