A tale of literacy in Indonesia’s 75th year of independence: Ibu Euis and friends

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Mrs. Euis, 48 years old, and her friends are excited to learn how to read and write, in weekly sessions. They are awarded with a liter of rice or a box of instant noodles every time they come for a lesson. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – We Indonesians are about to commemorate the 75th year of our independence. It has been that long since we wrested our freedom from colonialists. We have striven to build up our education for decades, in order to achieve welfare and social justice for all of Indonesia’s citizens. Now we are in the digital era, the 4.0 Industrial Revolution era, where everything depends on digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence. Just about everyone everywhere is racing to master the tools of the digital world – gadgetry, computers, online connections, and build startups appropriate to a hi-tech people. 

But who would have thought that not far from Jakarta, right at the foot of Mount Salak in Bogor, there are people still struggling to even read and write properly? 

Syarifudin Yunus, founder of Lentera Pustaka Community Reading Library, states clearly that even now there are still many illiterates living in Indonesia – people who can neither read nor write, who can only count as far as they need to deal with grocery money. One of these is Euis, a 48-year-old lady with a sight problem. She finds it hard to see clearly from a distance. However, she has a strong desire to be literate and she participates in the Lentera Pustaka Illiteracy Eradication Movement (GErakan BERantas BUta aksaRA – “GEBERBURA”) under Syarifudin Yunus’ direct supervision. “They are excited to learn how to read and write every week. In fact, we award them with a liter of rice or a box of instant noodles every time they come by, in order to keep their spirits up,” Syarifudin said. “Indonesia has become independent for decades. However, a lot of its citizens are still enslaved by illiteracy. We need to care more about them, help them out, so that all of our citizens finally become free.” 

Euis and her friends continue their fight in order to be able to read and write properly despite age, poverty, and physical limitations. They are fighting for their own kind of independence nearing Indonesia’s own 75 years of independence. Euis and her 10 compatriots in Kampung Warug Loa, Sukaluyu Village, Bogor, did not ask to become illiterates – they were forced into it by the condition of their family and environment they were born into. If not us, who else will care about these illiterates in the current digital era? (dan)