Teacher brings some cheer to the classroom

Laugh and learn: Yahya and his son Mirza handing out books to the students at the orphanage in Tangerang, Banten province. — Reuters

Learning the Quran doesn’t have to be a solemn affair, says Islamic teacher Yahya Edward Hendrawan, who dresses up as a clown to inspire children to approach reading and reciting the Quran with cheer.

A teacher at an orphanage in the Indonesian city of Tangerang, Yahya dons a colourful costume, replete with white and pink face make-up and a red nose, to teach reading.

He focuses on Islamic studies during the fasting month of Ramadan.

“When we ask children to recite the Quran, it is a bit difficult. But if there are clowns, they feel they go to the classroom with some purpose, ” Yahya said.

The 38-year-old rides to the orphanage every day during Ramadan with his five-year-old son Mirza dressed as a baby clown with outsized glasses and a wig with a shock of yellow and orange hair.

The father and son usually spend about an hour getting ready before meeting the children, including those from a community reading group.

Yahya’s path to using this teaching method was not easy.

His father, who has since passed away, was not accepting of his methods and used to tell Yahya he was an embarrassment.

“His behaviour hurt me so much, it felt like my heart was being cut into slices, ” Yahya added.

But encouragement from the orphanage’s founder gave Yahya confidence to pursue his dream of teaching as a clown.

He now takes on part-time entertainment jobs and insists on including religious values and literacy programmes in his performances.

His enthusiasm to teach and keep children entertained has won him praise in the community.

“He helps children build an interest in reading, which will reduce the time they spend playing with phones or gadgets, and have a tremendous impact on their development, ” said Junaedi, the parent of a child who attends Yahya’s reading classes, who like many Indonesians, goes by one name. — Reuters

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