At his tender age, Marwanto should be attending school, but instead the 12-year-old sells cigarettes in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta. It is simply because his family can't afford his school fees.
But poverty has not dented his hopes of returning to school someday. That day may not be far away, thanks to a years-long effort by the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration (Depnakertrans; MoMT) to get child labourers back to school.
"I want to succeed. I want to be an engineer," Marwanto told Khabar Southeast Asia. "I will study hard. In the future I hope to get a scholarship to go to college."
To help kids like Marwanto, Indonesia aims to eradicate child labour by 2020. But experts say the task is formidable given the enormity of the problem. Nationwide, about 300,000 children work, helping meet their families' economic needs, according to Abdul Wahab, the ministry's director general for coaching, training and productivity.
"Regions that become hubs of child labour are usually regions with high levels of poverty," Abdul said after delivering aid packets to child workers in Banten Province.
Back to school
Since 2008, the ministry paid for 32,663 child workers to return to school under the Child Labour Reduction of the Family Empowerment Programme (PPA-PKH), ministry spokeswoman Dita Indah Sari told Khabar.
Now, it targets 11,000 more children aged 7-to-15 years old in 21 provinces.
The programme includes a two-month transition period to help children adapt or readapt to school life. The ministry provided 336 temporary homes and 506 social workers to help underprivileged children.
"The transition is to allow children to become familiar again with school," Dita said. "They suddenly have to follow a school schedule and catch up with the curriculum. They will need some discipline to get back to a routine schedule. They need this extra guidance."
Sanctions for employers
To help end child labour, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar promised to deploy 2,384 labour inspectors. He urged employers, trade unions, and parents to assist the effort, especially by reporting violations of child labour prohibitions to authorities.
"We are asking businesses not to employ child labour, especially in the worst kind of work that is dangerous for the health and safety of children," he said.
Those that do will see their licences revoked, and face criminal prosecution, Muhaimin warned. "Employers and parents should know that under our Child Protection Act, employing minors is prohibited. Those who force children to work will be reported to the authorities for criminal charges," he said.
A broad commitment
Ending child labour is crucial not just for affected children, but for all Indonesians, because it will result in a more educated nation, Krisdyamiko, a professor at Gadjah Mada University, told Khabar.
"By helping to reduce the number of child workers, we will also be able to help the progress of democracy," he said. "This will strengthen Indonesia as a nation and also demonstrate respect for children's rights.
"Involving the community is the key. Because by relying on them, we can see that people are committed to be part of the project," Krisdyamiko said.
MoMT official Abdul Wahad asked for broad commitment to the goal of ending child labour.
"This needs strong commitment from all parties, because our budget is limited," he said. "So regional governments and businesses must work side by side to help disadvantaged children so they can go to school and not work."