Sun, 09 Mar 2003


Franziska Schill Contributor The Jakarta Post Jakarta

"If nobody supports us, how can our dreams become true?" asks Tryanita, 12, living at dump site Bantar Gebang.

Tryanita and her friends, Siti, 12, and Nurhayati, 13, may live in Bantar Gebang, the largest dumpsite in the country.

But they also have their biggest dream. Tryanita wants to become an engineer, Siti wants to be a doctor, while Nurhayati hopes to become a policewoman when she grows up.

For other people, it is within their reach. But for the three girls, it seems a distance away.

They are lucky as they belong to the 476 of a total of 967 school age children and youths in Bantar Gebang who have the possibility to attend school.

Nevertheless, they also have to help their parents at work, which means that for two to three hours a day they cut out the plastic labels from water bottles.

Education in the area is so poor that it is hard to believe that it is only two hours drive from Jakarta, the country's capital city.

There are only three kindergartens and one elementary school in the area. In addition, parents's awareness of the importance of education is still low.

Often when they are getting older, more and more children leave school in order to work full time with their parents at the dumpsite.

The girls show us "SD 5+", the school they attended until last year and which is one of the four informal schools in Bantar Gebang.

The building comprises four classrooms and is situated in a residential area surrounded by mountains of plastic, paper and garbage sacks.

"SD 5+" was founded by Lentera Hati and the International Labor Organization (ILO). As it is an informal school, the children only study until grade 5 instead of grade 6.

To study in SD 5+, the parents have to pay Rp 2,000 (22 U.S. cents) per month.

"At first, we didn't charge any fees. But we want to educate the parents to be responsible for their children's education so, we ask them to pay," Muhammad Dony Prestanto, a social worker in Bekasi told The Jakarta Post.

Here in SD 5+, the students do not wear uniforms and they are not taught by regular teachers but instead by volunteers, for example journalists.

Since most of them have to work with their parents in the dumpsite, they can choose their own time to study. There are two sessions in a day they can choose from -- from 7 a.m. to midday or from 1 p.m to 6 p.m.

What they are taught does not differ from the normal school curriculum. The only difference is they use copied text books and hold their own examinations to keep school fees as low as possible.

On Sundays social workers go to the parents of the children who are not yet attending school, and ask their permission to let them enter school.

Tryanita, Siti and Nurhayati belong to the few lucky children who are even able to enjoy further education at public elementary school SDN Cikiwul outside Bantar Gebang.

Sixty percent of the school fees as well as the uniforms are paid for by local NGO Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia, the remaining 40 percent have to be covered by the parents.

Dony said the same scheme to pay children's school fees will continue until they reach high school.

Although the girls love going to school, they are very much looking forward to the new radio station, which is going to be established for them, as they expect it to develop their talents and give them a chance to be heard.

On the one hand, the children should have fun listening to the radio while at work, fun also when setting up a program for the radio.

"I would love to learn how to become a radio broadcaster. It sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe, I can become an anchor on one of the television stations," Siti chuckled.

A group of radio professionals and social workers are now helping them to set up the program as well as training them how to make radio programs. With the help from volunteers the radio will be prepared and run by the children themselves.

Through the new radio the children should learn how to represent themselves by uttering their opinions and their wishes, hoping that people would support their education.

The girls' glowing faces reveal that they do not shun the work connected with the radio. On the contrary, they expect great changes to come through the radio. They hope that one day their dreams will come true.