There are a number of different reasons that street teens are unable to access formal education. Their parents may not have the funds to purchase school uniforms, shoes, books and other materials, let alone pay the school fees. Because their parents do not have the necessary funds, the children may have missed out on a number of vital years at school and if they were to re-enter formal school they would find themselves too far behind.
Usually street teens do not have birth certificates which are a necessary document required to enter public schools. At times primary schools may overlook this factor but middle and high schools rarely do. Street teens may also feel pressure from their parents and their community to be out on the streets earning money. Frequently within their own communities, education is not valued and encouraged.
Sahabat Anak’s head office is also home to the Pusat Kegiatan Anak (Children’s Activity Centre) which is also known as PKA. The PKA is an informal school for street teens who are unable to access formal education. The school operates Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Currently, Sahabat Anak has about 20 students, aged between 10 years – 21 years old, who attend the school regularly. Sahabat Anak’s tutorial programs feed into this school. Students from the eight different tutorial areas in Jakarta, who cannot access formal education, are able to attend this school. The school offers reading and writing classes, mathematics, science, English, character development, art, music, cooking and dance classes.
Tiwi is 14 years old and has been attending the PKA for the past four months. I have seen her character changed dramatically over the time she has been here. She cannot read and write and she has low self-confidence. When she first came she would interrupt me when I was talking on the phone and she would speak Bahasa Indonesia very fast with a very thick accent and she would basically make a lot of noise to be noticed. Her character could not be any different now. It was as if she needed to be boisterous and interrupt people to be noticed. Now slowly, little by little, as her self confidence grows, she is learning to be polite, to say “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”. She now sits through most her classes and tries hard to understand her teachers. However, until she can really learn to read and write she will forever be held back.
A couple of weeks ago, the students at PKA were taking make up classes. Tiwi did not have a partner for the class, so she asked me. I was happy to help out. This meant I had to sit still while she applied make up to my face. She had never even touched make up before. After many mistakes and some very dramatic eye liner, which made me look like a pirate, she started to get the hang of it.
But it was tough. She did not believe in herself and she did not have the confidence to even try. So I continued to take the eyeliner off and make her do it again until she got it right. I would reassure her, “You can do this. You just have to keep practicing.” Eventually she finished. I looked slightly like a drag queen but nonetheless she had followed instructions and achieved what she had set out to do. I even had false eyelashes.
Tiwi is often embarrassed in class because she is not as smart as the other children. Tiwi is a teenager who is viewed by society as a nuisance and unchangeable. At Sahabat Anak we view street children differently. All children are precious and have the potential to do great things with their lives. All they need is a helping hand and most importantly the chance to receive an education. Education is a basic children’s right which is frequently denied to them because of administrative and socio-cultural factors.
The Children’s Activity Centre invites all members of the community to volunteer and teach the students all different kinds of skills. Volunteer teachers have taught make-up classes, cooking classes, sewing classes and dance classes. The students need more than just a standard education. They need life skills which can help them become successful despite the obstacles that they face. They need creative alternatives to the life around them which encourages them to be a beggar, busker or scavenger.
Education is the key in breaking the poverty cycle. It is through education that we can encourage children to leave a life on the street and aim for a better future.
We currently need people who are free during weekdays to volunteer their time and provide one-on-one reading classes to children like Tiwi. If you have the time please contact our office on firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 3918505.