This is the second year that Treen has been teaching her students about poverty and taking them on a field trip to the dumpsite to show them first hand the conditions that some people must live and work in here in Jakarta, and also to raise money to donate to the students who attend school on site.
Bantar Gebang is located in Bekasi and is the largest landfill waste site in Indonesia and has 600 trucks offloading 5,000 tonnes of rubbish every day. On the site there are approximately 5,000 workers who work in 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, sorting through the rubbish to search for recyclables for a mere 15,000Rp (around AUD 1.20) a week. There are villages set up in the site were the workers and their families live, and a school where the children attend each morning before helping their parents sort through waste in the afternoons. From the age of 5 the children will work alongside their parents as they can make the same amount of money which goes towards living expenses for the family. Many children will stop attending school at 10 years of age and begin working full time in the landfill and the cycle continues to repeat itself without a chance for the children or parents to dream of a different future for themselves.
As you would expect in a landfill site which covers hundreds of hectares, the place is swarming with flies and I had to contain myself from losing it as soon as we stepped out of the car into the school grounds. We visited all the classrooms and introduced ourselves to the beautiful and welcoming young students as they sat in their stifling classrooms with no lightbulbs or air conditioning. I wondered how they had the energy to concentrate at all in the heat and with no water stations for cooling down in sight, and to add to that there seemed to be a lack of teachers in some classrooms although there are up to 70 children in one classroom at a time.
We met with the principal and after much discussion it was agreed that Treen’s school would provide new desks and chairs for the students along with lunch in two weeks time. It’s a small step towards making a difference for the young students, but you have to start somewhere and I am so proud of Treen for making things happen.
Before leaving we went on a quick tour of the dumpsite and I was in shock at the mountains and mountains of rubbish everywhere and wondered how can anyone survive in such conditions and how can anyone get the chance to dream for a different future when this is the only life you are exposed to? The roads were lined with hundreds of trucks waiting to offload their rubbish for the day. This means backing up onto one of the mountains which has a line of cranes scooping the rubbish from the trucks, much of it falling onto the workers standing below, ready to sort the recyclables into the cane baskets carried on their backs.
I am now dreaming and hoping that someone may be able to help some of the school children, to offer them a scholarship to continue on at school at a location off the dumpsite. This would give them a chance to dream and find another healthier way to help to support their families, and for all of us living in Jakarta, it’s easy to start making even a small change and sorting our recyclables before we put them in the bin and they are taken to the dumpsite….