In Indonesia public school education is free but many parents complain that in order to get a quality education you have to pay.
And in order to pay for their own education many children from poor families end up having to work after school hours.
Now a group of young people are trying to improve the quality of education for street children by providing free after-school lessons... with graffiti.
7-year-old Sukma is learning the alphabets...
It’s Sunday and she’s not in a classroom...
She’s under a highway in Grogol, West Jakarta, with a group of other street children.
Their teacher comes from a group of young people called Graffiteach.
32-year-old copy writer Felicia Hutabarat is the group founder.
“When we’re at work, these children should be at school studying. But some of them don’t and instead work on the streets for money. We thought what can we do if they don’t want to go to school? and we decided why don’t we just bring the school to the streets?! We don’t use books or pamphlets because they’re boring. We looked for a fun medium that is closer to lives.. and graffiti was the answer.”
With the help of 15 street artists, Graffiteach has painted around 15 educational graffitis across Jakarta
“First, we choose the subject – Let’s say we want to teach science. We prepare some sketches and show them to the kids and they can choose which one.”
23-year-old street artist Bonds was inspired by the group’s mission.
“I asked them first, what this is for? They say it’s for education.. It’s a kind ofstreet arts for street children. With my background in graffiti, it’s a new purpose for me... We work on the wall and it’s close to where street children are.”
His first graffiti for Graffiteach was called “Find the hidden letters”.
He encouraged children to find the hiden letters inside his huge graffiti of colourful fish, apples and ducks.
When they can find the letters, they write them in white boxes provided below the graffiti.
Graffiteach has joined forces with the International Street Children Organisation and a local NGO Children’s Friends, turning walls into a giant fun wall lessons in different parts of Jakarta.
“We want this to become like a museum for street kids. We search for empty walls near where thestreet kids live. If it’s too quiet, with no kids around, we don’t paint there.”
10-year-old Mawar and 14-year-old Dendi are studying in the morning and working in the afternoon.
They regularly join the Graffiteach class each week.
“There are drawings of heroes, clock, dinosaurs... and what do we want to be in the future. The paintings are pretty.”
“I like studying like this... there are games.. it’s so much fun! I want to paint like them!”
Felicia is happy with the kids’ response.
“It’s great! We teach the children different subjects using graffiti. Teachers will move around and teach them one by one. One time, we paint the wall with dinosaurs... well who doesn’t like dinosaurs? Children certainly do!”
But some of the educational graffiti were painted over with white paint by the Jakarta authorities last April.
Graffiteach member 37-year-old Ronny Pratama regrets this.
“It’s a pity... and also confusing. It’s forbidden to do graffiti but these walls haveeducational contents. For me, it’s just wiping out paintings without knowing what they are.”
Graffiteach initiated an online petition to push the government to permit them to use street walls to educate street children.
More than 1,000 people have signed and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo has given his approval to paint the walls again.
“Of course they can do that... rather than just messy scribles, for us, it’s not a problem. There are rules about where they can do it and what theme they can pick and so on.”
Until they get the formal permission, Graffiteach will stop painting for a while.
But Felicia is confident that more and more street children will be interested in learning from graffiti.
“Some of them think that learning is boring, and they better off working on the streets. With graffiti, we let them know that learning can be fun! We want the street arts to motivate them to study.”
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