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When you come from a low-income family and reside on a remote Indonesian island, it’s highly unlikely that you will go on to pursue higher education and contribute towards developing the country’s technology.

However, one Pulau Padang native has achieved just that, after being the first student from that area of Kepulauan Meranti in Riau to receive a scholarship from the APRIL Group.

“At first, I did not expect that I would reach this stage because previously there were no students from Pulau Padang who had ever received a scholarship from APRIL,” says Efendi.

At first, Efendi’s dream of being able to attend university seemed to be impossible.

His family went through a difficult time when Efendi’s father was laid off at work. His father had been working for an oil mining company in Pulau Padang, but had to stop when the company ceased operations.

“When I graduated high school, I asked my parents if they could fund me to continue my studies. Unfortunately, they had no money,” says Efendi, who worked odd jobs at a motorcycle workshop to aid his family’s financial situation at the time. But things changed when Efendi received the scholarship from APRIL Group. It allowed him to attend the STIPER Agricultural Institute Yogyakarta, from which he graduated with top honours. “I was first informed by my school principal that APRIL Group was offering a scholarship to study at the STIPER Agricultural Institute. “The company would cover all costs, including accommodation and allowance,” says Efendi.

Following his graduation from STIPER Yogyakarta, Efendi began working at the Research and Development Department at APRIL Group. There, Efendi is responsible for research, ensuring that APRIL Group’s plantation management system is in line with the company’s sustainability policy.

“My job is to conduct research about soil nutrition and fertility. When there is a new kind of fertilizer, we trial it on the field. We then analyze the results at the lab. “We collect samples of soils and leaves, and we also note down the heights and diameters of the trees,” he says.

Efendi’s success story with APRIL Group has inspired students at Pulau Padang to follow in his footsteps, whereas the community there had previously rejected the company’s presence at the island.

In fact, in 2011, Efendi experienced public outcry by his neighbours when he first began pursuing the APRIL scholarship. “My family was even blacklisted by the community. Whenever they held a thanksgiving event, many of the people in Padang Island didn’t want to attend,” Efendi shares.

Despite this, Efendi refused to give up, and had instead pushed on with the scholarship application process, backed by his parents’ support. Now, after witnessing Efendi’s success, the Pulau Padang community’s views have taken 180-degree turns. In place of initial rejection and derision, there are now praises and Efendi is viewed as a role model. "Now everything has changed, they even ask me how their children too can receive scholarships from APRIL,” he says

Efendi has succeeded in proving his success to the entire Pulau Padang community but he wants to extend that even further to communities beyond the island too. “My goal is to show people that even though I come from a remote area – Pulau Padang – it is possible for me to become the researcher I am today,” he concludes.

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