The Jakarta Post
When Jakarta celebrates the return of the Asian Games after 56 years, nobody in the city should be left behind. The provincial government’s plan to close schools during the Aug. 18 to Sept. 2 sporting event, for whatever reason, will only deprive our children of a golden opportunity to watch the continent’s best athletes perform and, more importantly, learn sportsmanship and all the good values it embodies.
The Jakarta administration is considering whether to implement a two-week school holiday to help ease the city’s nagging traffic gridlock and thus facilitate the mobility of participating athletes. No decision has been made yet regarding the plan, pending an evaluation of the expanded odd-even traffic policy, which is on trial until the end of this month.
As the MRT and light rapid transit (LRT) will not yet be ready for the Games as scheduled, the new traffic policy is a quick fix. But sacrificing students’ right to education is disastrous. Moreover, the students are fresh from a month-long school holiday.
Initially, Governor Anies Baswedan considered closing only schools located in the vicinity of the Asian Games venues — the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta, the velodrome and equestrian center in Rawamangun and Pulomas, East Jakarta — to reduce traffic congestion in the areas. Later, after a meeting with Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC) chief Erick Thohir, however, Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno said the closure would affect all schools across the city.
There is a possibility that over 820,000 students who go to state and public schools across Jakarta will give the historic Asian Games a miss if the government proceeds with the school closure plan. Some parents have also expressed their intention to go on leave and take their children out of the city for a holiday.
If the students are out of school during the historic Asian Games, the event will lose potential spectators. Worse, the national athletes will lack the much-needed morale boost from the home crowd.
It would be better and wiser for INASGOC to involve schoolchildren in making the Asian Games a success. It will be a pity for them if they do not cheer on their athletes who are fighting for national glory.
Education should not be sacrificed for whatever reason. However, schools should encourage students to watch Asia’s best athletes excel and demonstrate sportsmanship. INASCOG could collaborate with the Jakarta Education Agency to organize student visits to sports venues during school hours as part of their class assignments, as suggested by Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani.
The students can be asked to write about their first-hand experience as eye witnesses of high-level competitions or comment on sports they are not familiar with, such as India’s kabaddi and rugby sevens. Indeed, the Asian Games is a perfect chance for them to learn about Asia’s diversity.
Student support would undoubtedly be a source of energy for Indonesia’s and Asia’s progress in sports. So, bring ’em to the stadium.