They beg, they busk, they peddle cigarettes and bottled water or clean car windows. Instead of being in school, these children are living in peril in the streets of Jakarta to eke a living for themselves.
UNICEF estimates there are 100 million children growing up in the streets of big cities around the world. India has the highest number of them. Russia has one million. And the Philippines a million and a half.
The numbers may be lower in Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta but they are growing. In just three years, according to the city’s Social Services Agency the ranks of Jakarta’s street kids has gone from 3,000 to more than 7,000.
The Jakarta Post published a series of in-depth pieces on what life is like for these children.
Poverty has taken the kids out of school so the only education they have is provided by social workers in shelters or transit homes that also offer counseling and practical life skills, it adds.
“The majority of children here have problems with family. The children are from broken homes, divorced parents, the majority of them are often orphans. We found them on the street and we took them here,” the newspaper quotes a social worker from one home that shelters about 40 kids.
“When they come here, they don’t know how to count, how to read, how to write. The goal is (finding) what they have talent in,” says the director of another non-government organization that gives the children opportunities so they don’t have to return to the streets.
Another story tells the story of girls as young as 12 serving as porters in Badung market in Denpasar, the capital of Bali. They work for up to 12 hours a day, carrying bamboo baskets of fruits and vegetables on their heads. On good days, they get to earn five dollars for their labor.
But Fridays and Saturdays are devoted to school, which the market provides to its young workers.
Indonesia has pledged to take its children off the streets by 2016 under its Millennium Development goals. Although this looks like an ambitious target given the current conditions, government and private organizations are working together to make this a reality.
Unless something is done, these street kids might end up being Indonesia’s ‘lost generation’, says the news daily.