“Urban Slum Education”: A Case Study of Children’s Experience in Jakarta


 Discussant (s) InJung Cho, Waseda University

Fast-paced expansion of urban poverty entailed the proliferation of slum population, estimated 881 million worldwide (UN-Habitat, 2016). The international community’s action-making on the Sustainable Development Goals Target 11.1 of slum upgrading policy has been only focused on structural development (e.g. housing, roads), neglecting the issues of socio-cultural challenges including education. To address the slum children (SC)’s an array of needs to education in formal and informal education, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have spearheaded providing various non-formal education (NFE) programs as remedies for those children. These trends are pronounced in the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta, whose 60% of population dwell in informal self-help housings (kampung) (Nurdiansya, 2018).

Research Aims & Questions. This study seeks to explore how the local NGOs’ NFE fulfills the SC’s needs of education. In doing so, this study first examines the Jakarta SC’s social challenges to education and NFE programs implemented in response. Secondly, through utilizing an analytical framework constructed from three theories (Pawson and Tilley’s realist evaluation (1997), Bronfenbrenner’s Bio-ecological Model of Human Development (1979), and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943)), this study seeks to identify the perceived impacts of NFE on the SC.

Significance. This study opens up the academic dialogue of “slum education” by illuminating the roles of NFE, while awakening the urgent need of re-configuring educational policies that could benefit the urban society and ecosystem with humanism. Through the Jakarta case study, this research expands the research landscape of the slum contexts which has been limited to structure and health development, and formal education of certain geographic areas. This study further contributes to solidifying NFE activities through a theory-based analytical framework, which enables to comprehend (i) the social challenges of the SC (contexts), (ii) NGOs’ implemented NFE programs to address those challenges (mechanisms), and (iii) the resultant perceived impacts on children in their relational environment (outcomes).

Research Methodology. The research was conducted at Jakarta’s three NFE centers, locating in Grogol, Manggarai, Kramat Jati between January 21st and February 22nd 2019. As an empirical research, this study adopts a qualitative approach, in which photovoice, Freirean participatory-action methodology, was employed among the SC participants in primary education to critically reflect their educational experiences. In this process, from adopting a purposive sampling, 10 SC who have attended the center for the longest period, were selected at each center. Those children were distributed with disposable cameras and took photos that reflect the meaning of NFE to their own. Based on the photos, one-on-one storytelling interview was conducted to collect the children’s voices behind the images. In tandem with 30 interviews with the children, individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 2 parents, 2 NFE teachers at each center, totaling 42 qualitative interviews.

Key Findings & Discussion. The study reveals that two contextual challenges are prevalent among SC in household and school settings: (i) academic challenges, and (ii) social and emotional challenges. Findings demonstrated that the SC’s engagement in street work due to household financial struggles and carrying no birth certificate from the parents’ lacking awareness are the major stimulus of SC’s academic challenges. Other problems, including broken home structure (e.g. parents’ divorce) and authoritarian parenting in household as well as weak teacher-student emotional bond and peer bullying in school, hinder the SC’s social and emotional development. This study shows that in response to the aforementioned challenges, the NGOs have implemented (i) para-formal education, and (ii) NFE supplementary programs to SC. The former refers to the centers’ provision of formal school subjects that serves as shadow schooling for supporting the SC to catch up their age-appropriate academic levels. The latter aims to nurture SC’s non-cognitive skills through Character Building class, outdoor trips, and personal counseling, while providing additional support services simultaneously, including supplying foods, information on public welfare services, and social entrepreneurship programs for mothers.

The SC’s accounts regarding impacts of the NFE’s interventions elicit that the children gained an extended space for learning and healthy food intake (physiological needs). Entailed from parent-to-teacher interaction, slum households’ moving to a new neighborhood and engaging in healthy economic participation through the center’s social entrepreneurship program contributed to the parents’ enhanced supports on the children’s education (safety needs). The children’s improved sense of belonging were found from their building intimacy with the NFE teachers, who respond to their personal problems with empathetic manner, camaraderie with peers living in a similar socio-economic circumstances, and receiving parents’ strengthened support network (love and belonging needs). The children’s garnered confidence in regard to coping with bullying, respect to others, and finding academic interests were reported from the parents and NFE teachers (esteem needs). In consequence of para-formal education, the children’s academic advancement, pertaining to development of literacy and numeracy skills and schooling grade promotion, were observed (cognitive needs). Meanwhile, ambivalently, although the children’s gained pursuit of a higher education and intrinsic academic motivation were noticed, their path beyond academic goal and willingness to foster their slum community’s well-being were seen as bleak (self-actualization needs).

Findings also show that despite these positive impacts, several uncertainties and anxieties continue unabated. The questions pertaining to the centers’ sustainability due to insufficient funding and was a lingering organizational concern. The limited interaction between parents-NFE teachers was reported as a remaining constituent concern.

The current NFE programs play significant role in fulfilling the SCs’ needs of education, but the status quo alone is insufficient to transform their life outcomes and resolve the aforementioned uncertainties. Thus, this study suggests policy alternative to address these issues: (i) to provide popular education for cultivating SC’s critical curiosity, (ii) to establish an interconnected network of NGOs for strengthening accountability and forging a collaborative platform with governments regarding public budget allocation and public advocacy on equitable educational policies to include SC, (iii) to construct close interaction between NFE teachers and parents for ensuring a more conducive learning environment to SC.

This study concludes by reaffirming all duty-bearers’ mutual responsibility towards vanishing inter-urban divide and realizing the SC’s full social engagement, which could not be fulfilled from the current NFE programs limited within the slums.

InJung Cho is currently a first year PhD student at the Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies, Waseda University in Japan. She has a keen interest in non-formal education for marginalized children and hands-on teaching experience in local NGOs and primary schools in Indonesia’s underprivileged communities. Her current research explores the impacts of local NGOs’ non-formal educational support to marginalized children in the urban slums of Jakarta, Indonesia. Since August 2019, she has been studying in Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta as a Darmasiswa Scholarship Student under the Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia.

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