After 75 Years of Independence: The Struggle of Impoverished Teachers in Indonesia

The COVID-19 pandemic has made life even more difficult for teachers who are already living in poverty. They have to spend money for data plan for remote classes. Many of them don’t even have gadgets, and they often have to borrow it. As Indonesia celebrates its Independence, many teachers are still struggling to survive in the pandemic.

One of the classrooms of Cileunjang Private Islamic Elementary School (MIS) in Bojonggambir, Tasikmalaya before the renovation of the school supported by Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT). Shortly after the renovation finished, the students had to start learning from home because of COVID-19 pandemic. (ACTNews / Eko Ramdani)

ACTNews, TASIKMALAYA - For years, Muhammad Kamaludin has been teaching at MIS Cileunjang in Bojonggambir, Tasikmalaya Regency. Prior to its renovation, the building of the school was nothing but bamboo walls, wooden desks, and a dirt floor. The students had to cram inside the small classrooms that get dusty when the people inside are moving.

The teachers’ hope for a school renovation was fulfilled when Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) repaired the school, which is located on a hilltop in the midst of tea plantations. Local residents took part in renovating the school. Three classrooms and a teachers’ room were built. Kamal said, although they still need three more classrooms, all of the teachers and students are happy for the improvement.

"We are happy for the new buildings," said Kamal when contacted by telephone, Sunday (8/16).

Sadly, shortly after the renovation, the students at MIS Cileunjang are forced to learn from home due to the COVID-19. Although their area is a ‘green zone’, the teachers don’t want to open the school as they don’t want to face penalties from the authority. For them, what’s important is that the teachers and students are safe from COVID-19.

Since March, the students of MIS Cileunjang have been learning from home. Unfortunately, not all teachers have gadgets to support distant learning activities. They have to borrow the gadgets of their fellow teachers to give lessons to the students.

Students of MI Al Hidayah, Bogor Regency received a gift from ACT Bogor, Thursday (7/23). Their school buildings have just also been renovated by ACT. (ACTNews / Eko Ramdani)

“There are three teachers who don't have Android smartphones. They have to borrow from their colleagues. For us teachers, teaching online is not quite easy. The students also have difficulty understanding the lessons,” Kamal added.

Due to the online learning, teachers and students must spend some money for data plan. With most of the students and teachers living in poverty, spending extra money for data plan is a burden for them. The teachers earn only IDR 300,000 each month that is paid every three months.

The teachers’ lives get tougher

Kamal said 2020 has been the most difficult for him. Apart from having to spend extra money for daya plan, he has also been missing the chattering and the activities of his students. Kamal and other children have been saddened by the separation from their students.

Similar to Kamal, for Nuraini, an honorary teacher at SDN 4 Pengadilan, Tawang, Tasikmalaya not meeting her students is a tremendous sadness. She said that she really missed her students’ voices, especially ahead of the Indonesian Independence Day that was usually filled with various activities.

"On August 17, we usually hold a flag ceremony and games to celebrate the independence day. It is usually busy at school. But now, there’s none of that,” said Nuraini in a rather heavy voice, Sunday (8/16).

On the Indonesian Day of Independence, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Global Zakat - ACT is inviting the community in helping teachers all over the country. Riski Andriana, Coordinator of Sahabat Guru Indonesia program, said that Global Zakat - ACT has been providing financial assistance to thousands of teachers throughout Indonesia. However, there are still many teachers who still urgently need assistance. "When we handed over the financial assistance, we saw that the teachers were very much grateful. They are the heroes of our education, but many of them are still living in poverty and have to do side jobs to make ends meet," explained Riski. []