School Attendance Under the Most Difficult Conditions

Indonesia with its 273 million inhabitants is ranked fourth among the most populous countries. Rural areas such as the Mentawai Islands and North Sumatra are among the poorest. There is no access to clean drinking water and sanitary facilities, schools are hardly accessible, as well.

The Mentawai Islands are extremely difficult to reach. In the rainy season, the roads are impassable and the sea waves are too dangerous for crossing by boat. In this area, many children and young people suffer from malaria, cholera, typhus, and skin diseases. In most regions of Mentawai, there is no or only one primary school which faces difficulties for teachers and students. On one hand, due to the lack of teachers as an old problem, many of these schools are completely closed for a few months of a year and on the other hand, the distances to school are too long and dangerous for children. Studies have shown that the probability of school attendance decreases by 2.5 percent with every additional kilometer.

Support for Infants

At the continuing education conferences in 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand, and a decade later in Dakar, Senegal, it became increasingly clear that the promotion of development should start with small children. The aim of the “Empowerment of Youth in Child Education Program” is to train young people in a one-year course so that they will subsequently work as preschool teachers. The “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” organization also shares this view.

Basic Elementary Education

The purpose of this program is to be given basic elementary education in reading, writing, and arithmetic, to the target group of children and young people, aged between 4 and 12 years old. Besides, they have the opportunity to take part in hygiene and health care courses. The children and adolescents are also taught values such as equal rights for men and women and the unprejudiced encounter between people of different ethnicities, religions, and social strata.

Thousands of Children Reached

In the beginning, four training centers were set up in October 2000 and a further four were completed in October 2001. Currently, several thousand children and young people have already taken part in programs in the training centers of “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”.