Poverty in Indonesia has decreased significantly over the past few decades, from 24 percent of the population in 1999, to 17 percent in 2004, to 12 percent in 2012. Yet, for those who are poor in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, living conditions have deteriorated, and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. Approximately 50 percent of the country’s citizens live barely above the poverty line; any sudden job loss, increase in food prices, or development of a serious health condition could devastate a family’s self-sufficiency.
Since 1981, the Tanoto Foundation has worked with the goal of empowering Indonesia’s underserved people through education and entrepreneurship training. That year, Indonesian self-made businessman Sukanto Tanoto and his wife funded the construction of schools for the children of his employees in Langkat, North Sumatra, an area in which his $15 billion RGE Group still operates. Over the decades, the Tanoto Foundation has built or supported hundreds of schools and early childhood centers in Indonesia. It has provided university and technology-related scholarships, supplied teacher training for early childhood educators, offered practical educational programs on health and hygiene, and assisted government agencies in times of disaster.
By increasing educational and economic opportunities for Indonesia’s people, Sukanto Tanoto believes that he is helping to prepare the country to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Accordingly, the Tanoto Foundation operates with the philosophy that high-quality education for every individual is a vital requirement for sustaining democracy and growing the economy.
One example involves the foundation’s collaboration with Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture in supporting the Pelita Pendidikan campaign. Pelita Pendidikan focuses on such vital training as proper hand-washing and other sanitary practices for students, as well as teacher education in building classroom libraries and creating effective lesson plans. Additionally, the program assists school administrators and communities in ensuring that schools are safe and welcoming places by supporting capacity-building and infrastructure development.