Twin moms teach marginalized children in Indonesia

STORY: They are affectionately known as "Twin Moms."

Now in their seventies, Indonesian twins Sri Irianingsih and Sri Rossyati

have been teaching marginalized children from low-income families for more than 40 years.

Their goal? To equip the students with practicals skills so they can make a living after graduation.

“We’re not asking for money. On the contrary, our money is for this school.”

In 1983, the sisters founded the Kartini Emergency School in the middle of a once-elite area of Jakarta.

From cooking to flower arranging, students learn practical skills,

ensuring that they won’t return to sorting through trash or begging on the streets.

“In the middle of this elite housing complex in Kelapa Gading (Jakarta), these people sweep the streets. Then where do their kids go to school? They don’t have money. They have to pay rent in the corners of the city, next to rivers, shacks. How would their kids attend school? Meanwhile the cheapest tuition fees in that area are 5 million rupiah ($328). That’s why we made this school, and let those kids enroll here.”

In Indonesia, it is mandatory for children to attend school from grades 1 to 9.

Since 2008, the government has required public primary schools to abolish tuition fees.

But many marginalized children coming from low-income families struggle to afford excess costs, such as uniforms and books.

One such student is Leni Nur Afia.

“In Jakarta, I can’t see paddy fields, I can’t see the outside world. So the Twin Moms brought me here. We harvest snails, eels, we’re getting the experience together. It’s fun.”

Nia Latifah, an alumni of the school, faced similar challenges.

She graduated in 2007 before enrolling in a public school recommended by the Twin Moms.

“My family’s condition was too poor for me to go to a public school. So I started attending the Twin Moms’ school so I could get formal and free education until I can achieve my dream of going for a Masters and attending a public university. But thanks be to God, after going to the Twin Moms’ school and being guided by them, I was able to attend the University of Indonesia and now I’m a Masters student at the University of Pamulang. I’m also working in an international organisation, which is something I couldn't have achieved."

Indonesia has seen a rise in children out of schools in 2022, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

More than 38,000 children were out of school in Jakarta alone.

But Twin Moms remain undeterred.

“We receive happiness here. Peace, contentment. After going through life for 73 years, this is what we’ve been searching for.”