ACTNews, BATAM – Year by year, Batam City has experienced rapid development. Main roads stretch wide, skyscrapers are increasingly appearing, and the economy is growing rapidly similar to Jakarta. Batam is in a strategic location and close to neighboring countries. Compared to Tanjungpinang which is the capital of the province, Batam is quite famous.
Regionally, Batam City consists of several large islands and hundreds of small islands. The island is connected by a bridge. Apart from cars and motorbikes, boats are also the main vehicles for islanders.
However, aside from the glitter of Batam Island, not all people in Batam can enjoy the progress that is happening, as felt by people on the small islands of Batam.
In mid of March, ACTNews had an opportunity to spend a night in Selat Desa Island, Ngenang Village, Nongsa, which is still part of Batam City administration. Much different from the atmosphere of Batam City, electricity in Selat Desa comes from electric generators which only light up between 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time. The island is the path of overhead power lines that deliver electricity to Batam and Bintan.
Apart from electricity, public facilities there are limited. There is no big mosque in Selat Desa Island, only a small prayer room with solar panels which supplies electricity for lighting, loudspeaker, and water pump machine. Selat Desa Island does not have a formal school. Children there need to cross the strait to go to the nearest school.
“Kindergarten, primary school, and junior high school are on Ngenang Island. Senior high school is further away. Every morning, children use canoes to go to school. The ones who old enough row by themselves, the young ones are escorted by their parents. There is no special boat to pick up children,” explained Ari Anggara, a preacher at the Selat Desa, Monday (3/22/2021).
To get to Ngenang Island, students from Selat Desa Island use canoes. In contrast to students who come from islands that live further away, they use boats that are commonly used between islands.
Ferdi (right), a Selat Desa child who rows his canoe to Ngenang Island to attend school. Each time he goes back and forth, he departs from the strait separating the land where he lives and the school. (ACTNews/Eko Ramdani)
Wishing for School Boat
On a small island in Batam, parents have become aware of the importance of education. They, people from the sea tribe who decided to live on the mainland of Selat Desa Island, wanted their children to be able to get a good formal education. Muhammad Nadi is one of them. “I don’t go to school, but I want my children to go to school to the highest level,” hoped Nadi, Monday (3/22/2021).
Unfortunately, Nadi’s hopes are still hampered by the lack of transportation for education. The situation makes students' activities less effective. Nadi’s children have to row for 20 minutes before arriving at Ngenang Island where their school is located. After that, the children continue their journey to school by walking another 300 meters. School boat is essential for children on the islands. This transportation problem has been a long concern for people in Selat Desa Island.