Friday, 3 June 2016

The Bupati has a dream

Bupati of Mamuju, Pak Habsi Wahid (centre), during his visit to UNICEF's Jakarta office.
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2016 / Charlie Hartono Lie 

Jakarta, 3 June 2016 – Mamuju is a special place – and the Chief of this district in West Sulawesi wants to make sure that things stay on course. Last year, more than 500 children were re-integrated into primary and lower secondary school – thanks to a push for action by the local leadership.

On 23 July this year, which is celebrated as National Children’s Day throughout Indonesia, Pak Habsi Wahid, the recently elected Bupati of Mamuju, aims to reach 3,000 children as part of the district’s Back to School campaign which this district in Eastern Indonesia launched in 2012.

Thanks to a Community-Based Development Information System (CBDIS), developed by UNICEF, the district identified all children who are out of school in the district. The CBDIS brought about a fundamental shift in local school management. While previously only children who were already in school were registered and supported, thanks to the CBDIS the district can now also identify and support those children who were never enrolled or who dropped out.

 Poverty, the need to help parents earn a living, the lack of education facilities in the more remote areas, are among the main reasons why children in Mamuju district do not go to school. “We will provide school uniforms for all children who will enrol in primary and secondary school this year to address the problem of poverty,” said Pak Habsi during a meeting of his team with UNICEF. His government also plans to build a school in every village to make sure that lack of transport is no longer a barrier to enrollment.

The Bupati has a dream. Mamuju shall become a child-friendly district, where every child can go to school, where all children have a birth certificate and where no girl is forced to marry too early. His predecessor already improved the access to birth registration by organizing mass weddings to make sure that parents have a marriage certificate, a prerequisite for their children to get a birth certificate which then allows them to enrol in school. Pak Habsi wants to go a step further. His government plans to introduce an online birth registration service to do away with logistical barriers such as transport costs to the civil registry office.

His team also works with religious leaders, both from the local churches and mosques, to raise awareness about the negative impact of girls marrying at a young age, abruptly ending their childhood, usually dropping out of school, often falling pregnant way too early, running the risk of intra-familiar violence.

The district still has a long way to go. Some 7,000 children of primary and secondary school age have been identified as being out of school. If the Bupati’s dream comes true and 3,000 children can go back to school, many will remain excluded, and these are often the ones that are most difficult to reach and involve in the programme.

UNICEF continues supporting the district government to reach as many of those excluded children as possible, by supporting a pilot programme to improve access to education for the most marginalized. The initiative focuses on improving local planning processes to mobilize available funds to ensure completion of compulsory basic education at village level. UNICEF will also support the district government and relevant district stakeholders to monitor the children that have been reintegrated into school to ensure that they stay in school.