Saturday, December 10, 2011

Border School Gives Hope to Indonesian Migrant Workers

Children of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia are missing out on an education. They don’t have the documents needed to go state run schools and they can’t affroad private education. As a result many fall victims to human traffickers.

To fill this gap, a school has been set-up in Entikong-on the Malaysian-Indonesian border on the Island of Borneo.  As Heriyanto found out the owners of school pick the children up from remote areas of Malaysia.

Children run into their classroom as a school bell marks the start of a new day at the Anak Bangsa School in West Kalimantan.

In the grade one class, students are learning how to read and sing songs.
One of them is 6 year old, Julkifli. His little frame characterises a grin, revealing two missing front-teeth.

“I like this school  because I can study here, but at home I have to look after myself.  My mum and dad are working in KuchingMalaysia. They've worked there for a long time. I miss them. They're trying to make lots of money so they can buy a car and a motor bike and a house.”

If Julkifli lived with his parents, he would miss out on an education.
Arsinah, the head of the Anak Bangsa school explains Indonesians are not allowed to go to Malaysian state schools. 

So her school offers an alternative - free education from primary right through to high school.

Rudi Isnadi is in his final year at the school. He says he doesn’t want to be a migrant worker like his parents.

“I have learnt so many skills here - learning to use the computer and weaving. I can get by with the skills, but I am planning on starting my own business.  I'll have to ask for mother's help. I want to  make  bricks. I will have to ask her so she can try to  help me. Then after the business is running, I will pay her back.”
The “Mother” that Rudi is referring to is Arsinah Sumitro, the founder of the AnakBangsa School.

She always advises her students to start their own business rather than become migrant workers or more importantly falling prey to human traffickers.

“You don't have to go for big things at first. I give them around  25 dollars and tell them you can use it to by sugar, make icecream and sell it. Don't be easily lured to become a sex worker where you won't be paid for two years. The agents keep on trying to convince you that you can work in a shop this time. But don't do it. I tell them you have your dignity.”
Many young Indonesian girls are promised high paying jobs in Malaysia but end up in the sex industry.

This is what happened to Fanny, a teenager from Eastern Nusa Tenggara Province.

She went to Malaysia to work as a maid but after working for two years without pay she turned to the entertainment industry to survive.

When she couldn’t take it anymore she ran away from agents who used to lock her up, and fled to the Indonesian consulate.

Now she is studying at the Anak Bangsa School.
“All my dreams didn’t come true. I went to Malaysia to save for college. All I have now is regrets and disappointment. But my life is far more valueble than money. I never want to go back to Malaysia. It's better for me to work in Indonesia. Althouth the pay is low, the people have compassion.”

At the Anak Bangsa School she learns weaving, sowing and computer skills.

The school's operations and care of trafficking victims have angered illegal employment agents and human traffickers.
They have received death threats and have been warned that the school will be burnt down.

But Arsinah's daughter, Naswarah, says they will not close the school.

“We are doing the right thing so there is no need to be afraid. I was with victim of trafficking who had just been released from jail in Malaysia and was being deported. As we were crossing the border we realised we were being followed by the agents.”

Despite the threats and warnings, the two women have continued to give victims of trafficking education for the last three years.

At the end of the school day, 12 year old Erni sings Indonesia's national song.
The lyrics are ‘Indonesia the land where I was born and raised. A place to rest when I grow old, the place where I will die.

As she sings, Erni hopes to have a better future without becoming a migrant worker.

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