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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.

Online Learning Assistance: Contributing Our Way

Written by Adjeng Tunjung Pamase, Partnership Intern Project Child Indonesia

Entering the eighth month since the COVID-19 pandemic spread in Indonesia, Distance Learning or Pembelajaran Jarak Jauh (PJJ) activities still face various constraints. Numerous facilities and infrastructure are required to conduct a successful implementation of PJJ. In addition to the supporting equipment such as laptops and smartphones as well as internet data packages, supervision and guidance from parents are very essential to help to fill the gap in the limited role of teachers during PJJ activities. Conventional or offline school activities provide time for students to ask questions directly during or after class, PJJ tends to narrow the opportunity to interact with teachers in contrast to offline school. Most of the time, the subject materials are delivered to students let alone in the form of a document file, forcing students to read it and learn independently at home. Hence, the assistance of parents and or other substituting figures of teachers at home thus deemed vital for the success of children’s learning.

Minister of Education and Culture, Nadiem Makarim, remarked that PJJ activities will run smoothly if parents are present to accommodate learning assistance for their children. Nevertheless, he also does not disregard the fact that not all parents have the same privilege to provide such learning assistance, both in terms of time and skills.

“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,” said Lani, a 4th-grade elementary school student who lives on the banks of the Gajahwong River.

“I can not 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,” said the father of Meisya, a 4th-grade elementary school student in Kampung Kricak, by the Code River.

In acknowledgment of the presented problems on the field especially for those below the poverty line, the government through Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Muhaimin Iskandar initiated to establish “Gerakan Bangkit Belajar”, a movement that administers stations that assists students in doing PJJ activities, the assistance varies from internet network to volunteers with roles to give learning tutorials. This movement has been running since August 2020 with the priority of 3T areas (tertinggal, terdepan, terluar) or remote areas as the beneficiaries.

The Gerakan Bangkit Belajar then inspired many components of society to do similar things, from helping to provide study assistance, donating supporting equipment/facilities, to raising funds to provide internet data. 

Participation and support from various parties to create a viable PJJ for children in Indonesia makes us at Project Child Indonesia desire to continue running the Online Learning Assistance project. This project comprises learning assistance conducted both offline and online by our volunteers to help ease the challenges of children and parents in the Sekolah Sungai communities in three river banks in Yogyakarta; Code, Gajahwong, and Winongo River during PJJ.

Realized since last September, we have been holding weekly learning assistance, conducted the donation of gadgets, and distributed internet data packages in collaboration with one of the internet data providers in Indonesia.

Nonetheless, we believe that there is still a lot to be improved from this Learning Assistance project to deliver a greater impact. One of our concerns is to provide training to volunteers on teaching methods (pedagogy), project management, and child psychology. We conclude this from the results of the program evaluation after one month.

“I still feel the need to learn how to approach children to be interested in learning and encourage them to be more courageous in expressing their opinions.” – Nani, a volunteer for the Learning Assistance program in Sungai Gajahwong.

Here, we need your help in optimizing the project to give a greater impact on the children of Sekolah Sungai. You can contribute by donating at kitabisa.com/campaign/bantuanbelajarss or purchasing Project Child Indonesia merchandise at bit.ly/merchandisePCI.

Together, we can bring out the best of distance learning activities for all Indonesian children. Like what has always been our belief that everyone can do good, you can too.

Dearest students and teachers all over the world,

Hi, hello, how are you? Are you healthy and safe? We sure hope you do.

How’s online classes? Is everything going smoothly? Are you bored and tired of the situation?

We know things are different right now during the pandemic. Social and physical distancing are a must, after all. However, don’t lose hope just yet!

School might be different, because it has to be online. You might not be able to meet your friends and peers face-to-face, but the fact that you can still meet each other online is a blessing in itself. So, do your best in class!

For students: please respect your teachers! Online classes have not been easy for them as well. At least, pay attention to their explanation and respond to them. Put on proper clothes and sit properly. Turn on your camera if you can, so that the teachers know who’s behind the screen listening to their explanation.

For teachers: please do your best in teaching! We know that it might be difficult to have restrictions when you’re teaching. It must be difficult to be confined into a screen while having to convey difficult materials to your students. However, it is not right if you just give students a ton of homeworks instead of actually explaining the materials to them. Find ways in which you can actually teach your students effectively. Remember, these childrens are the future of our nation.

At last, we hope everyone will continue to take education seriously. Don’t forget that, sometimes, education is a privilege, but also put your health first and foremost before anything else. If learning online has become overwhelming, don’t be afraid to seek help.

Please stay happy, healthy, and safe! 

With concern,

Team Project Child Indonesia

Written by Graciella Stephanie Ganadhi, Content Writer Intern Project Child Indonesia

Online Learning, Is It the Future?

Written by Graciella Stephanie Ganadhi, Content Writer Intern Project Child Indonesia

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects in human’s life. The way we tread upon our life is way different than before the pandemic happens. The economic chain is disrupted, social balance is in a state of disarray, and the education field is rapidly changing. The future becomes more and more uncertain as days pass by.

Children who will take over our world in the future are becoming vulnerable as the education system is forced to change almost overnight. Schools have to go from offline learning to an online learning during the pandemic. While as a society we had been utilizing online learning for a while, it is all by choice. Those who took online classes or decided to enroll their children into an online-based school are making their choices based on their own judgement. Even so, back in the time before the pandemic, online learning was still combined with some form of offline activities. Due to the demanding protocol of physical distancing, such a thing is not possible to do for some time in the foreseeable future. Children are required to attend school online and there is nothing most of us can do about it.

Then, what’s the problem with online learning? If anything, most teachers are saying that the teaching system becomes more efficient as they become more connected to their students. Even the statistics mention that students are able to hold 25% to 60% more information by studying online rather than the 8% to 10% when they are studying in a classroom. Well, for starters, it is incredible for students who are able to afford it. Meaning those who have access to the internet, devices such as smartphones and laptops, and having no trouble in learning prior to the pandemic.

So, what is happening to those who are not so fortunate, but are required to do online learning? Most of them are struggling, of course. In Indonesia, based on OECD’s data, only 34% of students have computers to do their schoolwork compared to 95% in Switzerland, Norway, and Austria. In fact, Project Child Indonesia has been holding campaigns and opening internet data and device donations for those children who are unable to attend online classes due to their limitations. However, the lack of internet connection and devices is not the only thing that hindered some children in learning through online classes. There are children with special needs such as deafness, blindness, autism, and hyperactivity that just can’t do most of their learning online. They need a hands-on learning experience that stimulates them to learn.

Seeing the difficulties of online learning, is it here to stay for good then? For now, no one knows. The future is filled with unlimited possibilities, but one thing for sure, it will never cease to exist. In the future, we might have to balance both online and offline learning. Both ways of learning have their own positive and negative sides. It is up to us as the users to explore it and utilize it to its full potential.

Online Learning, Is It Just for Our Vulnerable Community?

Written By : Intan Realista Zanta Avhisa – Sekolah Sungai Program Manager

The contagious virus, COVID-19, had struck severely almost every country without exception. The major sectors to support basic human life could not be avoided to get impacted significantly since the appearance of the outbreak in the end of the year 2019. Education is definitely the sector that encounter unprecedented challenges throughout the pandemic. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that more than 850 million students around the world, or about half of all students, have been forced to stay at home. The students are deprived of education due to the prolonged widespread cases. 

The first positive case confirmed on March 2, 2020 in Indonesia led to the changes on the education system afterwards, as a respond to stop the spread of the pandemic. The Ministry of Education had declared some adjustments on face to face into online learning. The policy was also highlighting the cancellation of the national and semester exams and its possible substitution. The teacher and school are proposed to present the education on the awareness on the coronavirus among the students for the nonce. It was such an ideal answer to fight against the pandemic for education sector so that it was not stopped at all. Though the online learning continues the existence of education, it also reveals our inability to protect vulnerable community maximally and emboldens the social gaps at the moment.

Well-established schools located in urban area may adjust to the online learning quickly without meaningful obstacle since it becomes one of their daily approach to support the learning. Meanwhile, schools with minimum facilities located in rural area surely struggle to inform and conduct the shift from face to face into online learning. The accessibility of the online learning is also questionable though the Indonesia’s Internet users is in the fifth rank worldwide. There are still students who could not access online learning to catch up with the current education system out there. The parents who work as blue collar worker that were fired because of the pandemic obviously choose to buy food for their family’s survivability than credits for the children to follow the online learning.  This becomes a huge problem, since in this pandemic, they do not have their face to face learning as one and only accessible way to pursue education. Students are forced to stay at home and lost their opportunity to get appropriate education. For some students, online learning is a perfect solution while other students could not even enjoy the solution given due to their unfortunate conditions. 

The difficulties also occurred on the practice of the online learning. Online learning had been applied for quite a long time ago, but the challenges now lay on immense implementations throughout the country. It is used in all schools, all subjects and all-day. Many complaints from the students and parents to the unbearable tasks, deadline, and schedules are expressed every day. This shows the unpreparedness of Indonesia’s curriculum to be shifted into online learning. Some of the students were not accustomed to an independent learning process which becomes the important key of the online learning. The process of the learning is way more difficult for the student to develop in the current situation. Teachers and schools are also struggling to give the best contribution to the online learning through limited trainings and capacity.

The assistance of the schools and teachers in the learning is absence, which requires the replacement of the roles to the parents or guardian to ensure the process of the online learning. However, in the condition of the pandemic, this should be really analyzed on any possible scenario where the parents and guardian could be absence too. The parents may be busy to fulfil basic necessity to survive than accompanying their children to study. Some students may live with their grandparents which too old to utilize technology. In addition, not all students especially primary students are in the capacity to be an independent learner and able to operate the tool to access online learning by themselves. These circumstances are possibly to be happened and they become the most vulnerable victim of the situation. 

I am not saying Indonesia should stop the online learning due to some inefficiency of this policy. The policy should be appreciated as a direct respond to the pandemic. This is more to be a reminder for everyone in the education sector to keep looking for comprehensive solutions for the vulnerable communities to get access on education in the current condition. Students should learn how to be an independent learners, teacher must equip themselves to more online teaching strategy and government should be aware of the impact of each policy especially to the vulnerable communities. Knowing the fact that the similar situation possibly happens and it could force the students to stay at home anymore, therefore, our struggle does not stop when the pandemic is over.