Indonesian City Admits Migrant Children to Public Schools
Medan – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and the Department of Education in the Indonesian city of Medan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding paving the way for 297 refugee children to enter the local public-school system, which started Monday.
Medan, a port city of more than two million people in North Sumatra, currently hosts 2,226 refugees and asylum seekers, the largest migrant population in any single location in Indonesia.
The children originate from nearly two dozen different countries – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Myanmar. They will start joining local children in seven Medan schools later this month.
For many, this will be their first day at a formal school since leaving their home countries. For some, it will be the first time ever.
Of the group, 72 will enter the school system immediately, while the remainder will be phased in over the next three to six months after attending Indonesian language classes that IOM introduced earlier this year.
“As human beings, we are very concerned for the refugees, especially for these school-aged children,” said Hasan Basri, the Head of Medan’s Department of Education. “My department will give its full support towards ensuring that they are able to pursue their education.”
Prior to this agreement, IOM provided migrant and refugee children across Indonesia with a variety of educational options, including home schooling and regular classes at their accommodation, while supporting migrant-driven community learning centres.
“We are delighted that (Medan’s) Mayor endorsed our proposal for these children to enrol in public schools,” said IOM Western Indonesia Coordinator Mariam Khokhar. “Being in a structured school setting will return a semblance of normalcy to their lives. IOM will provide uniforms for the new pupils and will continue to mobilize support for their right to education.”
Indonesia is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and local governments across the archipelago are increasingly acknowledging the importance of access to education for migrant and refugee children.
Elsewhere in Indonesia, IOM has this year secured 56 places in public schools in the Jakarta area and 60 in Makassar for the children, while their families await third-country resettlement. Last year it secured 80 places.
The migrants themselves continue to play an essential role in providing education to both children and adults. Last month in Pekanbaru, 650 kilometres south of Medan, migrants inaugurated a volunteer-driven youth learning centre that will serve as a coordination hub for educational and cultural activities, including those aimed at helping the host community. The centre emulates a similar one set up in Medan last year that also empowers migrants to help themselves and their hosts.
In addition to educational support, IOM also provides over 8,800 migrants and refugees temporarily stranded in Indonesia with shelter, food security, health and psychosocial assistance under a programme funded by Australia.