Pintu Belajar

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Tangerang, A Two-Story Town

Tangerang is one of the cities which offer its residents various prospects in many aspects of their lives. Be them the shopping malls, the restaurants, the prestigious University with its thriving students community nearby, offices and other businesses cramming to compete in filling up a market niche that just opened.


Rigorous developments have resulted in Tangerang emerging as an elite residential area, with bustling shops and luxurious houses. However there is a side not often considered by many. More often forgotten are the streets lined with dirt and stones, the decrepit houses of plaster walls... and these are those which are better off.


Pintu Belajar survey team went to visit these outcasted residence areas. Amidst the heat and the dust, we saw skinny children carrying plastic goods walked barefooted, going about to sell their wares by the traffic lights in order to help their parents make a living. Malnourished and tired, these children return to their poor homes, more a hovel than a house, with thin planks of wood as walls and red earth as floor. To them, a University is just a fancy building they could only look at from afar, a place for them to shelter under the shade for a brief moment before the security guards chase them away.


We have heard of such places. We also have, of course, read about them too, just as how you are reading about them now. However, still we were stunned when we came face to face with the brutality of the conditions there at our brief visit. And these are the conditions in which the children are living in every day. This is their life - all in a place not too far away from us.


So it was told to us by a worn woman, who broke down crying in the middle of her story. A-Chu’s family of four is not starving, but very nearly so. Her two children had given up school as an option to begin with – they simply do not have the money. They spend the day collecting plastic bottles and pieces of broken glass to sell for a few extra coins. Her husband lives daily to do whatever odd manual jobs he could find: breaking stones, construction works, pulling at a friend’s rickshaw for a split profit. None of them could read.


This is typical of the community they live in. Upon our visit, none of the able-bodied men were present. All were out trying to make a living in order to survive. Many of the women were at home, taking care of the children and trying to help with the family’s income by working as day-time house-maids to the more affluent households.


A-Chu’s story is just one of many. When asked about what her plan is of her two young children, she sobbed and admitted that sometimes when she thought of it, it would upset her. The feeling of helplessness against her circumstances is so much she admitted, with tears in her eyes, that she would just try and push the thoughts of the children’s future out of her mind.


“I dread the thoughts of them having to have a life like their parents.” She said quietly. Her five year old daughter was clinging to A-Chu's faded skirt. “My husband and I do try. Sometimes he would talk about putting the older one to school. But he is usually too tired at night and we’re struggling to feed them as it is. Us, the grown-ups can go without food, but I really want the best for my daughters.”


Truly, we came away with an immense feeling of gratefulness that we, at least, do not have to suffer such harsh conditions. Most importantly, we left Tangerang with our resolution redoubled, to help those like A-Chu and her family in their struggle for the future, because like us, they too have the rights to a better life.


Maybe one day, her daughters would be able to read this story.