The Jakarta Post
More than 45 million Indonesians students are holed up at home for the rest of the academic year, as schools close to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Much like the rest of the world, these children face some of the longest no-school days in history, without much certainty of when it all will end.
Some schools in big cities are blessed with better access to technology, allowing them to shift to doing schoolwork online during the quarantine. But most students, especially those who live in rural areas or come from low-income families, are stuck in limbo; some struggle with slow internet, while others can’t even afford it.
But a new educational program airing on public broadcaster TVRI might provide a good opportunity for more students across the archipelago to do their schoolwork from home.
On Thursday morning at around 7:30 a.m., cousins Bagus, 8, and Nail, 11, are already glued to the television set in their room in Cipete, South Jakarta, while devouring a bowl of warm chicken porridge for breakfast. It has been around a month since their school has closed down, but these days, they still have a reason to wake up early.
That morning, they showered early and got ready to study.
While their mothers, who work as housemaids, had already gone to do morning chores at their employers’ house, the two children were settled in front of the TV with books and pencils in hand.
TVRI was on.
Bagus shifted closer to the TV when the program Belajar dari Rumah (Study From Home) started airing at 8.30 a.m. Pak Ridwan, a teacher for grades 1 and 3 who instructed them that day, popped up on-screen wearing traditional Betawi clothes.
He said it was math class that day. Soon, colorful triangular animations began outlining real-life objects on the screen.
Bagus correctly guessed several names of objects that Pak Ridwan pointed at enthusiastically.
“It’s fun! I like studying from TVRI. And there are cartoons, too,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Before Belajar dari Rumah aired, Bagus’ teachers at school would send schoolwork over through his mother’s WhatsApp chats and ask him to snap pictures of the finished task to send back. Once in a while, they would have video conferences with other classmates and teachers.
The program had brought some much-needed color into the monotony of their quarantine study routine.
“After I finish watching, the program gives us tasks. I will finish it right away and send it to my teacher,” Bagus said. The teacher will then check his work and they will discuss it via WhatsApp.
The Belajar dari Rumah program, which began airing on Mondays to give students a change of pace during the COVID-19 quarantine, is the brainchild of the Education and Culture Ministry and is welcomed by many parents and children alike.
The program features 30-minute blocks on a certain school lesson for different levels of instruction, beginning at 8 a.m. and finishing at 11 a.m. from Monday to Friday.
It covers six groups of instructional levels: kindergarten, grades 1-3, grades 4-6, junior high school, senior high school and a program for parents and teachers.
Felicia Lia Oktora, 42, a mother of two from Serpong, South Tangerang, Banten, said her children were also excited about the program. It was the first time they had watched TVRI, having mostly relied on western TV or DVDs for learning activities at home.
“They miss school, their friends and teachers [...] but they are really excited about studying from home because they can wear their everyday clothes and watch while enjoying breakfast,” Lia told the Post on Thursday.
She hopes it will continue beyond the pandemic.
The ministry recently announced that the program would air for three months until July.
“Belajar dari Rumah is an effort [...] to provide education for all during these COVID-19 emergency days,” Education Minister Nadiem Makarim said recently.
However, some regions were still unaware that such programs were airing. Cicilia Mamman, a senior high school teacher from Nabire, Papua, said she did not get any information from the local education agency.
“We are still struggling to study every day because we generally still use WhatsApp groups and we cannot track all of our students as some of them don’t have smartphones,” she said.
“We also can’t do any video-conferencing because of the poor internet reception here.”
TVRI acting president director Supriyono said the broadcaster made sure the program aired on 29 local TVRI stations across the country.
With the largest coverage nationally, the station can reach more than 78 percent of the Indonesian population — three times higher than any private TV channels.
"This is the time for us to once again become the public’s television station, serving students in this emergency situation. Not every household has money or the conditions to provide a stable internet connection," he told the Post on Thursday.
A study from the Indonesian Internet Providers Association shows that 64.8 percent of the total population of 264 million Indonesians were connected to the internet in 2018.
The Indonesian Teacher Unions Federation (FSGI) applauded the government’s decision to launch the educational TV program. FSGI deputy secretary-general Satriwan Salim said it would hopefully help students in remote areas that have difficulty with distance learning.
“But we have to remember this is only a supplementary material; this is not the main source of learning for students. Teachers must also prepare various materials for students […] Don't make too many assignments that end up weighing on them,” he said.