31 Mar 2016

Aquaculture Graduate Returns a Helpful Hand

Wa Iba, a lecturer at the Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Sciences at Universitas Haluoleo, Kendari, South Sulawesi, knew early on that she wanted to pursue higher education. Currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Rhode Island, USA under a Fullbright-DIKTI scholarship, she first obtained her Master of Applied Science (Aquaculture) from James Cook University under an Australia Awards Scholarship. Her pathway, however, was not easy as her father passed away when she was in high school leaving her mother as the sole breadwinner in the family.

As the eldest of six, Icha (as she prefers to be called) felt conflicted when she was about to enter college. She wanted to help her mother earn an income but her family also believed strongly in the value of education. Icha recalled that an entry test-exemption for a newly established faculty at Universitas Haluoleo tipped her decision. In 1994 she became one the first 40 students from throughout Southeast Sulawesi to commence in the Faculty of Fisheries.

Icha’s pathway to higher education was to encounter yet another stumbling block. “My mother’s traditional stall burned down in a market fire in 1996 and our family’s finances were hit hard,” recalled Icha.   Even with the aid of a Government of Indonesia scholarship (Supersemar) it was touch and go as to whether she would be able to complete her studies because of financial pressures.

“My younger sister who was about to enter college, decided to postpone so that I could finish my degree. I am forever grateful to God that my sister didn’t have to postpone afterall,” Icha continued after pausing to collect herself.

As Icha continued her education, her lecturers instilled a love of teaching in her. To equip herself, Icha applied for and was granted an Australia Awards Scholarship.  The knowledge and experience she gained at James Cook University from 2005 to 2007 provided a platform for her teaching experience as lecturer at her almamater, Universitas Haluoleo. “I refrain from a feudal and bureaucratic approach in my interaction with the students, instead prioritizing ethics and professionalism which is something I experienced myself at James Cook University,” Icha explained.

“My Australian Development Scholarship experience helped tremendously in my previous position as Assistant Dean, Student Division. I had to guide and aid students in drafting research proposals to be submitted to the General Directorate of Higher Education community service program,” Icha explained. Icha proudly said that the Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Sciences at Universitas Haluoleo has consistently had the highest number of approved research proposals for its discipline amongst all Indonesian public universities.

As a result, research with benefits for the local community has been conducted, including the use of mangroves in rujak, an Indonesian dish that typically incorporates tropical fruit and the incorporation of squid ink as a base for cendol, a dish of green jelly traditionally made using rice flour.

Icha has certainly come full circle. The hardships Icha went through during her college days have shaped her resolve to help other students who are now in similar situations. Icha served at the very faculty that gave her the chance for a college education, contributing within BIDIK MISI in the selection process of bright students who otherwise lack the financial resources to continue their education. More than 110 students have benefited from this initiative.

Indeed, the one who once received the helping hand is now extending one of her own.

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