EAST JAVA: Tasya Aprilia Agatha, 17, lost her father to COVID-19 in August. The family was left to fend for itself.
He used to make barely enough money for the family as a delivery driver and only provider. With his death, Tasya had to step up and provide an alternative source of income.
She gets up at 4 a.m. six days a week to help her mother manage a makeshift food cart while juggling school and a café job. She sleeps for roughly four hours per day.
“I’m working to support my mum and pay my school costs,” she explained. “I can use my earnings… to cover my own bills.” I don’t need to go to my mother for money.”
In the East Java city of Kediri, a high school senior dreams of attending university and becoming an entrepreneur. Her school grades have deteriorated as a result of her rigorous schedule.
In Indonesia, many more students have dropped out due to the pandemic.
According to a World Bank report from September 2021, roughly 2% of children aged five to 18 who were enrolled in school up until March 2020 were no longer enrolled in November 2020. This equates to roughly 1.3 million students.
Lack of funds to pay school fees was the most common cause for dropping out.
“It’s possible that some of these kids are re-enrolling right now… “However, it’s also likely that many of them dropped out permanently, and that they’ll be followed by other student dropouts in 2021,” said Noah Yarrow, a senior education specialist at the World Bank.
The pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for Indonesia’s children, their education, and their future, as explored in the episode Insight.
WHEN LEARNING IS HARD TO DO
Even for those in school, the long periods of lockdown made it difficult to switch classes online.
“It was very tough to ask inquiries, even though we tried to clarify them via WhatsApp,” Tasya added. “It’s much better to interact directly.”
Yurni, her instructor, concurred, adding that most of the children’ parents, who are in the middle and lower economic levels, may likewise be unable to offer what they require: A good internet connection is required.
“When we reached out to the kids, they sometimes indicated they couldn’t join the online lesson.” “When we inquired why, they replied they were out of internet allowance,” the teacher, who only goes by one name, added.
Although more schools have reopened, kids are still making up on what they have missed.
Only 30% of Indonesian pupils attained minimal reading standards on the Programme for International Student Assessment before the pandemic, according to a World Bank analysis.
According to the assessment, school cancellations caused by the pandemic might cause pupils’ reading scores to drop by 25 to 35 points on average.
According to a UNICEF research, rising dropout rates as a result of school closures put children at danger of child marriage and exploitation.
Bintang Puspayoga, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, recognized that child marriage and child labor are “on the rise” as a result of the pandemic’s inescapable “economic strain.”
“We need to work together to create a support system for them in the shape of a safe and pleasant atmosphere,” she explained.
However, once the youngsters drop out, they have little choice but to enter the workforce. Some people might not return once they have made money.
Take, for example, Rizki, who is ten years old: For the past year, he has worked as a street clown in Depok, West Java.
He makes roughly two million rupiah (S$190) per month, which goes towards paying the rent on the property he shares with his 24-year-old brother Iksan and his brother’s wife, Endah.
Endah has tried to urge Rizki to pursue an education in order for him to be eligible for higher positions in the future. “No, I don’t want to go back to school,” he answered when asked if he wanted to go back to school. We need money to pay the rent on the house.”
HELPING THE WORKERS
The odds are even more stacked against children who have no one to look after them. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of an estimated 34,000 Indonesian youngsters.
The Indonesian government has rules in place to protect orphans when it comes to hiring alternative carers, with immediate family members being contacted first.
According to Bintang, a team led by the local office of the Ministry of Social Affairs will find “the proper substitute carers.”
“We must ensure that the children are protected and that they will not be ignored in the future,” she stated. “We must ensure that they are neither exploited or trafficked.”
Even if a suitable caregiver is located, financial assistance is frequently required.
Dona and Beni, brothers aged 17 and 11, lost their mother to COVID-19 in July. After she died, their father left them in the care of Suparti, their mother’s 72-year-old aunt, whom they affectionately refer to as Grandma.
She loves the boys and gladly takes care of them, but this means she must bear additional expenses.
“Every now and again, the small child asks me what I’m preparing… I’d advise we should cook something else if he wants me to make beef soup, for example. “If not, the money won’t last the entire month,” she explained.
Dona, a high school senior in Kediri, helps sell satay in the evenings to relieve her financial stress and pay his school fees. Beni, on the other hand, is supported by the local government, which pays his fees.
Around 300 children in Kediri have lost their parents as a result of the pandemic, according to mayor Abdullah Abu Bakar.
To assist them and their caregivers, the local government is developing a program called “Hope for Family,” which will be introduced this year with private sector support.
According to the mayor, the scheme includes establishing a bank account for each beneficiary, to which the local government will transfer payments “either monthly or annually.”
A similar project is being developed by Save the Children Indonesia. The non-governmental organization works with the local office of the Ministry of Social Affairs in West Java to assist children who have lost their primary caregivers.