Education not a luxury at Indonesia charity school

Tue Mar 3, 2009 9:39am EST
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By Sunanda Creagh

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - In a country where an education is often out of reach for thousands of impoverished children, the Kartini Emergency School in Indonesia is proving to be an exception.

Amid the poverty and grime, 59-year-old twin sisters Sri Rossyati and Sri Irianingsih have opened the free school where their 550 students receive not only an education, but meals, a uniform, shoes, pencils and books, things that many children in Indonesia cannot afford or take for granted.

The school, a ramshackle collection of tables, chairs and whiteboards, is found by following the train line to the slums of Jakarta's Kota district, where dogs pick at rubbish piles and emaciated laborers wait outside warehouses for work.

"For some of these kids, this is their only meal of the day. And if they can't eat, they can't learn," says Sri Rossyati, whose students range in age from five to 18.

"They may be poor but they needn't be ignorant."

Officially, state schools are free in Indonesia, a nation of 226 million people where millions live on less than $2 a day.

However, many schools charge unofficial fees when government subsidies are not enough to cover the cost of operations.

"Parents also have to pay for shoes, writing materials and transport," said Pujiawati, an education campaigner at Indonesian non-governmental organization, Voice of Concerned Mothers.   Continued...

<p>Sri Rosyati teaches at the Kartini Emergency school at a slum area in north Jakarta February 26, 2009. REUTERS/Beawiharta</p>