Ismatun Amanah was only 12 years old when she decided to migrate to Jakarta to work as a housemaid. At such a young age, leaving home might not be her ideal dream. Yet as the ninth child of 10 siblings, she wanted to help her parents and no longer went to school anyway. She had no other choice.
In Jakarta, Ismatun lasted less than one week. Her employer asked her to go home. "She was crying all the time as she missed her mother. She eventually quit working and returned home. She was still a child," recalled her father Sakrup.
Ismatun is one of tens of thousands of children in Brebes district who are forced to drop out of school. This situation convinced the Brebes District Government to initiate the Back to School Movement – known by as GKB – in 2017. "Thank God, because of GKB, Ismatun can return to school. That was always her dream as she loves studying. She likes math the most," explained her father who works as a day labourer.
Not far from Ismatun's house, seven-year-old Fakhri Pratama was also finally able to attend school again. Fakhri’s father has passed away and he lives with his grandparents. In 2018, he was registered to go to school but only attended for about two weeks. Due to financial issues, Fakhri was taken out of school. "Without such help, there's no way Fakhri can continue his education. Thank God, he can now return to school as before he kept asking about it," said Fakhri’s grandmother.
The Back to School Movement was launched after the development of the Community-based Development Information System (SIPBM). This revealed up to 10,000 out-of-school children in Brebes. According to the Brebes District Head Idza Priyanti, economic factors were the main cause of the high dropout rates in her area.
The government launched the Back to School Movement in July 2017. "Due to the high out-of-school children rate, we want this movement to be financed by the regional budgets, and not relying solely on community support. But to get it right, we need to have the regulation in place. KOMPAK helped us to develop the regulation," said Imam Sugiarto, Head of Non-Formal Education, Brebes District Education Office.
According to Imam, KOMPAK's role has been significant. KOMPAK provided support in the drafting and advocacy that led to the issuance of the Perbup (District Head Regulation) No. 115/2017 on 12 Years of Compulsory Education.
With the issuance of the Perbup in 2018, the District Government allocated A$570,000 to return children to school, both for formal and non-formal education. "In 2018, the number of out-of-school children was recorded at 16,874. We aim to incrementally get them all back to school by 2022," Imam concluded.
Today, the Back to School Movement has returned 10,779 students to school, with ongoing efforts to provide opportunities for the remaining 6,000 children still out-of-school.