Children live in a tent in Kampung Bandan, North Jakarta, after their families were evicted from the railway company land for illegal occupation on July 20, 2020. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

No Sunshine and Rainbows: Children Struggle Amid the Pandemic

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

JULY 23, 2020

Jakarta. Online learning, wearing face masks, and quarantined are what kids nowadays would remember as their childhood once they become adults. But for many kids, growing up amid the Covid-19 pandemic can be challenging.

According to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, more than 70 million, or about 90 percent of the country's children, were affected by the coronavirus outbreak or about 90 percent of the country's children.

"They are no longer free to play with friends of the same age. Some of them have to learn from home on school days," Jokowi said in his official Instagram account on Thursday.

In commemoration of National Children's Day, the president asked kids across the archipelago to obey health protocols and pray in hopes that they can return to school to learn and meet their friends once again.

As of now, only schools in Covid-19 green zones are allowed to resume in-person learning. With the pandemic yet to slow down, it can take a little while for all schools to reopen. However, more time spent at home can lead to other problems.

Under Pressure

The Education and Culture Ministry has instructed schools to forget completing the syllabus during distance learning. Unfortunately, not everyone gets the memo.

Teachers still assign students with too much homework for the sake of finishing off the curriculum and hence stressing them out, Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) said.

"Putting students to exhaustion and under pressure is also a form of violence," KPAI commissioner Retno Listyardi said in Jakarta on Thursday, as quoted by local news agency Antara.

One overworked student in Jakarta was rushed to the hospital out of exhaustion. Others failed grades and dropped out of school due to a lack of access to reliable technology.

A high school student in Nganjuk, East Java, failed a grade because he was unable to attend the online exam, which later affected his total score. The student's laptop was reportedly broken, Retno said.

"There are also factors such as broken devices, limited [internet] data, signal problems, and other technical issues. Schools should act wisely and not act as they please," she said.

According to Retno, many children in West Nusa Tenggara even chose to drop out of school and become child laborers after struggling with online learning.

No "Home Sweet Home"

More time at home has also put children in danger. The Health Ministry revealed that 62 percent of children experienced verbal abuse by their parents amid large-scale social restrictions. Around 11 percent of children also reported suffering from physical abuse by their parents.

Women Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga said that 3.928 child abuse cases, in which almost 55 percent were sexual abuse, have been reported since January 2020 to July 17.

Children are more vulnerable to abuse amid the pandemic because parents have to bear the extra burden to educate their and accompany their kids on their classes while having to work at the same time, Bintang told online media IDN Times on Wednesday.

What happened to children in Indonesia mirrors the trials and tribulations endured by the children across the Asia Pacific region.

A report from World Vision, a Christian relief and development agency, showed 26 percent of children in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka confirmed caregivers' physical or psychological punishment from their caregiver. 

The report suggested stress from having to cope with economic challenges had contributed to the situation. World Vision found 85 percent of households in the region reported a total loss or reduction of income during the pandemic. The report also showed 62 percent of the interviewed households had limited access to food supplies.

"The rate of child malnutrition, physical abuse, and lack of access to proper sanitation in Asia is already high, before the onset of Covid-19 outbreak," Terry Ferrari, World Vision's regional leader of East Asia, said in a recent statement. 

"Now, the loss of livelihood due to this pandemic is causing parents and caregivers to adopt negative coping strategies such as sending their children away to live with family or in institutions, forcing children to work, beg or even engage in illegal activities. The findings in our Recovery Assessment Report is a clarion call to all to respond to this escalating situation," Ferrari said.

Cry For Help

Pandemic aside, child molestation has always been an alarming issue in the country.

An elderly French man came under arrest for allegedly forcing 305 minors to have sexual intercourse with him. Police were only able to identify 19 victims. The child molester had also died due to an injury he suffered in an attempted suicide.

Earlier this month, the news of a 12 years old girl marrying a 44 years old man in South Sulawesi had caused a stir on the internet. It was later revealed that the girl's stepfather had raped her. The marriage was only an attempt to cover up the crime, according to local news media Detik.

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