Saturday, March 12, 2005

The world's first street university

LAINE BERMAN and HARRIOTT BEAZLEY have written about street children.

Most street children in Indonesia have no identity cards, so officially they do not exist.

Many street children are scavengers, rubbish collectors or recyclers.

Nationally sponsored 'cleansing operations' insure that scavengers, street children, street peddlars are removed from the public eye.

Street children all know what it feels like to be beaten by security officers at railway stations and kicked by the heavy boots of the police. They also know the smell of the prison cell where they are confined and beaten 'for the good of national stability'.

Girli is an organisation that looks after street children

The Universitas Jalanan, Street University, was started in a house owned by Girli on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. This educational institute for street children is the first street university in the world.

There are currently 17 boys, aged between 12-19 years who have been sent by non-government organisations from various cities (Bandung, Medan, Malang, Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya) to attend the university.

The 13 teachers, including the 'rector', are all volunteers.

The university's main aim is to strengthen self esteem, learn skills for the future and build a stronger community of street children. It is the brain child of Girli and the Consortium for Street Children, of which Girli is a member. The consortium brings together non-government organisations working with street children in several cities.

The academic year is nine months long and classes are geared to vocational skills, such as batik making, silk screening, ceramics and handicrafts. They also learn English from foreign volunteers.


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