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After the tsunami "I want to have a good job" - preparing young people in Aceh for a better future

Last year's disastrous Indian Ocean earthquake and tidal wave had long term consequences for tens of thousands of junior and senior high school students in the Indonesian province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD). Devastated school buildings and the lack of teaching personnel deprived the students of educational opportunities, with some 20,000 ultimately failing national exams. The crisis facing the education system follows a long period of civil conflict in Aceh during which schooling for many children was regularly disrupted. To help remedy the large increase in the numbers failing national exams, the ILO and the NAD Provincial Education Office have developed special training programmes for students from 50 schools in Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar and Aceh Jaya.

Article | 26 September 2005

BANDA ACEH (ILO Online) - Nanda Maulidawait lost two of her best friends when the tsunami wave hit her community last December and her school in Peukan Bada was also destroyed. Her parents don't have permanent work, and her two sisters have dropped out of school. And this year, she failed her national exams.

"I want to have a good job! That's why I want to stay in school, at least until I have finished my senior high school", says 15-year-old Nanda, who remains the only hope of the family for a better life.

Nanda lives in Lampaseh Engkeng Village in Banda Aceh and is one of the 20 students there who joined the Remedial Programme for Junior High School Students supported by the ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). The programme prioritizes schools with high failure rate, particularly in Banda Aceh, where the failure rate was 39 per cent.

Nanda isn't the only student who's suffered in the wake of the tsunami. The traumatic experience of the tsunami has had a deep impact on many students, who stay away from school whenever it is raining or windy. What's more, Nanda has also found access to education more difficult. After the title wave destroyed her school, she had to walk two hours to another village to continue her studies.

Nanda believes that her failure in the Bahasa Indonesia test was related to the fact that she was not told how to fill in the answering sheet. "We were not properly trained to cross the right number in the sheet", says Elvan Noviansyah, one of her classmates. The students believe that if they had had a trial run before, they would have passed the examination.

Thanks to the ILO's special training programme which helped her to build up confidence, Nanda is very optimistic about her future. "This programme will greatly help students who are still unable to learn effectively after the tsunami", says Dr. Sukarni from the NAD Education Office.

In conjunction with the programme, the ILO and the Education Office in collaboration with Primagama, a training institution, have provided refreshment training for 150 Math, English and Indonesian teachers from 21-27 July. After the training, these teachers will develop a remedial programme for their own schools. The ILO provided learning modules for teachers and students.

The programme is expected to assist around 1,000 students retaking and passing phase two of the national examinations. According to Alan Boulton, Director of the ILO office in Jakarta, "this initiative is very crucial to help Acehnese children pass the national exams, continue higher level education and open up better job perspectives for them".

While the actual programme to prevent children from dropping-out of junior high school is short-term, the ILO-IPEC and the NAD Education Office are planning to develop a long-term programme to tackle the increasing dropout rate if the failure rate of the second phase of national exams continues to be high. There are also efforts to get children who have dropped out back to school.

"These programmes will serve as models of best practice which can be mainstreamed into other ongoing programmes of our partners in Indonesia. They help us to tackle the child labour problem and to ensure that all children receive nine years of basic education. We are working towards a world where no children will be deprived of a normal childhood, where parents can find decent jobs and children can go to school", Alan Boulton concludes.

The programme complements another, conducted by UNESCO and ILO, offering tutorial assistance to senior high school students in Aceh who have failed the national exams.

For further information, please contact: ILO-IPEC's Project Coordinator in Banda Aceh, Vicky Agung Wibisono, email: or ILO-IPEC Chief Technical Adviser in Indonesia, Patrick Quinn, email: