Vera Juniati was very excited when she learned that she had been admitted to study at Chemistry study programme, Universitas Gadjah Mada. Her mother, Sutarmi (62), had mixed feelings hearing the news.
“(I was) surprised and in disbelief that my daughter had been admitted at a higher education institution. But I was also confused on how to finance her courses,” said Sutarmi.
Met at their home in Ngadirejo village in Sragen city, Central Java, Sutarmi said her youngest child had a strong will to study at the university. Sutarmi would often keep quiet as she could not promise a thing she knew she would be unable to keep. Being a worker that gets little money from manually crushing stones she collects from the river makes it very hard for her to send Vera to university. For the past ten years, she has been working crushing the stones to make materials for house construction. She would have to walk to the river near her home to collect the stones. She has passed her best years, too, not to mention she suffers from uric acid.
And the struggle didn’t even pay off. It’s not every day that customers come to order stones for building their home. It can be months before someone bought them.
"Our neighbours usually buy one bamboo bucket of stones, which cost five thousands,” she said.
Sutarmi said the total profit of the stones and the farming work done by her husband, Sasmo Wiyono (67), was barely enough to pay for their daily meals. Despite this hardship, both parents fight hard to support their family with five children. The children understand this condition very well.
"All my children actually wanted to study as good as possible, but they knew the real condition of their parents, so they refrained from asking much,” she described.
The first, second, and third children only made it to primary schools while the fourth child finishing junior high school. The three eldest children are already married now while the fourth son makes money from repairing leaked tyres of vehicles.
"Now it has gone for seven years since my husband and I suffered from uric acid, so we cannot be forced to work too much, but we were forced to rely on the support from Vera’s older siblings,” she said slowly.
When she was in primary school, Vera had to walk a four kilometer distance to get to school. The long distance for a child as young as she had brought her long records of achievements, too. She was always among the best at school, even representing her school for a Math Olympiad. In junior high school she always came out as one of the best students and earned scholarships that helped ease the burden of the family.
Later on, Vera had to ride for 17 kilometers on her sister’s motorbike to get to her high school. She learned hard to be able to make achievements and joined the big five from year to year. She also joined an Astronomy Olympiad at the Sragen regency level. These all made her entitled to receive scholarships.
All those hardships never broke her down and her dream. She believed that good education could bring her to a better life.
"I’ve always wanted to make my parents happy, not living a hard life like today,” Vera weeps.
Her siblings keep supporting her on her study. And finally, her teachers guided her to apply for admission at a university and government scholarship for outstanding but underpriviledged students. Now, her hard work has paid off and she has been accepted at UGM whilst also receiving the Bidikmisi scholarship that would release her from the financial burden.
Getting admitted at one of Indonesia’s leading universities is a very invaluable experience for Vera, who was born on 30 June 1998. This is the fruit of her never ending hopes to pursue education.
"My asset is just my strong will. With good intention, anything can be achieved. Thank God, it really has come true,” said the girl that wants to be a business woman.
Sasmo Wiyono and Sutarmi can only pray for their youngest daughter to have the best of life and study well. “We cannot give her much, just sending our prayers to her to be successful,” they expressed their hope.