Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
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Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ibu Murni and the Constitution

Years back we had the priviledge to meet one remarkable woman, and we would like you to know her too.

Meet Ibu Murni. A single mother, with one teenage son. Her husband left her not long after the son was born, and she never heard of him since.
Raising a kid on her own, she worked 3 jobs: Cleaning lady during the day, selling food to night-shift factory workers at night, and in the middle of those, selling snacks to office workers in our building. This was where we met her.

5 pm, 3rd floor, behind the elevator, near the pantry. There she was, everyday. And her arem-arem (steamed-rice, with stuffings inside, wrapped in banana leaves) was simply the best in the world.

From time to time, she had her son tagging along, helping out, sometimes still in his high-school uniform. We often had a chat with Ibu Murni while we enjoyed the hot snack in the pantry, and if the son was there, we would quiz him on whatever he learned at school that day, or simply forced him to practice his english. It was fun and certainly brighten up our otherwise a really boring day.

Really proud of her son, we could not forget what she always said every time we met her and talked about her son's education:

"I will make sure my child receives the best education even if it kills me."

The hell she did.
Not only her son went to one of the best private school, he also took english course after school, and classical guitar lessons twice a week.
Ibu Murni made sure she has all the money to pay for them. Hence the 3 jobs.
(When we offered to share some of her burden and contribute to her son's education, she turned it down: "Give your money to those who need it more. I can take care of myself.")

"He must be able to speak english", she insisted when we asked about her son's after school activities. "What can he do without english? The world is different now."
We all nodded like school kids in front of a teacher.

And the guitar lessons?
"He likes playing guitar. Maybe he has the talent. I don't know," said Ibu Murni, "And I will never know unless he takes the lessons".
"Besides, " she said, "Art will do him good. Life is not just about science and technology, you know".

Wow. And this is coming from a woman who did not even finish her elementary school.

"I will make sure my child receives the best education even if it kills me."

Too bad we -- as a country -- cannot say the same. We cannot even commit 20% of our budget to education [1].
What percentage of Ibu Murni's income went to her son's education? We guessed more than 70%.
"I'd rather not eat than being late paying my son's tuition". She said on one occasion.

We, as a country, cannot say the same.
We, as a country, don't know better.

We, as a country, have a lot to learn from Ibu Murni.

Now, the footnote:
why did we write about Ibu Murni in past tense?
That is because all the hard work and the crazy hours she had put in took its toll. Her frail body could only take so much, and after a while couldn't withstand anymore punishments. Her liver was the first to give up. She passed away not long after her son finished high school.

Her son now studies at one of the country's best university. He finances his study by working as a freelance translator in a small translation firm, and giving private english lesson to school children -- and still refused our scholarships offer.
He certainly inherited his mother's determination.

"I will make sure my child receives the best education even if it kills me."

Maybe we should put that in our constitution instead of the one we have below, that we don't even follow:

Chapter XIII

Article 31

(1) Every citizen has the right to receive education.
(2) Every citizen has the obligation to undertake basic education, and the government has the obligation to fund this.
(3) The government shall manage and organise one system of national education, which shall increase the level of spiritual belief, devoutness and moral character in the context of developing the life of the nation and shall be regulated by law.
(4) The state shall prioritise the budget for education to a minimum of 20% of the State Budget and of the Regional Budgets to fulfil the needs of implementation of national education. [2]

[1] Anggaran Pendidikan -- Pemerintah Tak Dapat Langsung Penuhi Keputusan MK
[2] The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia - As amended by the First Amendment of 1999, the Second Amendment of 2000, the Third Amendment of 2001 and the Fourth Amendment of 2002 - Unofficial translation


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't help to comment. Another nice post. It is very touching, reminding me of my own mother (and my father). Once I asked her why she never put on make up or never want to have woman things, such as clothes, jewelery, etc., like any other women. She answered bluntly and plainly,"So that I can get all of you to school". Of course, my parents' condition is not comparable to Ibu Murni (eventhough we were only average), but the spirit is the same, right? They will do everything to get their children to school.

Six of us now make a good and decent living.

I like this blog, keep writing guys!

6:42 PM  
Blogger ffnst said...

Thanks for sharing this story. Trust there are tons of Ibu Murni out there work to the bone to make damn sure that their descendant have a better life. And we can further learn how to show our gratitude in this course of life.

Forget about government! They're useless craps! Stories of anonymus deserted heroes like Ibu Murni are always make me emotional. Sorry.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Marek Bialoglowy said...

Very interesting pice. I hardly believe there are people such as Ibu Murni as base on my experience most ppl on her level would never refuse some extra cash - which makes me hardly believe in your story. Anyway, this must be exception and I think it is important to write about such unique personalities. Great job as usually.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Tine & Farid.

Marek, you mentioned:
base on my experience most ppl on her level would never refuse some extra cash

Don't let one or two incidents shape your prejudice, dear Marek.

A lot of people still value dignity above anything else.

(But we read in your blog, about the incident you had with your 'pembantu', and we can understand your point of view).

You are right, Ibu Murni is exceptional.
We met a lot of people throughout our career. Shake a lot of hands, exchange business cards more than we care to remember.

But only a few of those people leave deep impressions in our mind.

Ibu Murni is one of them.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Jakartass said...

Another fine post.

It touches the heart to know that amidst the greed and selfishness that we encounter every day in Jakarta, there are still folk who are seemingly only capable of giving.

Do keep reminding us.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

Your piece goes straight to the heart...beautifully written too :-) I do believe that there are a lot of people like that with PRINCIPLES, but we rarely hear about them because they don't like much spotlight and because actions speak louder to them than just blah..blah..blah...

I have also met many people from different walks of life living in 3 different continents, once in awhile I do meet those Ibu Murni-s :-)

I would no doubt thank my parents for everything! they taught us great isn't everything, but dignity and work ethics etc are on top of the list.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

I forgot to add...20% of budget isn't too bad if we know the real number ;-) and the constitution mentions that everyone is entitled to education, do you know how many percent of illiteracy in Indonesia now? How many school-aged kids are really in school? Basic education isn't a must in Indonesia where in France it is. Parents would be in trouble when their kids aren't in school...

I'm clueless on how laws get voted in Indonesia. Who are voting? How do people get information in general regarding laws that are about to pass etc. I know it's not the purpose of this post, but maybe it could be your future post subject :-)

Thanks again and keep writing, guys.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Rasyad A. Parinduri said...

Gov't budget is proposed by the administration, and put into law by DPR.

I think gov't expenditure on education is small partly because the gov't wants to eliminate budget deficit as soon as possible.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Rasyad A. Parinduri said...

A few more things: illeteracy rate in Indonesia is almost non-existent. Basic education is quite good, I mean compared to other developing countries. You may find the following post, and links within, of interest Indonesia in numbers: education index

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corrupt government or corrupt system will keep the people not to be well-educated, or in other word, well-educated people will disturb the corrupt system running well. That is why in almost corrupt countries, education should not be setted as a priority.

* sorry, my english is so amburadul :)) *

7:28 PM  
Blogger Indonesia Anonymus said...

Jakartass, Maya, thank you.

Rasyad (of Sarapan Ekonomi), thank you for the additional info. Reading your post makes us feel a bit better.

Agusset, what's so 'amburadul' about it? Opinion well said.

8:05 PM  
Blogger s said...

nice story.

Incidently, why would it be wrong for Ibu Murni to receive extra cash?

11:13 AM  
Blogger Admin said...

Hi Rasyad, thank you so much for your post and data. I do know better now...but then again, statistics sometimes can be misleading too, so we won't know the real number still :-) But ranking #110 is still pretty low considering our potentials and richness as a country. There shouldn't an excuse to do better at educating people...Thanks again, Rasyad...I'll bring the data up in my blog, if you don't mind.

Boy...9% guys, it's not even the 20% you thought at first...I'm curious for sure for the real number now :-| How can illiteracy non-existent in Indonesia? I don't understand...

Eliminating budget deficit first doesn't seem to work out...we've been in-debt 'forever' no? as long as gov't does business in a corrupt way, we won't ever pay back. So therefore, it's a bs excuse to say that we'll take care of our deficit first before we educate! and DPR agrees with this??? Sorry this comment isn't for you Rasyad...I'm just very 'disappointed' here.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Indonesia Anonymus said...

there is nothing wrong with it.
She just didn't, and Marek found it hard to believe.

20% is what the constitution demands and the government did not fulfill.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Ujang said...

Just my 2 cents....There at the very least three things to consider when we start to think about how much government should spend on education.

First is the level (and quality) of the education. The Education Index shown by Rasyad, constructed from enrollment and literacy figures, only tells us something about education levels (although not about quality). It's true that typically when we think about the budget for education, we think about spending the money to increase these levels.

But also as important is the return on education. Given a level of education, how much you get in return in terms of earnings or wages. Higher returns would give incentive for people to invest more in their children's or own education (Bu Murni seems to know a thing or two about this, to say the least).

Thirdly, how sensitive are those level variables and the returns to some external shocks, whether it's an economic shock (e.g. crisis in 97/98), weather shock(e.g. the 97 drought), or a weird government policy, etc. Did these shocks make parents pull children away from school, for example? How volatile are wages and income with respect to these shocks?

I would argue that the 20% is just a supercifial target if the funds are allocated without considering (at least) the three things above.

And I think you can put 'health' in place of 'education'in my argument above -I think it still goes trough.

6:45 PM  
Blogger blackshoes said...


Very touching story. I'm ashame of myself who is so blessed but still don't put my 100% effort in my education. I feel like i have to do more now.

I didn't know about this blog until i typed "what makes you an Indonesian" in the google and this blog came out. I like this blog. Interesting.

Keep writing =)

8:24 PM  

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