Class struggles: how online schooling amplifies social disparities in Indonesia – Lifestyle


Online education has revealed and, in many cases, increased the gaps between the educational experiences of children from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Nadya Lumy is a rising 12e grader at Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), and the past year has been a challenge for her. Like most teens, she regrets being able to see her classmates in person and enjoy the human connection that screens cannot provide.

But Nadya’s frustration and sadness, although acute, is of a different character than that of disadvantaged teenage girls like Rahmi, a 15-year-old student at Nara Kreatif, who can barely afford virtual lessons, let alone chat with friends. online.

Read also: The pandemic exposes the vulnerability of private schools

Rahmi is fortunate to be educated by Nara Kreatif, a social enterprise that finances the education of street children through the sale of recycled materials, such as paper and organic waste. But the gap between the quality of her education and those who have more access to it shows the kinds of challenges that underprivileged children in Indonesia face in their efforts to improve their lives.

Worlds apart

Despite the mental toll, Nadya has not experienced many technical frustrations with online schooling. JIS lends MacBook laptops to students for year-round use, and also provides students with other resources, such as subscriptions to The New York Times and The Economist, to keep them up to date with the latest news.

Nadya doesn’t take these things for granted. She knows that the provisions have helped her a lot during this period of online learning.

“JIS MacBook is much faster [than my personal laptop] and has more memory. It helped me do homework, research, tests and all my other tasks easily.

Few other educational institutions in the country share this type of resource. Nara Kreatif, for example, has 1,200 children in day school, accommodates 10 boys and 8 girls in dormitories and does not have enough laptops to get around.

Screen sharing: Nara Kreatif’s students had to share the school’s limited number of laptops. (JP / Courtesy of Nara Kreatif)

Muhammad Taufik, head of the dormitories at Nara Kreatif’s school, said: “The children will crowd around a single laptop in groups of four or five. We realize that it is not conducive [to their learning]. “

As Indonesia continues to break daily records of COVID-19 cases, it doesn’t look like students will be returning to in-person learning anytime soon. In the field of online learning, students from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds are at a disadvantage due to their lack of access to technology and internet services.

Rain or sun

“Having things online is sort of easier. I can get up five minutes before class and just take out my laptop, ”Nadya said.

This is not the case with Maya Revika Sari, a sixth grader at a primary school in the countryside of Lampung. Every school day is surrounded by uncertainty. In her village, the wifi is inaccessible, so she and her classmates depend on mobile data. Therefore, she must plan her study time and location based on a range of constraints.

From January to April, the village of Maya undergoes a harsh rainy season. For the past few weeks, it has been raining almost every day. Even a small drizzle can bring bad luck to Maya if she has a mission to complete that day due to the poor cell service that accompanies the rain in the area.

“My teacher usually sends in homework before 9 am, but on rainy days I never know what time I will receive it,” she said. “Sometimes my friends text me asking if I’ve finished an assignment, and I find myself frequently [in a position] where I haven’t even received it.

Maya’s internet connectivity also varies depending on its location.

On luckier days, her room has the best connection. On less happy days, it’s his cooking. On the worst days, she has to visit a classmate or parent to do her homework.

“In the end, I have to move. There are days when I go to my aunt’s house. If that doesn’t work, I go to my friend’s house. [In those cases], the individual work becomes group work because I have to look at the assignment on my friend’s phone and do it from there, ”Maya said.

“It gets on your nerves”

With the constant unpredictability of mobile service in the village, the patience of students and parents has dwindled.

Aulia is a fourth grade student who attends the same primary school as Maya and lives in the same village.

“She’s a math genius – the girl doesn’t even have to count on her fingers and she can immediately find the number!” Exclaimed Nia, Aulia’s mother, beaming with pride.

Aulia was the top of her class since first year, never failing to win the annual best student award. But this year, she got bad news for her mother when she returned from the school’s awards ceremony.

“Mom, I only got third place. [It makes me feel] so lazy! ”she said.

Nia describes Aulia as very intelligent but inclined to give up. Aulia admits that the poor mobile connectivity has shaken her up enormously.

“I like to complain to my mom that if this is how school is, I have absolutely no desire to continue,” Aulia said. “Then my mother will respond by saying, ‘You can’t be like that, Auli. You are smart, you know.

When her connection is unrecoverable, Aulia reads textbooks on her own. In addition to her daily school chores, the 9-year-old has taken on an ambitious workload.

“Sometimes my dad likes to tease me and take pictures when I fall asleep on my books,” Aulia said with a chuckle. “The truth is, I’m just trying to study without having to [rely on] my teachers and the bad internet. Books are all I have these days.

Also Read: Parents Struggle To Keep Kids Focused During Online Learning

The government has tried a variety of programs to level the playing field. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology broadcast on TVRI an educational television program called Belajar dari Rumah (Learning at Home) which is broadcast on school days and is aimed at students from kindergarten to high school.

Troubled Times: Insan Anugerah has had trouble retaining students as schooling moves online.  Attrition has affected the funding of the school.Troubled Times: Insan Anugerah has had trouble retaining students as schooling moves online. Attrition has affected the funding of the school. (JP / Courtesy of Insan Anugerah)

To assess the effectiveness of the program, UNICEF supported education authorities to conduct regular surveys of teachers, parents and children in areas with little or no internet access and to collect feedback on learning. home.

UNICEF is also helping the ministry develop offline learning materials and establish guidelines for preventing and responding to COVID-19 in the education sector at provincial and district levels.

Institutional tension

The financial burdens associated with the pandemic have not only affected students. Many educational institutions themselves barely survive. A number of schools are struggling to keep attendance and enrollment rates high, and attrition has had an impact on school funding. The cycle is unlikely to end soon. Without students, institutions cannot afford to offer the level of education to which they aspire, making them less attractive to potential students.

Muhammad Taufik of Nara Kreatif said, “During the pandemic, companies are putting in place work from home (WFH) policies, so there is no waste paper to give us. Without the company’s paper contributions, Nara Kreatif saw her main source of income drop sharply: recycling waste paper into items such as office supplies and calendars for profit.

As a result, they had to abandon one of their dorms and the boys who once lived there were moved to the second floor of Nara Kreatif’s office. To pay the wifi bill of Rp 500,000 (US $ 34) per month, a few volunteer teachers drew funds from their freelance income to alleviate financial stress. Nonetheless, the flow of donations has been volatile and inconsistent.

Also Read: Indonesian Children With Special Needs Struggle For Appropriate Online Education

Junika Sugiarsih, founder and director of Insan Anugerah, a school in Depok for children with Down’s syndrome, said the switch to online learning has prompted many parents to withdraw their children from school.

“Our students have gone from 16 to eight, and two of the eight are not able to attend online classes. There are also students who simply refuse to sit in front of electronic devices.

Candradimuka Special Needs School is a school for children with autism in Cilandak, Jakarta. Imam Fauzi, its founder and director, said the number of enrolled students fell to 15 after the transition to online education.

Nonetheless, Nara Kreatif’s Muhammad has a clear vision of what school administrators should do during the pandemic.

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“Our job here is to make sure their spirits don’t falter. Since starting online school, our role has been tremendous: educating them to be safe and secure, no matter what the situation.


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