It’s hard for Talang Mamak Tribe’s Children to Learn During a Pandemic

The atmosphere of the study room at SD N 17 Terasing Tribes, Talang Jerinjing Village, Indragiri Hulu, Riau (13/08/2020). Source: Zulfa Amira Zaed.

Indragiri Hulu ( – Education is the right of all children. The children of the Talang Mamak Tribe in Talang Jerinjing Village, West Rengat District, Indragiri Hulu Regency, Riau have to travel quite a distance to get to school. They have to pass through peatlands to get to the 17 Suku Terasing State Elementary School. Suku Terasing (isolated tribe), that’s how people used to call a group of people in the forest who inhabit almost 50 hectares of peat land in Talang Jerinjing Village.

The poor state of the school immediately welcomes anyone who comes. The building made of boards is commonly used to study 30 children. Actually this is not the main school of SD N 17 Talang Jerinjing, this is a branch that was deliberately made in the middle of the forest so that the children of the Talang Mamak Tribe do not have to travel too far to the East Sumatran Road which is close to the Talang Jerinjing Village Office.

One of the houses of Talang Mamak residents in Talang Jerinjing Village, Indragiri Hulu, Riau (13/08/2020). Source: Zulfa Amira Zaed.

According to Kambit, one of resident who lives right in front of the school, teachers at the school rarely come to school.

“The children here are like this, sometimes they go to school, sometimes they don’t. When the students had gathered at school, the teacher did not come. This has also made some parents decide to move their children to school in the direction of Rengat City. Especially when there is a pandemic, there is less interaction between teachers and students,” explained Kambut, who lives near the school.

Before the pandemic hit, Talang Mamak children went to school on foot and some were accompanied by their parents using motorbikes. The terrain that is taken is also not always easy, especially when it rains. The road will be wet, difficult to walk. Not infrequently the vehicle will fall.

Children have high hopes for learning, but their hopes are not always fulfilled. The distance between the teacher’s houses around Rengat City to the school is not an easy thing to reach. They have to travel about 20 km, by passing dirt, peat, and muddy roads. Not infrequently have to pass through puddles of black peat water.

In addition, the teachers on duty there are honorary teachers with wages that are considered insufficient to meet the needs. It is not comparable to a struggle that is not easy.

When the rainy season is prolonged, this school will sink. “If it rains heavily and often, the school will be flooded for a long time, so it is impossible to study. Residents in the vicinity had to evacuate to a safe place. Usually the Village Head will direct them to evacuate to the Talang Jerinjing Village Office,” explained Teha, a native of Talang Mamak who was trusted to lead the Talang Mamak Tribe in Talang Jerinjing for the past three years.

“During the rainy season, the branch school in RT 20 Talang Jerinjing will be submerged in water. Surrounding houses were also submerged. Therefore, we will evacuate to the Talang Jerinjing Village Office and we will provide a public kitchen to meet the needs of the community while evacuating to the Village Office, “explained Edy Prayitno, ST. As Head of Talang Jerinjing Village on August 13, 2020.

Low awareness of the importance of education

Many children of the Talang Mamak tribe do not receive an education. The triggers are many, ranging from long trips to get to school, children who tend to be less enthusiastic because they don’t have an awareness of the importance of school, parents who are still illiterate so it is difficult to teach their children to learn.

“There was once a reading training held by the local government, but not all illiterate residents wanted to follow it, so that until now there are still those who cannot read,” said Teha.

One of the houses of Talang Mamak residents in Talang Jerinjing Village, Indragiri Hulu, Riau (13/08/2020). Source: Zulfa Amira Zaed.

“Not everyone here has a Family Card and National Identity Card, that’s why it’s difficult to get a birth certificate. Hereditary marriages are carried out in a traditional way, although some are religious, but the parents do not have the documents to then proceed to make a birth certificate for the child. There are also those who do not feel that the document is important so they cannot continue to a higher level of education. The average still graduated from elementary school. For those who have identity and documents, usually proceed to Junior High School (SMP) and Senior High School (SMA) to Rengat City. there is also a college to Pekanbaru. My sister-in-law, for example, studied in Pekanbaru, but didn’t finish and then returned to Talang Mamak,” said Teha.

In addition, economic factors also make it more difficult for the children of the Talang Mamak Tribe. The majority of the Talang Mamak people make a living by cutting rubber, hunting, collecting rattan, farming, and looking for honey. They do not have a special market to sell their produce, so they are still marketed around Talang Mamak.

Distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic

The current spread of the Covid-19 pandemic requires the entire learning process to be carried out online. No exception in Indragiri Hulu Regency, where there are confirmed positive cases of Covid-19.

The learning applied in the Talang Mamak Tribe has differences in the application of learning considering that not all parents of children in Talang Mamak have a mobile phone, plus signal constraints are quite difficult. For parents who are able to use a smartphone to confirm assignments, assignments are sent via WhatsApp messages.

“For parents who can’t confirm assignments via Whatsapp, they can pick up schoolwork every Monday for one week’s work. Economic problems are also an obstacle, not all parents have smartphones complete with internet quota.

The implementation does not always run smoothly, there are some parents who are not aware of the importance of continuing to apply learning even though they are hit by a pandemic. Resting children for too long not to study for a long time will make children lazy to learn. In addition, we as teachers are required by the relevant agencies to process grades. If students don’t do assignments how can we make an assessment? Until now, there are still parents who don’t care about school assignments at all,” explained Kamaruddin as a teacher at the 17 Terasing Tribe State Elementary School.

The road that must be passed to get to the Branch School of SD N 17 Terasing Tribes, Talang Jerinjing Village, Indragiri Hulu, Riau (13/08/2020). Source: Zulfa Amira Zaed.

Distance learning solutions during the pandemic

Rita Pranawati as Deputy Chair of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) explained, “Distance learning during a pandemic must be supported by all parties, starting from parents, teachers, the surrounding environment, and the government. Don’t take the risk of holding a face-to-face school. We can not fully guarantee that the green zone will remain safe. For distance learning needs, we hope that there is the best solution such as quota assistance or creating several hot spots that can be used to access the internet for students and teachers.”

Distance learning that is run during a pandemic requires an internet network. In this case, the Minister of Education and Culture provides free quotas for teachers, students, students, and lecturers. Nadiem has secured funds of 7.2 Trillion which will be used to provide online distance learning.

This is welcomed by many parties, especially students who need a lot of quota to study. “We are very happy that if there is quota assistance from the government, we can save spending on buying internet quota, the important thing is that the signal is here because not all providers can be usedhere,” explained Alif, one of the parents who lives in the Talang Mamak neighborhood. Unlike the case with students who do not have smartphones, they are indifferent to the help of internet quota from the government.

“What kind of aid is that quota? I don’t understand, nor do I have a cell phone,” explained Daru, one of the students at Talang Mamak, while speechless when expressing his confusion with the government’s aid plan.

Ade Hartati Rahmat, a member of Commission V of the Riau DPRD also emphasized, “The internet quota assistance must be ensured by the Riau Provincial Government, do the regions have a stable internet network? it should also be ensured that students in the regions also have adequate mobile phones for distance learning. Then if several hot spots are made, it must also be ensured that there is an agreement with the provider to ensure that the internet network in the area is adequate. which is no less important is the teacher, whether the teacher has mastered the facilities or applications used for the learning”.

The government promised internet quota assistance for the next four months. If the internet quota assistance stops, what can be expected is internet hot spots that may be created at some point, and even then only students who have smartphones can access them.

“In the past we proposed to schools that school teachers occasionally conduct face-to-face learning at students’ homes with a limited number of people, or just deliver assignments for students whose parents never took assignments to school, but the school was not willing,” he explained Alif.***

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