To ensure that children in Indonesia can continue to learn while the schools are closed to control the spread of COVID-19, the government has launched a homeschool programme which will run until the end of 2020. However, not all children are able to study at home. Children with disabilities, for example, face different learning challenges which can prevent them from studying independently.
An, 18, and Novel, 17, from Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, both have hearing impairments. “I have trouble doing school assignments at home,” says An, who usually attends a school for children with special needs. Being deaf, means she is unable to speak to her teachers online and so she is struggling to complete her online assignments.
“In my class, there are about 10 children with different disabilities. Some are visually impaired, physically or intellectually challenged, and some children have hearing impairments like me. However, not all the teachers know sign language, so, most of the time we are only given assignments in school,” says An who explains that she prefers being able to meet with her teachers and friends face-to-face.
In addition to their learning difficulties, An and Novel’s other activities have also been disrupted. Novel is a keen athlete and was looking forward to taking part in the National Paralympic Week (Peparnas).
“Actually, I’m bored because I have to continue studying at home. But I am more upset because many of my activities were stopped due to the pandemic. For example, the National Sports Week and Peparnas were postponed for the time being,” Novel says.
In June, Plan International facilitated an online forum for 50 children and young people from various regions in Indonesia to hold discussions with the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Indonesian Child Protection Commission. An and Novel took part to represent children with disabilities from Kupang and were able to give their recommendations.
“During the pandemic, it is increasingly difficult for us to understand the subjects given to us because there is no assistance from the teacher. I hope that the Minister can provide us with teachers who can speak sign language and can supply us with the equipment to support our education at school and at home,” said An, speaking to the Minister of Education and Culture, Nadiem Makarim.
Novel also conveyed a number of concerns when speaking to the Indonesian Child Protection Commission Deputy Chairman, Rita Pranawati, including that children with disabilities have difficulty communicating with non-disabled people; 70% of children with disabilities do not go to school, and children with disabilities are vulnerable to sexual violence.
“Not only at school, we are also faced with living in a non-inclusive environment. We are vulnerable to being bullied.” Novel said.
As part of our COVID-19 emergency response, Plan International is ensuring the protection of children’s rights during the pandemic, especially girls, children with disabilities and children living in remote areas with poor infrastructure.
We are working with our partners to prevent violence against children by strengthening community-based child protection mechanisms, including child-friendly reporting methods and disseminating information containing telephone numbers children and young people can call if they need help.
By: Hanna Vanya