Indonesia: COVID-19 consequences for working children

Due to the lockdown regulations in Medan, the local Children Advisory Comittee (CAC) met online to discuss challenges arising due to COVID-19 pandemic.

For the virtual CAC meeting, 13 members gathered together via Whatsapp to hold a session on how the virus affects their lifes as working children. It was the sixth meeting for the group and they discussed questions like:

  • What do you know about the covid-19?
  • What are the impacts of the covid-19 on children, parents and families?
  • Has government made any policy on covid-19 and have you received any aid during the covid-19 pandemic?
  • Is government policy effective? Or, does it need to be improved?

Impacts of the COVID-19 on children and families

Due to the pandemic and the lock down regulations in Medan, the children face various challenges. As the number of passengers in public transport or overall of people in public decreased enormously, the income of children or adults working as street sellers decrases accordingly. Even if they did not loose their jobs, most of the time the income has been cut. As a consequence in some families children were ask to support the families income by working themselves. The missing income sometimes results in a shortage of daily meals or more expensive food like fish.

Currently, I do not sing on the streets anymore because the bus terminal is empty. My elder brother has a small garage on the roadside and I help him work in his garage in the morning. I do not wear any mask when I work in the garage because I feel uncomfortable and it is hot. CAC member, 17 years

 
 
CAC members during a festival in 2019.
 
 

Education during COVID-19

The CAC members shared about their current education status. As schools are closed for physical attendance  – as well as in mostly all countries worldwide – only 34 per cent of young students in Indonesia are able to attend in digital learning (OECD). The rest struggles to particiapte due to no or not reliable internet access and/or technical devices. One girl shared with the others

Sadly, my parents and I do not have money to purchase internet data. Therefore, I have to go to a bakery shop near my house in the morning to access free wifi from its parking lot. CAC member, 16 years

Another member shared that they use online tools like Whatsapp or classroom to study. Two other members added that the teachers do give them homework but without explaing the lessons first or checking them afterwards.

Government provision for families and working children

The experience with government provision or policy on COVID-19 vary amongst the working children. Some of them shared that their families received food (e.g. rice, oil, sugar, eggs), but some not. One boy told that there are free body temperature checks and distribution of hygenic materials like masks.

I think home schooling system is good. However, internet data is expensive and children whose parents do not have any smart phone will not be able to study and do their homework. CAC member, 16 years

The CAC members could not agree on the level of effectiveness. on the government support, as some of them call it ineffective and some of them quite effective. Interestungly they agree on the intransparency of government provision and “however, government must be fairer”.

Government has provided free medical check up and services during the covid-19 pandemic. Government must distribute aid fairly and it must be given to the right persons. CAC member, 13 years

What can young people do for covid-19 prevention?

  • Live healthily and wear a mask when go out
  • Wash hands more frequently and change clothes after coming home
  • Obey government regulations to prevent the increasing of infections
  • Not leaving home if possible, keep personal hygiene and environmental sanitation