Category: Education

Scant internet complicates remote learning in Indonesia

Wearing masks and face shields to guard against coronavirus, four pupils hunch over textbooks and a mobile phone during a remote learning session in a poor neighbourhood near the Indonesian capital.

“It’s not easy to learn online, and it’s also boring,” says 8-year-old Aldina, dressed in a bright red-and-white elementary school uniform and a matching face covering. “I wish I could be back in school so I can be with my friends and teachers,” she adds. 

Schools across Indonesia began implementing online learning as early as after the first cases of the novel coronavirus were detected in the country, but scant internet access in many areas and limited access to devices mean that many students are struggling to keep up.

Cellular coverage is spotty in Aldina’s densely populated neighbourhood in Bogor, a city just outside Jakarta, forcing her and three of her classmates to attend online classes outdoors on the side of the shallow Ciliwung river to get a signal.

“Apart from the weak phone signal, having to buy more pre-paid phone credit is a burden for us,” says Nur Aida, Aldina’s 42-year-old mother, who accompanies the children during classes.

“We don’t always have money for it,” she says.

Nearby, three junior high school students sit on a bench on the front porch of a modest house on the riverbank, each with a mobile phone. 

They are among those who have it easier. 

In West Sumatra province, some students have to walk several kilometres uphill to receive a cell signal to allow them to take part in remote classes, local officials say.  

Parents have also bore the brunt of the situation. 

Local media report that a 42-year-old man who was caught stealing a mobile phone in West Java admitted that he resorted to theft because he could not afford to buy one to be used by his child for remote learning.  

Education Minister Nadiem Makarim, former chief executive of the country’s most successful ride-hailing start-up, Gojek, said he is aware of the difficulties students and parents are facing.  

“It’s a challenging situation for all of us, and I sympathize with the parents and students for having to adapt to this different learning format abruptly,” he told local television.

“This isn’t something we all wanted. The choice is between learning poorly or not learning at all,” Makarim said.

He has promised that his ministry would come up with an emergency curriculum adapted to the pandemic and remote learning in a few days.

He also said the government would provide subsidies worth 3 trillion rupiah (205 million dollars) to schools to allow them to provide wider internet access and purchase devices for online learning.

About 65 per cent of Indonesia’s 265 million people have access to the internet, according to the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association. More people in the archipelago national have been able to access the internet in recent years thanks to the influx of cheap Chinese-made mobile phones and increasingly affordable data plans.

Fibre-optic internet access is still limited to major cities. 

Over 60 million students across Indonesia have been forced to attend remote classes during the pandemic, the SMERU Research Institute said in a report. While teachers in major cities are well-equipped to conduct classes online, those in villages have to travel as far as 30 kilometres to deliver lessons and homework to each student in-person because of a lack of internet access and gadgets, the institute said.

“If the problems persist until at least schools are reopened, it is highly likely that students under less fortunate circumstances will experience learning loss,” the report said.

“Learning inequality between students with different socio-economic backgrounds will also get even wider,” it said.

Around 80 per cent of Indonesians wanted schools to reopen even though daily Covid-19 cases show no signs of going down, according to the results of a survey by the private pollster Cyrus Network. 

Last week, the head of the country’s Covid-19 task force, Doni Monardo, said only schools in green zones across the country are allowed to reopen, but only 27 per cent of them were ready for physical classes.

“Some parents are happy for their children to return to school, but there are many others who object to in-person classes,” he tells a news conference. “The government leaves it to regional governments to decide.”

Indonesian president urged to ban child marriage

Women’s rights activists in Indonesia are pushing President Joko Widodo to issue a presidential regulation that will make child marriage illegal in the country, where its prevalence is one of the highest in world.

They submitted on Apr. 20 their proposed draft of a presidential regulation to Widodo, in lieu of a law to prevent and abolish early marriage. Presidential spokesman Johan Budi, confirmed that the meeting took place in Bogor Palace.

Naila Rizqi Zakiah, a public attorney from Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat) and one of the 18 activists invited to meet with him, said they raised three issues: Child marriage, the bill to amend the criminal code, and the bill against sexual violence.

“The first issue the president responded to was child marriage,” Zakiah said.

“We asked him to issue a presidential regulation in lieu of a law to prevent and stop child marriage. We’ve come up with a draft, and we submitted it to him for his perusal.”

She said Widodo responded “positively” to the proposal after they explained to him that child marriage could deny children their basic human rights and hinder national development.

“We submitted this draft because we think rampant child marriage in the country is an emergency situation, while the procedure in Parliament to amend the articles on the minimum age to marry in the marriage law could be lengthy,” Zakiah said.

The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection has urged Parliament to prioritize amending the 1974 marriage law to raise the minimum age for females to marry to 20 and for males to 22.

The law requires parental permission for those under 21 who want to marry. The minimum legal age for women to marry is 16, and 19 for men.

Parents can request a legal exemption from a religious court to marry children younger than that, with no limit on the minimum age.

Women’s and child rights activists have been advocating to raise the minimum legal age for females to marry to 18, in line with the child protection law that categorizes those under 18 as minors.

“It’s still not the ideal age to get married, but would be the minimum (acceptable),” said Maria Ulfa Anshor, a commissioner for the Indonesian Child Protection Commission.

“We appreciate the president’s response. We’ve been waiting for so long for this move, especially since the risks and dangers of child marriage, such as the high maternal mortality rate, are so real,” she added.

“I hope there will be no more child marriage, because the courts give exemptions to do so.”

The Constitutional Court in June 2015 rejected a request to review the marriage law and raise the legal age for girls to marry from 16 to 18.

According to UNICEF, child marriage in Indonesia is rampant, with more than one in six girls, or 340,000, getting married every year before they reach adulthood.

Child marriage is most prevalent among girls who are 16 and 17, but there has been a decline among under-15s.

The debate about banning child marriage resurfaced following media reports of a 14-year-old girl and her 15-year-old boyfriend in South Sulawesi province who sought an exemption from a religious court to get married, which they obtained. They reportedly got married on Monday.

The story was first published in Arab News

Indonesian university wages war on ISIS — with animations

Ahmad met his friends Udin and Ari at a mosque, and Ari asked him why he had not been around for some time.

When Ahmad said he had just returned from Syria, Ari replied in awe that he, too, wanted to go there to wage “jihad”.

When a teacher approached them and asked Ahmad the same question, Ari replied, saying: “He (Ahmad) just returned from Syria to wage jihad. Isn’t that cool?” But Ahmad told both men the caliphate propaganda was false and many innocent people had been killed in the name of the caliphate.

“They were Muslims just like us,” he said. The teacher closed the conversation by saying that Ari had learned his lesson and should understand he did not have to go far to wage jihad. The teacher then asked Ari to join him assisting elderly people.

“This is also jihad,” he said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 12.11.39
A screen grab from “Kembali dari Suriah” showing Ahmad, Udin, Ari and their teacher. The four characters appear in an animated clip aimed to counter radicalism among teenagers.

Ahmad, Udin and Ari are characters in an animated film entitled “Kembali dari Suriah,” or “Returning from Syria,” produced by the Center for the Study of Islam and Social Transformation (Cisform) at Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta. The short film — one of 20 animated clips produced to counter extremism among teenagers — was launched in Jakarta on Wednesday, following the February release of the first 20 clips in Yogyakarta.

Muhammad Wildan, Cisform’s director, said the films had been made to counter radical propaganda after earlier efforts to publish two short comics largely failed because of the poor reading habits of Indonesian teenagers.

“We decided to develop these animated short clips to expand our reach. They will be more accessible through social media,” Wildan said.

Most of the clips are between 90 seconds and three minutes long, depending on the content.

Wildan said the real challenge was to condense the message with the correct reference to Qur’an and package it in a maximum three-minute clip.

“We are careful when choosing our arguments that cite the Qur’an and the Hadith,” Wildan said.

Lecturers from the university had offered their expertise on specific subjects, he said.

Also present at the film launch was 20-year-old Nur Shadrina Khairadhania, who went to Syria as a teenager with her extended family. She shared her own account of emigrating to the so-called caliphate and explained why going to Syria to wage jihad was wrong.

Speaking to an audience of high school students, Khairadhania said that after her interest in Islam began to grow, she fell victim to ISIS online propaganda introduced to her by an uncle.

“I watched their videos, which showed that life would be really good in the caliphate. I was enticed to join,” Khairadhania said.

She convinced her father, Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, a high-ranking civil servant in Batam, Riau province, as well as her mother and two siblings, to migrate to Syria.

A group of 26 extended members of her family, including two uncles and a grandmother, left for Syria in 2015. After 19 managed to cross the border to Turkey, they quickly discovered that life in the caliphate was very different to the propaganda.

“Everything is contrary to Islamic teaching. A male family member was forced to fight and was put in detention for months when he refused,” she said.

The family tried for a year to leave and finally returned to Indonesia in August 2017.

Family members completed a rehabilitation program run by the national counterterrorism agency, but now her father and uncle are facing terrorism charges.

Rebuilding her life had been difficult because of the stigma of her past, she said.

“But God gave me a second chance to live. This is probably my jihad, to tell the truth to people so no one will be deceived like us,” she said.

This story was first published in Arab News

Islamic boarding schools lead way in waste management

Lombok, West Nusa tenggara (NTB)- Islam teaches that cleanliness is half the faith. The tenet is religiously practiced at Isti Daduddarain Islamic boarding school in the Medana village, Lombok Utara regency in West Nusa Tenggara province. Continue reading “Islamic boarding schools lead way in waste management”