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Everyday, Meri, 15, has to walk across the railway tracks near Jl. Lodan in North Jakarta’s Ancol subdistrict to get to Kartini school where she studies as a sixth grader.
The daily routine will change on Sept. 9 when the school will be evicted and relocated, for the fifth time, to a piece of land under a toll road near railway tracks.
“I don’t mind the school being relocated as long as I can study. Besides, the toll road is nearer to my house,” Meri, who lives with her grandmother in a shack near the toll road, said before the school started on Thursday.
Meri is one of 621 students studying at Kartini school, established in 1996 by twin philanthropists Sri “Rosi” Rosiati and Sri “Rian” Irianingsih, to educate children from impoverished families.
The school currently stands amid a sprawl of shanties and warehouses in Kampung Bandan, North Jakarta, beside railway tracks owned by state-owned railway operator PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI).
The school, which has had to move from four different locations since it was built in 1996, is facing yet another eviction, as PT KAI wants to develop the area into a goods transportation hub to reduce the area’s traffic woes.
PT KAI spokesman Mateta Rijalulhaq said that the traffic around the school was very busy due to the many warehouses and shipping companies located there. “There are many damaged roads in the city because they have to bear the load of containers transported by trucks,” he said. “If goods transportation is more concentrated and systematic, then it may help ease the burdens from the roads.”
Rian accused the company of only wanting to commercialize the area by building a food-court there. Mateta has denied this allegation, saying that the company had no plans at the moment to build a food-court in the area.
Having to operate a school under constant uncertainties regarding its future has taken a toll on the twins’ minds and attitudes. “I’m obviously stressed out by the circumstances, but I can’t show the students,” Rian said, while helping her students to clean the classroom.
“Fortunately, I was able to secure a spot under the toll bridge through the help of local thugs.”
She said that she could not use a proper building such as a shop-house (ruko) for the school, nor move the school to a housing complex, because the students were marginalized children and they would not be accepted in such environments. She added that the students, mostly street children, already knew that they had to move out. “They seem to be OK with it. These are strong children after all. Most of them are accustomed to sleeping without roofs over their heads,” Rian said.
These are also the same children that Rian and Rosi hope will become our future doctors, lawyers, or even presidents. “Some of the graduates have gone on to become marines, police officers, and some even go on to graduate schools,” Rian said.
Some have even become teachers at the school, just like Rian and Rosi. Some aspired to become teachers at the school, such as Meri, who said that she wanted to become a teacher because of the twins.
The graduates of the school are able to secure obtain formal jobs and enroll in formal academic institutions because the twins help them to obtain birth certificates and identification cards (IDs).
Rian said that she was able to secure birth certificates and IDs for the students through a legal loophole. “Once they have graduate certificates from the school, they can apply for both birth certificates and ID as long as I pay a fee to the city administration,” she said.
Besides providing education, the twins also provide basic necessities such as food, showers and medicine, all free of charge, to their students.
“What they need is an opportunity to eat, sleep and study just like children living under more fortunate circumstances,” Rian said. “They may not be wealthy, but they cannot be poor in education and character.” (han)