Tag: indonesia

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.”

Indonesia urges pregnancy postponement amid fears of COVID-19 baby boom

Indonesia’s family planning agency on Thursday urged couples to delay pregnancies after estimates showed that 10 percent of reproductive couples in the fourth most-populous country had abandoned contraception as a result of restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lack of access to contraceptives could result in 420,000 unplanned pregnancies, sparking fears of a COVID-19 baby boom, said Hasto Wardoyo, the head of the National Population and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN).

“With an additional 420,000 births next year, population growth in Indonesia could surge dramatically,” he said. “If you plan to get pregnant, now is not the right time.”

The government estimates that about 15 percent of 3 million couples who stopped using contraception between March and April could end up pregnant, Hasto said, adding that 95 percent of contraceptive users in Indonesia are women.

Hasto said people had been reluctant to visit health clinics because of fears they would contract COVID-19, while many health workers have suspended their practices to avoid contact with other people.

Government health workers assisted by military personnel are going door-to-door to provide contraceptives and other family planning services, along with personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel in the field of reproductive health, he said.

Health officials in Tasikmalaya, a regency in West Java province, reported earlier this month that the pregnancy rate doubled to more than 3,200 in the January-to-March period compared to last year.

“The April-to-May period may see another rise,” said Uus Supangat, chief of the Tasikmalaya health office, according to Kumparan.com online news portal.

Nearly 5 million babies are born every year in Indonesia and about 28 million couples were using contraception last year, according to government data.

COVID-19 cases

Indonesia recorded 973 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the largest single-day rise so far, taking the total to 20,162. East Java province saw the highest daily increase on Thursday, 502, COVID-19 task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said.

Globally, more than 5 million people have been infected by COVID-19 and nearly 330,000 have died as of Thursday, according to data compiled by disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Obstetrics and Gynecology Association (POGI) has urged couples planning pregnancy to postpone visits to clinics until the pandemic is under control as health workers are focusing their attention on providing services to expectant women to prevent COVID-19-related complications.

“Even though there’s no evidence yet that the fetus can be infected by COVID-19, we still have to take precautions,” said Budi Wiweko, POGI’s deputy secretary general.

“We have to avoid caesarian delivery as much as possible,” he said.

Angga Sisca Rahadian, a researcher with the Population Research Center at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said the predicted 420,000 additional births in 2021 would make it harder for Indonesia to achieve its total fertility rate target of 2.1. The rate refers to the average number of children a woman would have if she survives all reproductive years.

Indonesia’s total fertility rate is 2.4, according to a 2017 demographic and health survey.

“With the increase in pregnancy rates during the pandemic, it will certainly affect the growth rate,” Angga said, referring to population growth.

Angga said the government must ensure that women who are pregnant during the pandemic are given maternity care.

“These are unplanned pregnancies and the government has to find ways to keep pregnant women well-nourished to prevent complications,” she said.

Infant mortality rate in Indonesia is 24 per 1,000 live births, while under-5 mortality rate is 32 per 1,000 live births, far beyond the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of 70 per 100,000 live births, according to the 2017 demographic survey.

Travel concerns

Task force spokesman Yurianto attributed the jump in single-day COVID-19 cases in Indonesia to increased testing and the failure to observe social distancing measures.

He warned that the country could see an increase in infections because of higher mobility during the holy month of Ramadan culminating in the Eid al-Fitr festival, which falls on Sunday.

Traffic in the greater Jakarta region has been busier in recent days ahead of Eid al-Fitr, while airports, sea ports and markets have also started to reopen.

The head of the COVID-19 task force’s team of experts, Wiku Adisasmito, said public perception that travel restrictions had been relaxed could also be a factor.

“It could be due to increased testing, or due to the lack of discipline in observing health protocols,” he said.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Monday said the government would not ease restrictions amid criticism that the government is silently relaxing measures to curb the spread the virus to keep the economy running.

Speculation that the government is taking steps toward reopening the economy emerged last week after Wiku said residents 45 and younger could be allowed to return to work.

He said West Java has been a bright spot in the fight against COVID-19 for its success in flattening the curve.

“Hopefully other provinces can catch up,” he said.

East Java Deputy Gov. Emil Dardak told local television that the provincial government had tested not only people who showed symptoms of COVID-19, but those who were at risk, resulting in the high number of daily cases.

The story was first published on BenarNews.org

Minister urges fatwa requiring rich to marry poor

An Indonesian minister has called for a fatwa, or religious edict, requiring the rich to marry the poor to reduce inequality.

“What happens is the poor marry the poor and they create more poor families,” Minister of Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy was quoted as saying by the news portal Tempo.co.

“The religious affairs minister should issue a fatwa requiring the rich to marry the poor and the poor marry the rich,” he said.

In November, Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi said he was considering requiring those wishing to get married undergo a pre-marital preparation course.

He has not responded to Muhadjir’s suggestion.

A 2017 study by international charity Oxfam found that four richest Indonesians own as much wealth as the country’s poorest 100 million citizens. Indonesia is home to 260 million people.

Australian presenter tries luck at saving Palu croc

An Australian animal expert is trying his luck at freeing a crocodile that has been stuck for years with a motorcycle tyre around its neck on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

A contest to get the tyre off the saltwater crocodile was called off earlier this month after no one volunteered.

Matt Wright, the host of the Nat Geo Wild series Outback Wrangler, arrived in Palu on Monday at the invitation of the local conservation agency and began building a trap to catch the crocodile.

“We have managed to set one trap in the river and plan to head over this arvo (afternoon) with the police to try our luck on the river,” Wright wrote on Instagram on Wednesday.

The crocodile was first spotted in 2016 with the tyre in a river running through Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province.

Palu River_1
The Palu River runs through the city of Palu in Central Sulawesi. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

At the time, officials at the conservation agency feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.

Local authorities estimate there are 36 crocodiles in the area.

Last month, agency head Hasmuni Hasmar offered a reward to anyone who could get the tyre off the crocodile, but cancelled the offer after no one came forward.

Hasmar said Wright was accompanied by fellow Australian crocodile wrangler Chris Wilson.

“He is also training members of our specialized team who are helping him,” he said.

Previous attempts by local psychics, members of an Australian conservation group and even a celebrity animal whisperer to try to remove the tyre failed.

Push for all things halal divide opinion in Indonesia

After an official suggested that the Lake Toba area on Indonesia’s Sumatra island could be turned into a halal tourism destination, activist Togu Simorangkir came up with the idea of holding a pork festival as an act of resistance.

The event from October 25-26 involved pork cooking and pig catching competitions and was attended by 300,000 people from all over the country, according to Simorangkir.

“It was a big success even though it was just a spontaneous response against making North Sumatra a halal destination,” says Simorangkir, a British-educated activist who founded Alusi Tao Toba, a foundation dedicated to improving the communities around Lake Toba.

“The festival is not about religion, but about maximizing local tourism potential,” he says, adding that most people in the area make a living as farmers.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic rules because the meat is considered unclean.

The Indonesian government established a new halal certification agency under the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2017. Since then, everything from refrigerators and microwaves to cat food can be certified as halal, or religiously permissible.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but is also home to several other religions. About 63 per cent of North Sumatra’s 15 million people are Muslim, but members of the indigenous Batak tribe, to which Simorangkir belongs, are mainly Christian.

Simorangkir says the idea of halal tourism in North Sumatra is divisive.

“I think there’s no need to divide people based on religion,” he says. “Here there are many mosques and people from all over the world come.”

“If they want tourism to thrive here, they should crack down on companies that destroy the environment,” he adds.

Simorangkir says the pork festival was initially opposed by local leaders and tour operators because of fears it would offend Muslims and hurt tourism.

“The word ‘pig’ has negative connotations in our society, when in fact it’s just an animal, like cows and buffaloes,” he says.

Critics fear that halal tourism, intended to attract Muslim visitors from wealthy Middle Eastern countries and all over the world, could mean a ban on alcohol, separate facilities for men and women and other restrictions.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi has denied suggestions he wants to turn the Lake Toba area into a sharia-compliant destination.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com, adding that he was simply suggesting that infrastructure be improved to serve visitors from Muslim countries such as Malaysia.

“So, when Muslims come to a place, […] there’s halal food,” he said. “Even in Thailand, where Buddhists are the majority, there are halal restaurants.”

The head of the Religious Ministry’s Halal Certification Administering Agency, Sukoso, says food and drinks, cosmetics, drugs and other consumer products will have to be certified halal by 2026 according to a 2014 law.

“As for household goods, it should be determined what materials they are made of,” he says, adding that products made of leather are subject to halal certification to ensure they do not contain materials from pigs.

The country’s first halal certified corrective glasses were launched in early November by PT Atalla Indonesia, according to the state Antara news agency.

“Even though glasses are not yet among products that need to be halal certified, the company has done it. I appreciate the effort,” Industry Ministry official Gati Wibawaningsih said at the launch event.

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp last year launched what it described as the first line of halal refrigerators in Indonesia.

The company expects sales in the segment to grow between 10 and 20 per cent with the introduction of halal products.

“We want our customers to have peace of mind when using our products,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia sales general manager Andri Adi Utomo said in a statement.

But some Indonesians have questioned why consumer products needs to be certified halal, with many taking to social media to ait their views.

“Now that there are halal glasses, watching porn will no longer be sinful,” one Twitter user joked.

Talk of introducing halal tourism to cater to Muslim visitors in the popular resort island of Bali, a mainly Hindu enclave of Indonesia, has also faced opposition from locals.

Earlier this year, vice presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno sparked controversy after he said he would promote halal tourism in Bali if he and his presidential running mate Prabowo Subianto were elected.

They were defeated by incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin in the April election.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster rejected the idea.

“Bali is a cultural tourism destination,” he told local media. “There’s no need for such narrow branding.”

Jerinx, the frontman of popular Bali-based rock band Superman Is Dead, said the concept was irrelevant.

“Bali has always been friendly to Muslims. What the f*** is wrong with you people?” he wrote on Twitter.

Garuda sues YouTube reviewer over handwritten menu post

 An Indonesian YouTube personality said on Tuesday he had been sued by national airline Garuda over a social media posting about a hand-written business-class menu.

Rius Vernandes, a popular vlogger, posted an Instagram photo showing the menu written on a piece of notebook paper on Saturday with the caption: “The menu is still being printed, sir.”   

The post went viral and prompted Indonesian social media users to mock the airline. 

Rius said he has received a summons from the police in connection with the post.   

“We’ve been reported for defamation. I’m sure you know I had no intention whatsoever to defame anyone,” he said on Instagram. 

“I hope you can support me because I don’t want anyone to be prosecuted for an honest review and constructive criticism,” he said. 

Garuda said the handwritten menu was made by a cabin crew member for personal use and not intended to be handed out to passengers.

Police confirmed that Garuda had filed a defamation case against Rius. 

Garuda came under more criticism on Tuesday after a circular instructing the cabin crew to prohibit passengers from taking photos or videos mid-air circulated on social media. 

The airline later clarified that the directive had been withdrawn, but said that passengers are advised to respect other people’s privacy by not taking their photos.     

“Passengers can take photos for personal use such as selfies as long as they do not inconvenience other passengers,” the company’s spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said in a statement. 

More than 300 election workers in Indonesia die of exhaustion

At least 287 polling station workers and 18 police officers have died mainly from exhaustion and illnesses associated with overwork after Indonesia’s elections this month, officials said Monday.

The world’s fourth-largest country held the legislative and presidential elections in a single day for the first time on April 17, but the high death toll prompted public calls for the polls to be held separately. 

“So far, 287 election workers across the country have died and 2,095 have fallen ill,” said Arief Priyo Susanto, spokesman for the General Election Commission.

“The main cause of the deaths is exhaustion and some accidents and illnesses caused by exhaustion,” he added.

The electoral commission said a total of 150 workers died from similar causes during the 2014 presidential and legislative elections, which were held three months apart. 

More than seven million workers were involved in what many experts described as the world’s largest and most complicated single-day election, with voting and vote-counting conducted manually. 

Nearly 193 million Indonesians were eligible to vote, with the turnout estimated at 81 per cent.

Voters elected a president, 575 members of the House of Representatives, 136 members of the Regional Representative Council and almost 20,000 members of local legislatures.

Officials said holding the elections simultaneously was a cost-saving measure, but it has proved to be a massive logistical challenge to distribute ballot papers and ballot boxes across the far-flung archipelago. 

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said 18 officers also died from working long hours during the elections. 

The government has promised to provide compensation of up to 36 million rupiah (2,500 dollars) for surviving families.

Prabowo tells pollsters to move to Antarctica as he rejects unofficial election results

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto on Friday accused pollsters of lying after unofficial counts showed he lost this week’s election to incumbent President Joko Widodo, telling them to move to Antarctica.

Prabowo has rejected the so-called quick counts, released by private pollsters from samples of polling stations, that give Joko an 8-percentage-point lead over Prabowo.

“Ladies and gentlemen, do you trust fake pollsters?” Prabowo asked more than 1,000 supporters gathering outside his house in south Jakarta.

The crowd responded in unison: “No!”

“You cheating pollsters may be able to lie to penguins in Antarctica, but Indonesia doesn’t want to listen to you anymore,” Prabowo said.

Supporters gathered outside Prabowo’s spacious house and chanted religious songs after Friday prayers.

Quick counts have proved accurate in predicting winners in past Indonesian elections.

But Prabowo said that actual votes at more than 300,000 polling stations showed him leading with 62 per cent.

Prabowo said Thursday that he had won the presidency and urged his supporters to monitor the official vote count to stop cheating.

“We are declaring our victory early because we have proof that there have been various attempts at fraud in many villages, sub-districts, districts and cities across Indonesia,” he said.

Official results will not be announced until later next month. 

He made a similar claim of victory in 2014 after unofficial counts showed that he lost narrowly to Joko.  

Joko, for his part, said that he had “99 per cent” confidence in the quick count results pointing to his victory.

Indonesia’s armed forces chief, Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, warned that any unrest would be dealt with sternly. 

“We will not tolerate and will take stern action against attempts to disturb public order or unconstitutional acts that undermine the democratic process,” he said. 

Jokowi favoured for re-election, but Prabowo closing in

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was in a combative mood during a campaign rally over the weekend, as he made late pitches to voters ahead of next month’s presidential election.

“I have been slandered, I have been accused of things, I was vilified and looked down on and I have been silent,” he said at a campaign stop in the central Java city of Yogyakarta on Saturday.

“But today, in Yogyakarta I say, I will fight!” he said to the cheers of his supporters who shouted: “Fight! Fight!”

Jokowi was alluding to accusations from his critics that he is anti-Muslim, that he would ban the Islamic call to prayer if he wins a second five-year term in the April 17 election, and other attacks on his character.

The president has reason to worry.

A new poll suggested that his opponent, former general Prabowo Subianto, is gaining ground.

A survey by the private pollster Litbang Kompas released last week found that Jokowi was likely to win 49.2 per cent, while Prabowo was favoured by 37.4 per cent. About 13 per cent of respondents were undecided.

It was a wake-up call for Jokowi, who had a comfortable lead of nearly 20 per cent in October.

Analysts say Jokowi appears on track for re-election if various polls are anything to go by, but Prabowo could still pull off a surprise.

“Anything can happen during the remaining campaign period,” said Adi Prayitno, a political analyst at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University in Jakarta.  

“The Kompas survey shows that the gap is narrowing and this should be a cause for concern for Jokowi,” he said.

Prabowo, a former special forces commander and now a wealthy businessman, has portrayed himself as a champion of the poor.

At a campaign rally on Monday in Papua province, one of the country’s poorest regions, he lambasted what he called “the Jakarta elite,” which he said has failed to bring prosperity to the people.

“The elite are only concerned about their own interests,” Prabowo told the crowd who shouted his name. “Their only motive is to enrich themselves and their relatives.” 

Jokowi has touted successes in improving the country’s dilapidated infrastructure by building new roads, ports, airports and dams.

Meanwhile, the Prabowo camp has accused the current administration of failing to shore up the economy, currently growing at 5 per cent annually, and of having a penchant for debt.

The country has also struggled with a widening current account deficit and a weak currency, which fell in September to the lowest level since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

The April election is a repeat of the 2014 poll, when Jokowi beat Prabowo narrowly after a divisive campaign period marked by mudslinging from both sides, including accusations that Joko was an ethnic Chinese communist.

This year’s election will be held simultaneously with the parliamentary polls, which are contested by 16 national parties.

Nearly 250,000 candidates are vying for the more than 20,000 seats in national, provincial and municipal parliaments.

About 193 million people, including 80 million people born after 1980, are eligible to vote, making it the world’s biggest direct presidential election, according to the General Election Commission. 

There will be around 800,000 polling stations and six million election workers.

Jokowi has chosen Ma’ruf Amin, a conservative Muslim cleric and chairman of the semi-official Indonesian Ulema Council, as his vice presidential candidate, apparently to fend off accusations that he is insufficiently Islamic.

But conservative Muslims appear determined to prevent him from being re-elected by rallying around Prabowo, according to the the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in a report released this month.

“The Islamists already have had a major impact on the campaign by forcing Jokowi to defend allegations that he is anti-Islam and anti-poor and by moving the definition of what constitutes moderation to the right,” the report said.

“Their support for [Prabowo] is conditional and half-hearted, but measures taken by the Jokowi government to try to weaken, co-opt and stigmatize them as extremists have only strengthened what otherwise would be a fragile alliance,” it said.

Lion air crash: Third pilot was on plane’s next-to-last flight

A third pilot was on a Lion Air flight that encountered technical problems the night before the same plane crashed into the sea on October 29, Indonesia crash investigators said Thursday. 

A different crew piloted the Boeing 737 Max 8 on its fatal last flight and was unable to fix reportedly similar problems, causing the plane to plummet into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.   

“It is true there was another pilot in the cockpit during the flight [from Bali to Jakarta],” said Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT). 

The third pilot was an off-duty staffer who was returning from Bali to Jakarta and was qualified to fly the Max 8. 

“The pilot has been interviewed by KNKT but we will not disclose the content of the interview,” Soerjanto said. 

The news agency Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing two unnamed sources, that the extra pilot correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane.

The off-duty pilot told the crew to cut power to the motor in the trim system that was driving the nose down, the report said.

A preliminary report on the accident released in November revealed that the pilots of the doomed flight tried to pull the aircraft back up repeatedly as the aircraft’s automatic nose-down manoeuvre was activated. 

Investigators have focused on the role of a new feature in the Boeing aircraft, known as the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), in the crash.

The system has been installed by Boeing on its latest generation of 737 to prevent the plane’s nose from getting too high and causing the aircraft to stall.

But in the fatal incident last month, it appeared to have forced the nose down after receiving erroneous information from sensors.

On March 10, a Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Air crashed, killing all 157 people on board. There are concerns that a similar malfunction may have caused the crash.

Tjahjono declined to comment on remarks by Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges that there were “clear similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash.

“If there’s a new development and KNKT has access to information on the ET302 accident, we will look into and analyse it thoroughly to complement our investigation into the Lion Air crash,” he said. 

Tjahjono also denied that KNKT had leaked the contents of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), after Reuters reported quoting anonymous sources that the pilots scrambled through the handbook to save the aircraft.

“They are not the same as the contents of the CVR. The accounts are someone else’s opinion,” he said.

Another KNKT investigator, Nurcahyo Utomo, said: “Based on the CVR, we can assume that for the most part of the flight, they were calm.”

“In the last few seconds of the flight, it seemd they panicked after they realized they could not recover the aircraft,” he added.