October 24, 2012
Like any big city, Surabaya has many problems, including an increasing number of street children who cannot get a proper education because their families are too poor.
But a group called Save Street Child Surabaya, established in June 2011, is trying to address that problem – one of Surabaya's most pressing – by recruiting college and high school students, and other volunteers to teach such children for free.
They are not just volunteers: they are "cool teachers" (pengjajar keren).
"'Cool Teacher' is a recruitment programme for teachers through our website that was started from August 2011. They volunteer to help street children get a free education," Hamdal Bahlawan, 25, the general co-ordinator of Save Street Child Surabaya, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
"The word 'cool' itself is to appreciate the people who want to share their knowledge," he said.
To date, about 20 to 30 people have volunteered their time to teach street children in public parks like Bungkul Garden or Suropati Garden and a mosque yard near Red Bridge Plaza mall.
Lessons are held at night because during the day, the children are typically working: selling newspapers, polishing shoes, begging or busking.
"The children are forced to work first, before they are allowed to study with us. That is the reason why we teach them at night. Our next problem is that they do not have motivation or dreams. Thus, we work to build their dreams," Hamdal told Khabar.
"They should learn more, and play"
The tough lives street children face motivated Rizky Arif Hanafi, 20, a student at Shipbuilding State Polytechnic, to become a "cool teacher" volunteer.
"They have to work for their parents until 3.00am when they should learn more and play. Poverty forces them to work hard without any education. This reality encouraged me to become a cool teacher volunteer," he said.
Advin Mariyono, 21, a student at Tenth of November Institute of Technology (ITS) Surabaya and Save Street Child Surabaya's public relations director, said he wanted to share his knowledge with street children.
"For me, education is important. They have the right to get an education," he said.
People need to care more about street children, said Carla Della Cicinati, 20, a student at Surabaya State University (UNESA).
"I wish the street children could get more concern from community. We must help them now. They also have the right to play and get proper education," she said.
"I like mathematics the most"
Rizky Bagus Maulana, 7, earns coins singing on the street or on public buses. Rizky told Khabar he's glad he has an opportunity to learn.
"The teachers are nice to me. I am happy to be their student. Moreover, I can learn mathematics and reading. I can read and count well now," he said.
Rizky's mother, Umi Hesty, said the free education is essential.
"If my child studies at school, I must pay for it. My family cannot afford to do it. Thus, I support my child to study with the teachers in the 'cool teacher' programme," she said. Muhammad Ilham Fauzi, 10, who sells food and wants to join the army, said the programme helps him with his work.
"I like mathematics the most. It helps me sell the lumpia (spring rolls). My parents do not prohibit me to study as long as I do it after working," he said.
Said Andik Firmansyah, 10, sells newspapers. "I was studying how food enters our digestive system and how the intestines work in our body. It is very nice to study here because it is free. We must pay for education in school. My parents cannot afford to pay."
Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, expressed his support for the effort.
"I appreciate what they do to support the education of street children. It should be our responsibility to give street children help," he told Khabar by phone from Jakarta.
"All people and government must be more serious to solve the problem of education for street children. They are the future generation of this nation. Don't ignore their education."