Monday, 24 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’ neighbors 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 percent 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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


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.”

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Making bullying uncool in Central Java

by Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Tika, right, stands with fellow change-maker Sri in Semarang. The two say they are proud to be taking a stand against bullying © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Central Java: Daylight is fading as Tika, 14, sits down, brushes the lint off her pants, and begins to recall a memory she can’t quite shake.

“My classmates put a bucket over my head,” she says softly. “Then they took turns hitting me.” 

Three years later, the pain is still raw. “I still don’t know why they [my classmates] did it,” she says. 

It’s a question thousands of Indonesian schoolchildren grapple with every day.

According to the latest data, over 1 in 5 children between 13-15 years of age – some 18 million children in total – have been bullied and another 1 in 3 children have been physically attacked in schools. 

For a Government committed to ending all forms of violence against children, schools are a key front in the battle.

“Bullying, both physical and verbal, has been proven to increase anxiety and diminish the self-esteem and sense of belonging necessary to learn and develop effectively,” says Emilie Minnick, UNICEF Indonesia Child Protection Specialist. “None of that bodes well if every child is to be empowered to realize their full potential.”

Roots, a new initiative launched by UNICEF and the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, in partnership with an array of district governments and NGO partners, invites students to take the lead in addressing the peer-to-peer abuse.*

The basic idea is simple but powerful -- to create a space for a small group of students to probe the problem and define the solutions themselves.
Outside facilitators help keep order, but the programme is student-run.

“Then, during Roots Day and beyond, the goal is for students to take this learning outward to change attitudes,” Minnick says.

Student change-makers make final preparations a day before Roots Day at SMP 17 in Semarang © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Since its launch this year, the Roots Programme pilot has been rolled out at four middle schools in South Sulawesi and another four in Central Java.

In South Sulawesi, the Roots Programme saw a 30 per cent reduction in bullying following the intervention. “We’re excited about what this could mean for a scale-up nationally,” Minnick says.

Enlisting the ‘influencers’

Roots is more than a one-off event. It is the culmination of a semester-long process. 

Over that period, 30 girl and boy “change-agents” examine bullying from several angles to determine what it is and what should be done to stop it.

Among boys, Tika says, bullying often means physical violence. 

“Just last week I saw a boy get books thrown at him in class,” Tika says. According to government figures, more than a third of middle-school aged boys have been involved in a fight. “The incident should have been taken to the principal, but it wasn’t.” 

There can be a high tolerance of bullying, which is precisely what needs to change, Tika says.

Students at SMP 2 in Klaten, Central Java, come together to declare a new commitment to ending bullying during Roots Day © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017
For girls, the most popular form of bullying is to shame, or “hate” on another classmate, she says,. But by far the most common form is to play with names.**

It’s a subtle form of teasing, but it can lead to serious consequences, including school drop-out and long term psychological impact.

At SMP 17 Semarang, Tika was chosen as one of the 30 ‘agents of change’ whose task it was to interrogate bullying and plan Roots Day.

“The selection process is a key feature of the intervention,” says Naning Julianingsih, UNICEF Indonesia Child Protection Specialist. “We asked all the students to list the 10 people they spend the most time with, and those with the most mentions become a pool from which we drew 30.”

These are the students with the largest network of friends, and hence, “the most potential to influence attitudes widely,” she says.

At Tika’s school, a few of those chosen declined to join – at first. “I think it was because they were shy, as people knew they were bullies,” Tika says.

A few weeks later the students decided to join.

“That shows how peers can make anti-bullying campaigns ‘cool’, Naning says, “and bullying ‘uncool’. Even those who have been bullies themselves can be swayed to join."

So what’s next?

A student changemaker (centre) shares a laugh with her friend during Roots Day at Semarang 17 Middle School ©Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Roots Day is when all these lessons come together for the wider campus body. 

Photo booths, music, and other attractions help spread the message, but the most important aspect is the opening of the conversation, says change-agent Dzulfiqar, 14. “The best way to end bullying is to make sure friends talk to friends about it,” he says. “And that starts with Roots Day.”

Angun Tri Kusumawati of Indonesia’s Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry agrees its crucial to keep the momentum for change.

“Your awareness should be a virus,” she told students at SMP 17. “When you sneeze, others should catch it!” 

Tika nods. 

Roots Day has given her a way to process and move on from the painful memories of the past. “No-one should ever have to feel what I felt, and I want to help ensure 100 per cent of children are treated the same.”

As she rises to address her teachers, her shyness seems to have fallen away. She is beaming. 

“Jangan jadi bully (don’t become a bully),” she yells, as others join in. “Mari jadi pembela!” (Let’s become defenders!)

*Partner NGOs include Yayasan Indonesia Mengabdi, Yayasan Setara and LPA Klaten. 

**the name Joko, for example, is changed to ‘Jokododo’, which means (in Javanese language), ‘don’t tell anyone.’