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Wednesday, Oct 01 , 2014 ( Thul-Hijjah, 1435)

Updated:10:00 PM GMT

Islamic Schools Save Indonesia Street Kids

By Dandy Koswaraputra, OnIslam Correspondent
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There are nearly 232,000 street children in Indonesia, including 12,000 in the capital Jakarta alone. (OnIslam photo)

JAKARTAIndonesia is selecting thousands of unfortunate children living on the street across the world’s most populous Muslim nation to join Islamic boarding schools, locally known as Pesantren, under a new government’s program.

“This is the first selection to sort out those who are eligible to join Pesantren,” Sapto Waluya, a spokesman for the Social Minister, told OnIslam.

“For the beginning we are recruiting five thousands students in Jakarta alone.”

Waluya said the government is inviting NOGs and a number of business entities to make the project possible and reaching the target.

He stressed that addressing the problem of street children, estimated to number some 232,000, including 12,000 in the capital city alone, is a top priority for the Social Ministry, Religious Ministry, Education Ministry and Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry.

“Our office and the Religious Ministry are focusing on Pesantren.”

The Religious Ministry has provided 4.5 billion rupiah (500,000 US dollars) from the state budget to finance the Pesantren for street children program, Waluya said.

The program is expected to commence in the first semester early next year for Jakarta only, noted the official.

Classified as street children in Indonesia are those homeless children who spend more than five hours a day on the street as beggars, vendors, rubbish collectors and even thieves.

“Not all of them are expected to join Pesantren because some of them are eligible to be entrepreneurs,” Waluya said.

“We have made an agreement with Carrefour supermarket to absorb handicrafts made by the street children.”

Beside Jakarta, East Java is the most ready province to run the project compared with other cities due to the readiness of Pesantrens.

“We will be placing them in the Pesantrens that belong to Nahdlatul Ulama,” East Java Province Deputy Governor Saefullah Yusuf told OnIslam.

Yusuf said they have chosen 1500 street children to join Pesantrens in which the tuition fees would be fully covered by the Religious Ministry.

He added that his provincial administration is examining a new curriculum special for street children education.

Difficult Mission

Women Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Linda Amalia Sari said saving hundreds of thousands of street children from poverty was not an easy task but the involvement of Pesantren to educate them is a good signal that the mission would be accomplished.

“I expect no more children living on the street in 2014,” she told reporters, adding that her ministry would intensively cooperate with other ministries and NGOs in implementing programs to tackle the problem of children living on the streets.

But Nur Rohim Siswanto, an activist who has been working with street children over the past decade, argues that the government program seems idealistic.

He thinks implementing the mission is not as easy as expected, citing his empirical experience in leading a school for the homeless.

“They are rowdy individuals difficult to be ruled formally and bureaucratically,” Siswanto, the head of Pesantren Bina Insan Mandiri, an Islamic-based education center for street children teaching students from primary school to senior high schools levels, told OnIslam.net.

He says most street children are the victim of illegal marriage and broken families.

“So, what they need first is sincere attention instead of parent,” insisted Siswanto, who manages 2000 street children in his Pesantren.

“We have to find the source of problem first then think about their education.”

According to him, the current government plan is not new.

The same project had been tried previously by a respected Pesantren in Bandung, with 10 billion rupiah (US$1.2 million) government funds, but totally failed.

“They ran away from Pesantren because of rigid system of education.”

Siswanto suggested that the government switches the proposal by making partnership with the existing street children foundations or Pesantrens.

“If they want to help the street children why don’t they come to my Pesantren and work together?

“Only Social Ministry gives us regularly 3000 rupiah (4 US cent) a day for each student.”

Siswanto’s Islamic foundation relays on a number of zakah organizations, NGOs and individual donations for financial support.

“We raise money also from selling snacks, printing banners and providing various services, such as massage and shoe polishing,” he said.

“We build it like family.”

 

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