Sunday, 28 October 2018

Learning Brings Hope Amidst the Rubble in Tsunami-stricken Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi


By Lely Djuhari, UNICEF Communication Specialist 



PALU, Indonesia 28 October –  A faint but a determined heartbeat has returned to the provincial capital city of Palu in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi. A month after a powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated this once palm-fringed bayside area, 11-year-old girl Sophia Angelica Majid woke up from her slumber on one sunny morning.

Her room is now a tent, shared with nine other family members and neighbours. Her bed is a mattress, protected by a mosquito net. Her morning routine now includes showering or washing her face and hands with soap; brushing her teeth with water from a large container at the end of a field dotted with white and khaki green canvas temporary shelters.


She no longer has a school bag, full of books. Her laptop, full of homework notes, computer games, and her favourite Disney movies Frozen and Moana, is nowhere to be found.



With only one exercise book and a pen, she started to get ready for her school day. Her mother Evni Majid bid her goodbye as she busied herself filling in a city form to record that she, her husband, Sophia and her two brothers were safe. Though it would be forever imprinted in her mind how they ran desperately to get away from the waves that engulfed large swathes of the shoreline. Sophia’s quick reaction made her grab two mobile phones. They became the family’s lifeline in the following chaotic days, trying to find food, drink and information on where the rest of the family sought refuge.

On Sophia’s 30-minute-walk to school amidst the debris, cars and motorbikes rumbled in the streets as her hometown came back to life.

“Oh my, that entire wall is gone,” Sophia gasped, as she arrived to SDN Inpres II Talise and gazed for the first time the surreal landscape at the back of her school, which faced the waterfront. “It’s heartbreaking. This used to be a neat row of school buildings. There was a large housing complex over there. There used to be durian fruit sellers (on the coastline). Now it’s all gone.”


 
Of the 202 students registered at Sophia’s school only 70 from all the six grades showed up that day. However, she and her friends sat down on the plastic-covered ground ready to learn the first lesson of the day.

It's a long way from normal, but it's a start.
UNICEF was the first UN agency to transport 94 metric tonnes of essential emergency supplies through an airbridge from a neighbouring island of Borneo. Sophie’s school was one of the first to receive the 450 school tents and 300 school-in-a-box that UNICEF has committed to deliver to over 1,400 affected schools, more than184,000 children and nearly 13,000 teachers. UNICEF also successfully advocated a standard-setting first as the Government procured another 150 tents using UNICEF specifications. 




The Head of the Education Office Irwan Lahece has issued a back to school appeal. All schools are to resume school from 8 to 11 AM in the morning, with an hour dedicated to psychosocial support – singing, playing games, talking in a group or one-on-one with the teachers about whatever is on their mind.

But aftershocks are still a regular occurrence. Many parents fear that after surviving thus far, their lives may still be changed for the worse. Officials are still confirming the total number of children who have already regained access to education. They will also step up efforts to clear up broken furniture, mangled metal pieces, shards of glass from the school grounds. Another challenge for the coming months is to set up latrines and handwashing facilities in the school tents.

The searing heat outside of the not-quite-yet noon sun signalled that classes were over. The tent was considerably cooler as the teachers raised the wall flaps to allow air to circulate inside the 72-meter square room. The children – including Sophia - lined up to receive a UNICEF white bag with exercise books, pens, rulers, an eraser, a sharpener and crayons.



A bag full of hope to add to her sole school possession of one note book and one pen.
“Education is for every child. There are hundreds and thousands of children affected by the earthquake and tsunami here. It’s time for them to go back to school and get a sense of normalcy in their lives,” said Yusra Tebe, UNICEF Emergency Education Specialist. He added that with the onset of a monsoon, in some areas their hardships may be compounded by more landslides.



After school, Sophia and her older brother returned to her house stripped of its roof, wooden walls, doors. Only a cement foundation is now left behind, marking the four rooms of her house. She looks through the wreckage to try and find some of her belongings, including her school uniform, shoes or sandals without any luck. She manages to find a white frilly dress belonging to Tasha her friend and promises to tell her of the find.


With the Government of Indonesia leading the response, UNICEF was ready to support in the critical hours and days after an emergency in Central Sulawesi. A six-month plan has been completed. UNICEF now stands ready to support the Government, partners and the community, as the emergency response moves into early recovery.





Saturday, 13 October 2018

A child found, a family reunited


By Kinanti Pinta Karana, UNICEF Indonesia Communications Specialist




Iqbal As Sywie parked his motorbike at the Central Sulawesi Office of Social Affairs and half ran to the blue tent where the Child Protection Joint Secretariat located. “Is he here yet?” he asked Astrid Gonzaga Dionisio, a UNICEF Child Protection Specialist staff who shook her head and smiled, “He’ll be here, Pak, take a deep breath.”

Iqbal, 33, smiled and looked at his mother, Marta.  Iqbal is the father of Mufli, 10, and Fikri, 7. Both sons went missing after the earthquake and tsunami hit the cities of Palu and Donggala on 28 September 2018. “They are good children, they kiss my hand before going to school and mengaji (Quran reciting course, a common after-school activity for children of Islamic faith),” he said.

He reported the missing children to the Child Protection Joint Secretariat Post. The social workers filed the report and shared it with colleagues in other posts in Central Sulawesi. When disaster strikes, children are often separated from their parents or immediate families and in many cases, missing. In Central Sulawesi, as of October 11, the number of separated[1] and unaccompanied[2] children is estimated to be 300, while the number of registered missing children is 74.

The Social Ministry’s social workers (Satuan Bakti Pekerja Sosial or Sakti Peksos) in collaboration with UNICEF provided a host of support for children affected by the Central Sulawesi disaster. From psycho-social support to help children cope with the traumatic experience to family tracing and reunification (FTR) to reunify separated families. Twelve posts will be set up in disaster-hit areas to identify children who are separated or unaccompanied. Similar posts have been set up in Makassar to register separated/unaccompanied children moving out of Palu.

After days of tracing, social workers found a child matching the description of Fikri in Morowali Utara, a district located eight hours away from Palu. After a series of cross-checking and a thorough identification process, it was confirmed that Fikri had been found. Today, the elated family gathered at the Joint Secretariat tent for their reunification with Fikri.

Iqbal, his mother and some members of his extended family sat on the tarpaulined floor, when a small child entered carrying a bag of toys in his hand. It was Fikri. Iqbal broke in tears and hugged his lost son.



“Masya Allah (whatever Allah will), Fikri, you are alive,” he said between tears as he kissed his forehead.

Fikri was playing outside the house with his older brother, Mufli (10), when tsunami swept them away. He was stranded on a pedestrian walk and rescued by a local person who was being evacuated to Morowali Utara. The situation in Palu at that time was still very chaotic, the person decided to bring Fikri with him while trying to get medical help on the way. He filed a report at the social worker’s post in the district while caring for the child.  

“This is a miracle. It makes me and the social workers happy every time we are successful in reuniting a child with their families,” the Director of Child Rehabilitation at the Ministry of Social Affairs Nahar (it is common for Indonesians to have only one name) said.

Prior to the meeting, Iqbal and his family had had a chance to speak to Fikri over the phone. They were thankful to know he was well treated by the family and he had been going to Quran reciting course.

UNICEF Indonesia Child Protection Specialist Naning Puji Julianingsih said that family tracing and reunification is important because a child should be with their family. “The best environment for a child is with their own immediate or extended families. Institutional care or family-based adoption should be the last options,” Naning said.

UNICEF recently introduced digital-based innovation named Primero application. Data of separated children found will automatically be matched with missing children report. UNICEF currently works with Social Ministry to conduct a training for social workers whose main task is to trace and reunify separated children with their families.

“I can’t tell you how I feel right now, I want to meet with the person who rescued my son and thanked him in person,” Iqbal said. He still had not heard any news of Mufli but he remained hopeful. His mother, Marta, touched her son’s hand and said, “Wherever he is, I hope he (Mufli) is alive and with good people,” she said.





[1] Separated children are those separated from both parents, or from their previous legal or customary primary care-giver, but not necessarily from other relatives. These may therefore, include children accompanied by other adult family members. Source: Inter-Agency Guiding Principles on unaccompanied and separated children, 2004
[2] Unaccompanied children (also called unaccompanied minors) are children who have been separated from both  parents and other relatives and are not being cared for by an adult, who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so. Source: Inter-Agency Guiding Principles on unaccompanied and separated children, 2004


Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Indonesia’s Famed Spice Islands Aim to Have ‘No Child Left Behind’ in MR Campaign

By Tomi Soetjipto

With a confidence of an army cadet, four-year old Jupe Rusmani stomped into a small-dilapidated room full of health workers armed with injection needles. Her poise surprised everyone, including Jupe’s Mother, Nor Rusmani, who stood outside smiling.
Armendo Fransesco received the Measles & Rubella vaccine
©Fauzan Yo/UNICEF Indonesia/2018

“What a brave little girl you are,” said one of the nurses before she injected life-saving Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccines on Jupe’s upper left arm.  Within seconds Jupe walked out the room and shook her head furiously when asked by her ‘aunties’ neighbours whether she felt pain from the injection. 

Buoyed by Jupe’s confidence, other kids followed her steps, including eight-year old Gloria Titahena who didn’t flinch her eyes when the injection needle rested on her bony upper arm. With a timid smile, Gloria then posed for a photograph while holding a sign in local language that says, “I’m brave, I just had a rubella vaccination ”. Another kid, five-year old Armendo Fransesco, a cheerful boy with shoulder-length curly hair, held up another sign that says, “Want to be healthy? Have a Rubella vaccination”
Mothers in Waimahu Passo, city of Ambon, took their children to receive Measles & Rubella vaccine
©Fauzan Yo/UNICEF Indonesia/2018 

It’s been an eventful day for the children of Waimahu Passo in  Ambon, capital of the Moluccas province.  On this recent September day, around 23 kids have been registered to receive MR vaccines, as part of a nationwide second phase campaign to immunize 31.9 million children. The first phase was done in the main island of Java in 2017, targeting around 35 million children. Lying at the eastern part of Indonesia, Ambon is part of the famed Moluccas islands, once a sought-after colonial destination due to their spices.

As of early September, around 50 per cent of children aged above nine months to below 15 years in Ambon city, or around 50 thousand have been vaccinated against MR. The port city is targeting around 114 thousand children whilst the provincial target stands at around 546 thousand.
Rosa Penturi is doing puppet shows and singing to relieve children's tension during the Measles & Rubella vaccine activity
©Fauzan Yo/UNICEF Indonesia/2018 

Waimahu Passo is not your usual neighborhood. The community of makeshift houses was built out of a dark chapter in Ambon’s history when it was engulfed in communal violence in 1999. All of the 300 residents living in this crammed zone lost their homes and belongings when mayhem gripped Ambon.

19 years on, the displaced community has made Waimaho Passo their home, with many finding jobs in the informal sector as vegetable sellers or motorcycle taxis.

Local NGO, Yayasan Pelangi Maluku, has been at the forefront of efforts to include marginalized children into the MR campaign.
 
“At first we informed community leaders about the government’s plan, then we visited the communities a couple of times, informing them about the danger of MR. So far it’s been a great,” said Rosa Penturi, Head of Yayasan Pelangi Maluku, her left hand is covered with a sock puppet.  Rosa has been giving puppet performances and sing-a-long sessions to ease children’s tension.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

We are Rubella’s Heroes!

By Dolly Dupe and Ermi Ndoen
 
Rubella Heroes Wall at KIMS school. (C) UNICEF Indonesia/2018/Tc.Imel

Eleven-year old Audhyni closed her tiny eyes as her round face contorted with terror. The Grade Six student was seconds away from receiving the life-saving measles and rubella (MR) vaccine as part of the Indonesian Government’s mass vaccination campaign against MR.

A teacher who sat next to Audhyni wrapped her arms around her waist for comfort.

But as soon as the nurse was done with the injection; a sense of relief lifted Audhyni’s spirit.  

“It’s not painful at all,” she said smiling. “It felt like an ant was biting me,” she added to the laugh of teachers and other students who had thronged the classroom in Kupang International Montessori School (KIMS), in the provincial capital of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT).

Within minutes Audhyni rushed to a nearby wall and dipped her hands into a bucket of paint.  She then pressed them firmly onto the wall – leaving behind colourful handprints on the white background.  

“I am a hero now - We are the heroes of Rubella”, she said with pride, showing her painted hands to her friends and teachers.
Once vaccinated, the children put a triumphant handprint on the wall. (C) UNICEF Indonesia/2018/Brigitta De Rosari

Lying in the southeast side of Indonesia, NTT is one of the 28 provinces where phase 2 of the vaccination campaign is taking place, in August and September 2018.  More than 1.7 million children in NTT Province are being targeted in this mass immunization drive, including Audhyni and her friends.

The campaign to vaccinate all children from measles and rubella began last year in six provinces of the island of Java.  Phase 1 was a huge success, with all 35 million children receiving the life-saving vaccines. Once phase 2 is completed this year, around 67 million Indonesians are expected to be vaccinated against measles and rubella.

MR vaccines not only protect children developing measles and rubella themselves, but also protect their future children from congenital defects caused by the rubella virus during pregnancy. These include hearing problems, visual impairment, cardiac abnormalities and intellectual disabilities. According to WHO, Indonesia was one of the top ten countries in the world with the most number of measles incidents as of 2015. 

The students, teachers and parents of KIMS school were all very eager to take part in the vaccination drive, having heard about the danger of measles and rubella. “We want to support the MR Campaign because it is a programme from the Government, and we want Indonesian children, especially our own children to be free from measles and rubella”, said Ms Dolly, the school principal.

“When KIMS got the letter from the puskesmas [Health Centre], we forwarded it [to the parents],” she said  “From the day we received the letter, we started sharing information with our students and answering any questions from them”.

To facilitate information sharing, the school then set up a group discussion on whatsapp.  “We tried to answer all the parents’ questions. We only shared information from trusted media and we encouraged them to join their children during the vaccination”.

Dolly and her team of teachers also went a step further to help encourage the students to have fun during what might otherwise be a scary time. “We used handprints [to make a] ‘Heroes Wall’ as appreciation for their fearlessness in facing the injection. It was also a way to distract them from their pain and, last but not least, we wanted to have fun on that day, which happened to fall on Friday, traditionally our fun activities’ day.”

Dolly and the other teachers used the slogan ‘We are Rubella’s Heroes’ as their school’s statement to encourage parents, children and their communities to join the MR campaign.
(C) UNICEF Indonesia/2018/Tc. Vanny

“As we can see from the pictures, even though the kids were terrified, they took the shot and after a couple of minutes they were eager to do the handprinting and forgot about the pain!”

The fun activities have even prompted other students who missed the vaccination due to ill health and other reasons, to ask for a follow up visit so they can put their handprints on the wall too.

Indeed, the children are now the real MR heroes.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Annual Report

 Welcome to UNICEF Indonesia's Annual Report 2017


Please download the full report here: English Bahasa Indonesia
SDGs Begin With Children
In her foreword, our Representative Gunilla Olsson mentions several programmes that you can read about or watch some great short videos, by clicking the links below.
 
 




At UNICEF, we believe sustainable development begins with children, and this year we came one step closer to making children more more visible in the SDGs. Together with the Government, we produced the SDG Baseline Report on Children in Indonesia, generating evidence that can be used to inform policy decisions.
You can download the full report, and explore the online dashboard here:
English
Bahasa Indonesia
SDG Online Dashboard


In Java we have trained midwives to use the Infobidan platform, so now over 20,000 women at the forefront of a newborn baby's care, have access to crucial information and advice, just by using their mobile phones.
You can read all about the programme here:
English
Bahasa Indonesia




We worked hard this year to give young people a voice and hear their views. Over 110,000 young people are now dialoguing with each other and decision makers (through the platform 'U-Report') to promote improved investments in children's wellbeing. Read about some of their results here:
English
Bahasa Indonesia



We also conducted a completely voluntary and first-of-its-kind wellbeing survey:
Pioneering survey asks 8-12-year-old Indonesians: what's life like?






A new report on data on monetary and multidimensional child poverty, produced together with the Central Bureau of Statistics, highlights inequities across the country. The report underpins the introduction of universal child grants by local governments in Aceh and Papua.
Download the full report here:
English
Bahasa Indonesia

30,000 adolescent girls and boys are now benefitting from increased knowledge and awareness about menstruation, helping to break through patterns of discrimination and keep girls in school. Watch a video about what they're learning here: MHM Awareness

An innovative SMS-based monitoring platform facilitated rapid response for the immunization of 35 million children during the Measles and Rubella campaign, led by the Ministry of Health. The platform is being replicated for interventions against malaria, HIV and other diseases. Read about the platform here:
English
Bahasa Indonesia


The successful implementation of a pilot literacy programme, leading to a twofold increase in literacy amongst early grade children in remote areas of Papua and West Papua.Watch the video here: Papua Reads

A new bullying prevention programme, led by adolescents in schools in Makassar, already resulting in a reduction by almost 30 per cent in bullying. Read about it here:
English
Bahasa Indonesia

Monday, 23 July 2018

The Magic of School Libraries in Papua

by Joel Bacha, Accelerator Project Director, Room to Read

@UNICEF/2018/STKIP/Sorong: SD Inpres 55 Klamono. School library after revitalization

Getting off the plane in Sorong in March, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was there to visit schools involved in the Australian Government-funded initiative:  Rural and Remote Education Initiative for Papuan Provinces Program.  Whatever lay ahead though, I was excited to see some of the adaptations the UNICEF team and partners had made to our school library methodology to meet the needs of schools in rural and remote areas with fewer resources. 

Room to Read has had the pleasure of sharing our methodologies with UNICEF through our partner Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia (YLAI), based in Bali.  Through our collaboration together, the UNICEF team and partners have developed 77 children’s books for the children of Papua and established libraries in 24  schools across 6 districts.  It is this collaboration that laid the foundation for an incredible visit to Papua. 


@UNICEF/2018/STKIP/Sorong: SD Inpres 55 Klamono. School library after  revitalization

Over the course of two days, we visited four schools.  We traveled on bumpy, windy roads and across bridges hovering over rocky forest-covered ravines.  Near Sorong, we visited SD Inpres 55 Klamono  about an hour outside of the city in a semi-rural area and SD Inpres 7 Makbon about three more hours out in a much more remote part of the district.  In the Jayapura area, we visited SD YPK Amai on the coast and SD YPK Wambenain the hills. 

What struck me first were the children who were visiting the libraries – the smiles on their faces as they walked over to the shelves, chose a book and then sat down on the floor to read intently.  When asking a 3rd grader at SD Inpres 7 Makbon what he likes about the library he answered, “there are so many books to choose from, I can read about anything. Even magic.”  This is the same level of joy we often witness among children in other countries – Nepal, Cambodia and Tanzania, for example – when visiting the libraries in their schools.  Similarly, in Papua, some schools had book check out systems set up for children to borrow books for one week at a time. 

The main difference with the libraries in Papua were the resources provided by UNICEF.  To promote sustainability, UNICEF provided schools only with the training and the storybook collection. It was then up to the school communities to provide the other resources.  There, the schools had to get creative – many found ways to use their existing shelving to house the books, most schools purchased notebooks to create their checkout system and other schools involved persons from the local community to paint murals on the walls to transform the library into a bright and vibrant child-friendly reading space. 

@UNICEF/2018/STKIP/Sorong: SD Inpres 7 Makbon. School library after  revitalization
The other stark difference that one will notice in all the schools we visited is that the libraries are functioning in a school system with very high levels of teacher and principal absenteeism.  School absenteeism is a huge challenge in Papua and an issue that UNICEF and partners are working with the local government to address.  In one of the schools near Jayapura, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade teachers were absent on the day we visited.  On this day, these students had their textbooks open in their classrooms and were studying on their own without a teacher.  To complement, the school security guard opened the library for the children to use during breaks.  In this particular school, the magic of the library offered another safe child-friendly learning space for children to use when their teachers were absent from school.  

Having been sharing strategies to support early grades literacy in Indonesia with Monika Nielsen since early 2015, it was wonderful to finally see some of those results in action. With the UNICEF program now in its third year, a trip to Papua to visit the program was a must.

 
@UNICEF/2018/STKIP/Sorong: SD Inpres 7 Makbon. School library after revitalization

BACKGROUND:

globally, in the area of literacy, Room to Read collaborates with local communities, partner organizations and governments in 14 countries to ensure that primary school children can become independent readers. In Indonesia, Room to Read is currently sharing the lessons we have learned with Indonesia NGOs and local publishers to support two areas of the early grades literacy agenda: 1) fostering a habit of reading by establishing high-functioning school libraries and conducting effective reading activities in schools; and 2) increasing the amount of reading material for children by developing age-appropriate and culturally relevant storybooks.  As the UNICEF program in Papua focuses on literacy instruction in Grades 1, 2 and 3 classrooms, at its core, our programs are highly complementary.  

Monday, 5 March 2018

Yosua finds his voice

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer


Yosua, 14, from Pringsewu, Lampung © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Lampung: Last year, Yosua watched as, one after another, his friends began dropping out of school.

Erratic rains were causing rice crops either to wither, or to drown, and with the drop in yields, many families could no longer afford school fees. 

“My father said we had to fight for my education,” Yosua says in his home village of Panggungrejo in southern Sumatra Island. “So I stayed in school.”

Monday, 26 February 2018

‘I was one of the lucky ones’: a politician steps out on child marriage


Ibu Suraidah, head of the Mamuju parliament © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

West Sulawesi: In wet-season West Sulawesi Province, rainclouds drift east from sea to land, drenching groves of cacao trees in thick sheets of rain.

It’s a reliable cycle that makes West Sulawesi a top producer of chocolate. 

But here, 4 flying hours east of Jakarta, a separate, social cycle, is watering a bitter harvest.

“Every day, 375 girls are married in Indonesia,” says Amanda Bissex, UNICEF Indonesia Chief of Child Protection. “Every one of these marriages deprives girls of their right to a safe and protected childhood.”

One in six girls in West Sulawesi marry before turning 18. Ibu Suraidah, who heads the Mamuju District Parliament (DPRD) on the province’s western coast, knows well the toll such marriages take: As a 16-year-old back in 2001, she became a child bride herself.

It began with a furtive, afterschool relationship with a man five years older. Before long, things got serious, and Suraidah found herself pregnant. 

Overnight, marriage transformed from distant dream to urgent reality – and for a girl living in conservative Mamuju, a way to right a wrong.

“Today I tell teenagers to be careful…dating can force you to speed up your life,” Suraidah says. “We must find ways to avoid child marriage.”

Doing so is critical if all girls are going to realize their education rights, as child brides are four times less likely than unmarried girls to complete secondary education.

The soaring drop-out rate is driven partly by the fact that, while boys can marry at 19, for girls the age is 16 – right in the middle of high school.

Suraidah was determined not to let her education become a casualty of marriage. But her growing belly became a liability that threatened to derail her studies. 

“The school was embarrassed … but I really wanted to go on to the next grade,” she says. “My parents insisted I stay in school.”

“Today I tell the Dinas [education agency] and school principals that if there’s a teenager or student who gets pregnant, to not ostracize them. The psychological impact is significant, and not all of these children will [be able to] continue their schooling.”

“I was one of the lucky ones.”

Despite her determination, staying in Mamuju wasn’t much of an option, given the stigma Suraidah would face as a young mother in high school, she says. So after a big wedding and the birth of her son, Suraidah transferred to a school in provincial capital Makassar; close enough to come home, but far enough to be anonymous. The young couple left their infant boy with Suraidah’s parents in Mamuju, however, so that Suraidah could focus on school.

Two years later, diploma in hand, Suraidah was excited to apply to prestigious universities outside Sulawesi. “But I decided I had to put family first,” she says. She ended up enrolling at a local university, to be close to her son and her parents. 

The proximity to her father, himself a former DPRD lawmaker, proved fateful. “Of the seven children, I asked my father why is it me you want to follow in your footsteps?

“All he said was that as his child, he just knew,” Suraidahlaughs. “But it’s funny he’d pick his daughter, seeing as politics is such a man’s world.” 

Of Mamuju’s 35 DPRD legislators, just 6 are women. It’s something Suraidah would like to change.

“It is vital to have more women in politics, because who understands what women need better than women? It can be difficult for men to find that voice.”

Before long, Suraidah found herself head of her party and later, head of the parliament, a post she will keep until 2019.

Today, Suraidah strives to be a voice for women and children by embracing her past and the perspective it’s shaped. She is a strong believer, for example, that all girls have the right to an education on how to protect their bodies.

“If it’s not there [already], we must advocate with schools [to introduce education] on it, she says. 

“Reproductive health knowledge has to be delivered, because young people are very vulnerable.” 

She plans to use 2018 to shine a light on issues facing women, especially the issue of child neglect. She herself has adopted an abandoned child, and is in the process of formalizing the adoption with local authorities.

“Next year I also have [plans to support] an advocacy programme for teenagers. I want to motivate youth to know that even though I married young [and was able to get an education], not everyone was as lucky as I was.”

Engaging the public will be key to stopping the child marriage cycle.

“We need to advocate to the community that marriage must first be fully established in the soul and the body. If the body is not mature, there will be health problems, like [higher] maternal and child mortality rates, for example,” she says. 

Research shows that complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second-leading cause of death for girls between ages 15 and 19. 

“We need more discussion on child marriage, and I’m someone who is willing to do that,” she says. 

“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else.” 

“Not everyone could have survived like I did.” 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Turning Life Around With Tolerance


by Kate Watson

‘Moshi moshi, Ola Ola, hello, apa kabar?” The classroom is filled with young women and men, all on their feet, giggling and talking excitedly. They’ve just learnt a song with actions (meaning ‘Hello how are you?’ in various languages) and they’re using it as a springboard to chat with new friends and learn facts about each other.

It’s only been running for 3 months at SMA Negri 2 Kabupaten Sorong School, but the results of the Pendidikan Kecapakan Hidup Sehat (PKHS, or Life Skills Education) programme are already showing through the self-confidence exuding from the students.

“It’s all really interesting and the games are really great!” says Dwirizki Sandola, age 17. “They help us express ourselves - we can say what we want, we can ask what we want!” he adds. Students in Indonesia are rarely given the opportunity to speak out during classes, so participating like this helps them to find their voices and feel empowered.

The Life Skills Education programme consists of a series of life skills topics which young people are encouraged to discuss and learn about through games, quizzes, examples and debates. Each session focuses on something new, such as dealing with conflict, understanding emotions – even topics like bullying or gender. Others focus on specific risks like drugs, unwanted pregnancy or HIV.

Students at SMA Negri 2 Kabupaten Sorong School take part in a life skills class
©UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Kate Watson
 

“Before this Life Skills Education programme began, there were many of us who hung out in bad groups or who were in negative situations,” Dwirizky explains. “But through this programme, we were shown how things might eventually turn out.”

This is one of the goals of the programme, to help young people through the sometimes-difficult decisions they need to make in their personal lives. It aims to help boost their confidence, build their social and personal skills, and better navigate the risks they face.

“Before, I used to do really bad things. I was violent,” Dwirizky adds. “But through this programme, I’ve learnt how to handle my emotions and restrain myself.”

Young people in Papua Province witness violence more often than they should, and so understandably often also resort to it when emotions take over. It’s a cycle that needs breaking if young people are going to take control of their futures.


 Dwirizky Sandola, age 17 says that the life skills classes have helped him and his friends to express themselves and gain self-confidence.

©UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Kate Watson

Rizky Tiara Ramadani, age 17, is another student who has seen the difference her choices have made. “I used to get cajoled into joining in [with my friends]” she says. “They would coerce me to do bad things and I wasn’t brave enough to say no. I didn’t know how,” she says, defiantly adding that since joining the class, she now knows exactly how to refuse. She has found her voice.

Learning about the world from other’s perspectives is a crucial element of the programme, one that enables the students to empathise with others and see different possibilities for the future.

“For me, the most interesting thing about Life Skills Education is learning about tolerance” says Dwirizky’s friend Kadek Windu Dea Atmaja, also age 17. He moved to the area a few years ago from the island of Bali. Although it’s still Indonesia, Bali is several hours away by flight, and miles away in terms of the risks and challenges faced by each unique culture in the country.

“Most of the people there are Hindu, and I didn’t often meet people who were different,” says Kadek, who took a long time to adapt to his new, predominantly Christian environment. “Over there, it was hard to think that people have a different way of life.”


 Kadek Windu Dea Atmaja, age 17, feels more tolerant of others since he has had the opportunity to discuss different life experiences with his classmates through the life skills programme.

©UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Kate Watson

Through the group discussions sparked in the Life Skills class, where he and his fellow classmates share their own experiences, he began to realise that everyone has a different background and that it makes things more interesting.

“My attitude has changed, I know more now and I am more tolerant. Maybe I stand out, but now I can understand that maybe they say bad things just because they don’t understand.”

It’s something he’s even passed onto his Grandma, who often complains that their neighbours don’t understand them. She listens to Kadek, as does his whole family, and he says it’s given them a lot more to reflect on together. “

The class ends with big smiles and laughter as the teenagers bounce out of the classroom in twos and threes ready to eat their lunch. “If this programme didn’t exist, I think the difference would be enormous,” adds Dwirizki. “Turning negative things into positive things is huge! If we weren’t guided, there would be no alternatives and we wouldn’t know where we were going,” he says “Maybe we’d still be doing bad things until now!”

Friday, 12 January 2018

The teacher in Papua who won't give up

By Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab


Ibu Naomi teaches a class © Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab / UNICEF / 2017

We sailed through the river flanked by mangroves, taking lefts and rights, heading in what felt like thousands of directions. The night before, I’d spent 7 restless hours waiting for the waters to rise and the boat to come. I was exhausted.

Finally, at midnight, the team and I reached Wainlabat Village, 8 hours later than expected. 

Set in the province of West Papua, Wainlabat is home to SD Inpres 58, one of 120 schools participating in UNICEF’s Rural Remote Education Initiative (RREI, funded by DFAT).  Launched in 2015, the RREI aims to boost literacy and school attendance among early grade students in Tanah Papua (West Papua and Papua Provinces), where education performance lags far behind national averages. 

More than 100 “mentors” have been trained by UNICEF on literacy-building techniques, which include teaching letter sounds, employing interactive singalongs, and introducing newly designed textbooks. Each of these mentors are placed in one of the 120 participating schools to train teachers on the new approaches.

Midway through the 3-year programme, results are already in evidence: The number of non-readers has halved from 1 in 2 to roughly 1 in 4, while fluent comprehension has doubled to around 14 per cent of early grade learners. It is clear to me that that the programme is working.


Motorcycles are often used to traverse the wooden path leading the river to the the village © Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab / UNICEF / 2017

After exiting the 2-kilometer path from the river to the village, I saw very few people. I wondered where the community leaders were. Then I met Ibu Guru Naomi. 

Ibu Naomi, a Wainlabat native, has dedicated her life to this community, doing what many do when they want to make the most difference: She became a teacher.

Entering her classroom, I tiptoed through the aisles watching her teach. The 3rd grade class was singing and writing, grinning ear-to-ear. Next door, older students were sitting and talking. Why were they alone? Where was their teacher? I wondered.

I later found out the reason: Naomi is the only teacher in town. 

Every day, Ibu Naomi splits time between the six primary school grades. Sometimes, she combines first and second grades, or fourth and fifth grades, into a single class. But even then she still misses some classes. 


Ibu Naomi shuttles between classrooms to teach © Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab / UNICEF / 2017

"There used to be other teachers here,” says Pak Slamet, the UNICEF-trained literacy mentor in Wainlabat. “They left for a couple of days to the city, but it's been months and they haven’t returned".

“And the principal? he's barely here.”

Teacher and principal absenteeism are major hurdles to education in Tanah Papua. Part of the problem is that principals are often posts of patronage rather than merit, which affects their capacity to run the school and appreciate the full value of education. The situation compromises the ability for students to get the education they deserve. 


Two schoolgirls read outside their classrom in Wainlabat © Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab / UNICEF / 2017
In 2015, when Ibu Naomi returned to Wainlabat from Sorong, where she attended secondary school, she was devastated to see how many children were unable to read. “They didn’t even know how to order words,” she recalls. “There was no structure to the classes – it all depended on the teacher and what they wanted to teach.”

With the new approach to literacy, she says, progress was swift. After a couple  months, “they [the students] began to show improvements in knowing letters, even stringing words together!”

“Parents were telling me, ‘if this is working, we can’t let you leave. These children need to be able to read’!” 

"But I'm alone here,” she reminds me. “How am I supposed to teach six grades of students?" 

 I swallow, not knowing what to say.

“Hopefully with what I do, I will try to open people’s hearts to see they should be here for [the children] too," she says. 

Our conversation ended at noon. As I turned off the camera and closed my notebook, Ibu Naomi said she needed to go back home to change clothes before her 1pm class. We said goodbye.


Wainlablat Elementary School in Sorong, West Papua © Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab / UNICEF / 2017

Leaving the village, I took one last look back at the school. The door ajar, I could see Ibu Naomi teaching.

The image has stayed with me; here was a grassroots education champion, a true daughter of the land. I could only imagine how much literacy would improve if Papua had more like her.

"Even if the school is simple, or the students are few, we must never give up,” she told me. “We must never give up.”