Tue, 23 Dec 2003

Twin teachers get award but schools face eviction

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

While Sri Rossiati and Sri Irianingsih, who are fondly called Ibu Kembar (Twin Mothers), received an award on Monday from President Megawati Soekarnoputri in commemoration of Women's Day, their work to provide free education to poor children has not been recognized by the city administration.

"I'm happy to receive the award from the government, but I'm also sad because all our schools in Jakarta face eviction," Sri Irianingsih, or Rian, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The twins have five Sekolah Kartini across the city. Four of them are under elevated toll roads in Ancol, Rawa Bebek and Pluit in North Jakarta and in Tambora, West Jakarta. Another one is on the side of the railway track in Angke, West Jakarta.

Students of Sekolah Kartini in Rawa Bebek have moved their desks and chairs from their school to a vacant field next to a musholla (prayer house) across from the school. They erected a plastic tent to protect themselves from heat and rain.

But on Monday, the tent flapped loose in strong winds. No students were present as the school was closed due to the awarding ceremony.

"We will fix the tent tomorrow and continue to study there. If we study inside the school, I'm afraid of a sudden eviction," Rian said, adding that she had received a letter from toll road operator PT Jasa Marga to vacate the area within 108 days.

The administration argued that it would clear areas under toll roads throughout the city to keep the roads safe.

"I forget the exact deadline but I assume the eviction will be one of these days," Rian said. "The other four schools are also facing eviction as they stand illegally on plots of land."

"We are looking for a plot of vacant land to buy so our school will not be evicted in the future. We need around Rp 450 million (US$52,941) to purchase a 300-square-meter plot of land in Sunter Jaya (North Jakarta)," she added.

Rian said they had collected only Rp 100 million so far.

She regretted not being able to talk personally to Megawati about her schools facing eviction.

"If only she (Megawati) knew, she would have helped us, of course."

Rian and Rossi teach around 1,000 students from preschool to high school in the five schools every day.

"Every Saturday, we teach students in Bantar Gebang (dump site in Bekasi). Some of the students there are trained by doctors and nurses to become nurses," Rian said.

In other schools, the students take courses like sewing.

"It's important for the poor to get a free education to help improve their quality of life," Rian said. "A lot of my female students are also sex workers. I had hoped I could say all these things to the President."

The twins received a Honorary Certificate in Education for Raising Students' Awareness of the Importance of Education in Slum Areas.

Meanwhile, the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) international institution warned the Indonesian government and the city administration to respect housing rights, following its Housing Rights Violator Award to Indonesia last month.

In a letter dated Dec. 10 and sent to, among others, Vice President Hamzah Haz and Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso, COHRE's deputy editor Jean du Plessis regretted the frequent evictions in Jakarta and urged the government to respect people's rights as guaranteed in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that Indonesia ratified on Oct. 28, 1998.