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Indonesia’s Digital Divide: Disconnected Amidst a Pandemic

Written by Dara Ayu Ariane, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia

Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people around the globe to be confined within the safety of their homes. With schools and offices closed under strict health protocols, children and adults have to adapt to remote working and learning arrangements. And yet, not everyone has the same privilege to keep in track with the digital world. 

Although Indonesia ranks 6th in Network Readiness Index for Southeast Asian countries (as cited in Iswara, 2020), the gap between rural and urban internet access remains a great challenge. With Information and Communications Technology indicators made by Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology stating the comparison of those with internet access between rural and urban areas as being consecutively 26,3% and 48,5% (as cited in Hadi, 2018), there is an apparent need to address this digital divide.

The difference in opportunity of accessing information will highly affect the region’s economic growth and social development, especially during these dire times. It was all hands on deck as the government implemented new strategic efforts in mitigating the negative impacts that has been brought upon by the pandemic. 

During the Southeast Asia Development Symposium, the Minister of Finance stated that the government has provided electricity subsidies for the bottom 40% of the population, free internet for students, teachers, and educators, as well as a 35,000km long fiber optic network (Kementrian Keuangan, 2020). And yet, without proper assistance, these government efforts would be in vain as economically vulnerable citizens prioritize getting food on the table instead of utilizing the internet access properly, on top of that, the lack of internet literacy that most middle to lower class groups often struggle with further adds onto this issue. 

But this does not mean we, as individuals, are unable to offer a helping hand. With its notion “Everyone can do good”, Project Child Indonesia successfully conducted the Online Learning Assistance program last year.

It managed a total of 21 online and offline classes in three Sekolah Sungai communities in Code river, Winongo River and Gajah Wong River. The program has helped more than 80 children, 14 volunteers, and 3 (three) interns in the span of three months starting from September until November 2020. Its weekly online learning tutorials done by volunteers for the children in the communities are one of the ways to help children with school tasks and understand their educational materials better. 

To continue helping underprivileged communities in Yogyakarta, this year Project Child Indonesia is ready to kick-start the program once again. Tutoring sessions are now focusing on environmental study material and weekly online tutoring sessions will be utilizing Zoom meetings with small groups of children in one session to ensure the program will still adhere to safety and health guidelines. 

Did you sign up for this year’s volunteer recruitment? If you missed the registration period, don’t worry because you can still make your mark!

 If you’re very much curious in this issue and want to further understand the mitigations that we can do, The Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN and the International Labor Organization will organize a virtual event with the theme of “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy”. Not only to commemorate this year’s World Day of Social Justice, but also create a platform for discussions on what we can do in order to overcome the digital divide, provide decent work opportunities, and protecting labor rights in the modern era of digital technologies.

What are you waiting for? Set a reminder for February 23rd 10 am (EST) and watch the live event on the UN Web TV!

References:

Iswara, M. A. (2020, May 19). Disconnected: Digital divide may jeopardize human rights. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved from https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/05/18/disconnected-digital-divide-may-jeopardize-human-rights.html

Hadi, A. (2018, July 1). Bridging Indonesia’s digital divide: Rural-urban linkages?. Jurnal Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik, 22(1), 17-33. DOI: 10.22146/jsp.31835

Kementrian Keuangan. (2020, October 22). Pemerintah berusaha mempersempit kesenjangan digital. Retrieved from https://www.kemenkeu.go.id/publikasi/berita/pemerintah-berusaha-mempersempit-kesenjangan-digital/

Online Learning Assistance Project: Helping Children Education in a Pandemic

Written by Project Child Indonesia

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has disproportionately affected marginalized communities in Indonesia. After the spread of the virus was officially announced as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Indonesian government conducted a policy about changing the offline learning system in school into distance learning. However, the unequally distributed access to education, forcing the children of the urban poor to encounter hardship in receiving their academic needs. As an example, the marginalized groups in our Sekolah Sungai communities on the banks of Code River, Winongo River, and Gajah Wong River, Yogyakarta, whose general occupations are sellers, laborers, housewives, security guards, freelancers, ride-hailing drivers, and scavengers, it is a struggle for them to facilitate a conducive learning environment for their children. The at-home learning constraints are due to the low either no preparedness of students, teachers, and parents for distance learning, limited internet access, and computer ownership (according to data from Statistics Indonesia 2019, computer ownership in Indonesia at the household level is 20.05% and internet coverage is 66.22%).

Other than parents struggling to afford the gadget facilities and internet data packages purchase, parents are facing issues to provide supervision and guidance to support distance learning. Truth is, not all parents have the privilege to provide such learning assistance, both in terms of time and skills, and this has been proven by testimonials through our research on the field. A testimonial coming from Lani, a 4th-grade elementary school student who lives on the banks of the Gajahwong River, “My mom is busy working and taking care of my little sister, she is barely available to accompany me studying. My dad works all the time too.” Another supporting statement coming from the father of Meisya, a 4th-grade elementary school student in Kampung Jetisharjo, by the Code River, “I cannot teach my child because elementary school materials these days are more difficult, different to mine years ago. I also work all day long, so there is very little time to assist my daughter when studying.” Moreover, teachers from formal schools provide assignments for distance learning, but not necessarily equipped to explain the subject materials to children. With a pupil-teacher ratio of 12.68, parental guidance is necessary.

Reflecting on the presented reality and based on the socio-economic analysis, Project Child Indonesia initiated the Online Learning Assistance project to help ease the challenges of children and parents to comprise education concern on children of the vulnerable communities in three riverbank communities of Yogyakarta City, Indonesia that are hit the most. 

Project Child Indonesia through the Online Learning Assistance provides online and offline tutor sessions by our volunteers to children in our Sekolah Sungai communities to help them do their school tasks and understand the school material better. Project Child Indonesia has collaborated with one of the internet data providers in Indonesia to provide affordable internet data quota to support the online learning activities of the children as well as launched a gadget donation campaign to support the online learning process. The project wants to ensure the well-being of the community especially the children amid the pandemic and the project is a form of adjustment of our main program, Sekolah Sungai, to overcome the COVID-19 struggle and uncertainty.

This year, the Online Learning Assistance project has been completed and conducted a total of 21 online and offline classes in three Sekolah Sungai communities in Code River, Winongo River, and Gajah Wong River. It has helped more than 80 children, 14 volunteers, and 3 (three) interns for three months of September, October, and November 2020. Thank you for the great help and support of our collaborators to make this project a reality. In 2021, we will continue to support the children in the river communities through this project and will be very glad to be able to cooperate with everyone who wants to support our cause.

Storytelling Day – Project Child Indonesia

In the celebration of Sumpah Pemuda, on 28th October 2018 Project Child Indonesia with DESA (Developing Rural Area by Social Activities) in collaboration with Kita Beraksi, 1000 Guru Jogja, and Yogyakarta Mengajar held an event called “Satu Hari Mendongeng Anak Indonesia” in one of our river school, Gadjahwong. The event was initiated as an effort to raise awareness about the importance of literacy in children’s life. The event combined interesting storytelling and games in order to give inspirations for the children that books can be interesting too.

The event was successfully held at 09.00 until 11.30, and was divided into two session of storytelling. The first session was a general storytelling, then on the second session the children were divided by their age group and they listened to another story. Around 27 children came and took part in this event. Instantly, they were captivated and mesmerized by the stories. They were passionate in listening and watching the storytelling.

After the first and second session, the children were given some questions regarding of the stories that they’ve just heard. The children were very enthusiastic in answering questions about the story. The question and answer session were followed with giving out the door prizes. Project Child Indonesia gave out books and school essentials for the children that could answer the questions about the stories.

At the end of the event, in the spirit of celebrating Sumpah Pemuda, the children and volunteers recited the youth pledge. Then the children received tumbler from a generous donation by Travel Lover Yogyakarta. We were so happy to conduct this event in our river school, Gadjahwong. We want to thank you for the communities that took part in our event. We hope to see similar events on other school also!

Green Teachers of Today: Towards a Green Generation of Indonesia

A seminar and workshop by PCI with the mission of promoting better environmental education

With the current condition of the earth, it has become increasingly important that we teach the younger generation to understand and care for the environment. It is essential that children nowadays grasp the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle- otherwise the environmental problems they face will just get worse and worse.

Like with any other life skills, teaching children involves all layers of society, namely: their homes, schools, and the community.

The government has recognize that environmental education, formally known as Pendidikan Lingkungan Hidup, is an important topic to be taught at schools, and has thus introduced the Adiwiyata program, which conducts environmental education in formal schools. This program was first introduced in 1975 by IKIP Jakarta, limited to only a small number of schools in the capital city. Now, this program is run all over the country, with most public schools actively implementing or at least aware of this program to some level.

Although this is a national program which is regulated by the Ministry of the Environment, a lot of schools are still struggling with it. With that in mind, Project Child Indonesia (PCI) held a seminar and workshop titled “Guru Hijau Jaman Now: Menuju Generasi Indonesia Hijau” (Green Teachers of Today: Towards a Green Generation of Indonesia). In this event, PCI invited 45 elementary school teachers from around Yogyakarta to participate. The seminar invited 3 speakers: a representative from the Center of Environmental Studies UGM, and headmasters from SDN Bhayangkara Yogyakarta and SDN Giwangan Yogyakarta- both who have much improved the implementation of Adiwiyata in their schools. The seminar  was aimed to provide the teachers with a deeper understanding of the urgency of environmental education, and also the basics of Adiwiyata implementation. The workshop was held as a focus group discussion (FGD) which was geared towards understanding the teachers’ perception of the Adiwiyata program. The aim was to gather insight from the teachers which could be used as feedback to the Environment Agency who runs the program.

From the FGD, we understood that most teachers still found the Adiwiyata program challenging. Most teachers generally understand that environmental education is important, but translating that into classroom activities for elementary children is tough. Even though the government has provided guidelines for the curriculum, they feel that it is not specific enough and it very much requires the teachers to be creative and to actively search for ideas and materials for the class. Since most elementary school teachers do not have a formal background in environmental education, this becomes a big challenge. Another problem is that not all teachers have received the guideline or necessary information to effectively deliver the program. While some teachers are able to find different ways of integrating the material in their everyday lessons, some teachers have never even read the lesson plan for the Adiwiyata Program.

The seminar and workshop was able to provide the teachers with a space to learn from each other and share their troubles. Although the Adiwiyata Program has much potential to be a program that will have a significant impact towards the future of the environment and the next generation of Indonesians, a lot of work still needs to be done. We hope that this short experience will motivate the teachers to better implement the Adiwiyata Program, while also being a reminder for the government to improve their planning and systems related to this program.