Tag: coronavirus

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.”

Mahfud MD slammed for comparing coronavirus to wives

Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mohammad Mahfud MD, has been criticized sharply for comparing the novel coronavirus to a wife in an attempt to allay public concerns about easing COVID-19 restrictions. 

The Indonesian government is preparing to lift partial lockdowns in parts of the country in early June and adopt what it calls ‘the new normal’. 

“Are we going to be holed up forever? We can adjust to the situation while still paying attention to our health,” Mahfud said in a video posted on YouTube on Wednesday. 

“The other day I got a meme from my colleague Luhut Pandjaitan that says: Corona is like your wife. Initially you tried to control it, then you realize that you can’t. Then you learn to live with it,” he said in English. 

Pandjaitan is the coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment.  

The off-the-cuff remarks drew ire from women’s rights groups and other Indonesians online.

“Not only does the statement reflect the incompetence of the government in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, it also demonstrates the sexist and misogynistic attitudes of public officials,” Women’s Solidarity Society said in a statement.  

“Jokes that objectify women will only normalize the culture of violence against women,” it said.

Indonesians on social media joined the chorus of criticism. 

“A man who marries a woman with the intention to control her is horrifying. Comparing a woman to a virus is an insult to the dignity of women,” a Twitter user named Deslina wrote. 

Some Indonesians have expressed concerns about the plan to reopen the economy at a time when the curve appears to have not flattened. 

The government is deploying 340,000 security personnel in four provinces – Jakarta, West Java, West Sumatra and Gorontalo – to enforce “the new normal,” Armed Forces chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto. 

They have been tasked with ensuring the public observe health guidelines prescribed by the government, including wearing masks and respecting social distancing. 

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose to 23,851 on Wednesday, an increase of 686 from the previous day. 

An additional 55 deaths brought the number of fatalities to 1,473.

Dr. Corona chairs campaign to contain coronavirus chaos

It seems he was born and named for the job. Emergency medicine expert Dr. Corona Rintawan is heading a task force set up by Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“The Muhammadiyah COVID-19 Command Center (MCCC) is set up to consolidate all Muhammadiyah assets in an integrated effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” Rintawan said.

Rintawan was appointed to lead the MCCC, an interdisciplinary task force with 13 experts educating the public on how to stop the spread of the virus.

His emergency experience includes being in medical teams responding to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013 and the 2015 Nepal earthquake. He also took part in a humanitarian mission for the Rohingya in Myanmar in 2017.

“We are taking a proactive approach to assist the government in early diagnoses or early treatment for patients that show initial symptoms of infection,” Rintawan said.

He added: “We will ensure that such patients will receive treatment in accordance with the health protocol that the government has issued for the outbreak before we refer them to government hospitals should they need further treatment.”

The 45-year-old doctor, who is based at a Muhammadiyah-run hospital in Lamongan, East Java, said: “The public has to be well-informed that they could carry the risk of spreading the virus. We want to encourage the people to take the initiative to prevent it, by washing their hands often, getting themselves diagnosed should they feel they have symptoms, knowing when they have to wear face masks, donating masks to those who need them and eventually to self-isolate when necessary.

“It is about self-containment by one person who is aware of the situation and knows what to do to take care of oneself in the face of virus threats. It could create a positive domino effect in terms of reducing the potential to contract others with the virus.”

According to Rintawan, Muhammadiyah has designated 20 out of its 171 hospitals across the country to serve as referral facilities for persons suspected of having contracted the virus.

Asked about his name, the doctor said his parents would name their children in alphabetical order. Being the third, his name had to start with “c.”

“There was no such thing as baby name books at that time, so they decided to take my name from the Toyota Corona car, which was a popular model back in the 1970s, and as they also found that it means a crown, which symbolizes something good,” he said.

Government spokesperson for the outbreak Achmad Yurianto said Indonesia reports 17 new Covid-19 positive cases as per Monday, of which 14 are in Jakarta, raising the total confirmed cases to 134 including the first Indonesian senior official contracted by the virus, transport minister Budi Karya Sumadi.

Jakarta Governo Anies Baswedan on Monday urged city residents to exercise social distancing and companies to send staff to work from home, as government officials sent signals that hospitals are overburdened in treating coronavirus patients, with Yurianto saying that not all positive cases should be in hospital isolation and those with asymptomatic cases can self-isolate at home.

“The risk in this city is high. We have to be disciplined in exercising social distance,” Baswedan said.

The story has been updated from its original version in Arab News