Getting a birth certificate in Indonesia can be an administrative nightmare

April 7, 2013

Hello again, and welcome to AS IT IS from VOA Learning English.

I’m June Simms in Washington.

Today, we celebrate the first graduating class of Liquidnet Family High School in Rwanda

And we travel to Indonesia. The country is home to millions of unregistered children. Today we hear how not having a birth certificate can have long lasting effects.

Getting a birth certificate in Indonesia can be an administrative nightmare. It takes a lot of paperwork and is quite costly. This is especially true for millions of people in the country’s poor and lower income communities. Without a birth certificate, the children are not able to get an education, or even basic healthcare. Jim Tedder reports.

After collecting plastic bottles and sorting through trash, 26-year-old Santi returns home to her small wooden shack. Her son plays banjo on local buses for money. Together they make just enough to get by. Opportunities are few for people who live in this Jakarta slum. That is especially true for the children, many of whom do not officially exist.

Santi says she cannot afford to pay for birth certificates. But without them her children cannot go to school.

Santi’s children are among as many as 35 million children who activists estimate are unregistered.

Amrullah Sofyan is a project manager at Plan Indonesia, a child rights group that is working toward universal birth registration.

“Birth registration is part of the first identity for the children to become citizens because it is linked with their other rights, like identity, nationality, a right to education, a right to health.”

Marriage registration, a passport and the right to vote are also out of reach without a birth certificate.

“It is a matter of citizenship. They are citizens of this country. If we are only concerned with population administration, we will reject them and send them back to their village. We ask the government when they make a policy not to be blind to the people because it is a reality. Street children, marginalized children [are] a reality. The policy should be open.”

Last year, Plan Indonesia researched five slums in Jakarta. It found that more than 60 percent of the parents had never tried to register their children. Across Indonesia, the figures are even worse. Plan Indonesia estimates that as many as three million more children each year join the 30 to 35 million who are unregistered.

These are the sounds of lunchtime at an unofficial school for street children. Each day up to 30 children attend the basic lessons.

56-year-old Pipit established the school three years ago. She says the children are smart and deserve a chance.

The students even wrote a song about it.

It tells about their dreams of going to real school.

But for now, it’s street school or nothing. I’m Jim Tedder,

You are listening to AS IT IS on the Voice of America. I’m June Simms.

It’s been 19 years since the Rwandan genocide. Since then, much has been done to reunite and rebuild the country. But the work continues. It includes helping those who became orphans during and after the mass killings.

More than 100 high school students at a youth village in Rwanda recently passed their national exams to graduate. They are all orphans and members of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. The name of the village is a combination of Kinyarwanda and Hebrew.

Agahozo means “where tears are dried.”  Shalom means “peace.”

Anne Heyman is the founder.

“I actually was attending a lecture on genocide, and there was a speaker speaking about the Rwandan genocide. This is in the fall of 2005. And my husband asked him what was the biggest problem facing Rwanda today? And he said in a country where you have 1.2 million orphans, with a population of 8.5 million people, there really is no future for the country unless you come up with a sustainable solution to the orphan problem.”

Ann Heyman is a South African born lawyer, who now lives in New York City.

“It occurred to me that Israel had had anorphan problem after the Holocaust, and they had come up with a system that reintegrated those kids into society, and they don’t have an orphan problem today. So there really is a systemic solution to dealing with the orphan problem.”

Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is about an hour’s drive east of Kigali. It is built on land that Heyman and supporters bought from local landowners.

“We have 500 kids in the village. Everyone gets the kind of support that you or I would give our biological children. Yes, they get food, clothing, shelter and all those things.” Mrs. Heyman says, as orphans, the kids have all experienced trauma in their lives.

“We focus on trying to heal their emotional scars; giving them a healthy outlook on life; helping them determine what they want to do with their futures.”

Families are made up of 16 youth and each family is headed by a mom.

“Many of them, the vast majority of them, are women who lost their families during the genocide. And for them, too, the village is a very healing environment. They all say that they have found incredible meaning in their lives. And restoring the rhythm of life for these young kids has really been incredibly uplifting for them.”

There is also a high school in the village, where Mrs. Heyman says the children get a state-of-the-art education.

All but one of the 118 qualifying seniors passed Rwanda’s national exams a few months ago. It is the first graduating class of the Liquidnet Family High School.

Most of the village’s funding comes from donations and much time is spent trying to gain support. Ann Heyman hopes to one day turn Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village into a self-sufficient village, where small businesses can fund operations.

“If we can fix that last loop, making it self-sustaining in terms of income, then I think we have a tremendous model for development for the world.”

That’s AS IT IS for today. I’m June Simms. Thanks for sharing your day with us.