Without Wi-Fi, these students trade plastic rubbish to study online

Jakarta: When the coronavirus pandemic forced Indonesian schools to shut, it exposed how millions of households in the South-east Asian country still had no access to the internet or even a device like a mobile phone to do remote learning.

So students and volunteers have come up with creative ways to get around the problem.

For the last two months, Dimas Anwar Putra, 15, and a friend have been collecting plastic rubbish in their Jakarta neighbourhood in exchange for Wi-Fi access.

A young Indonesian browses his Facebook page at an internet cafe in Jakarta. Only one in six Indonesian homes have an internet connection.Credit:AP

With no internet access at home, the two students need to collect one kilogram of mostly plastic waste to trade for access to the internet so they can do online learning for around three hours up to three times a week.

"If we collect trash, it's like a charity for me and apart from that we also get free internet data," Dimas said.

The "Wi-Fi station" is the brainchild of Iing Solihin, who sells waste collected by students to purchase data costing 340,000 rupiah ($31) a month.

"The problem is when the internet data runs out before the end of the month … and they can't study anymore," Iing said.

Millions of Indonesian students have been forced to learn remotely since many schools shut in March due to the pandemic, a particular challenge for poorer families and those in remote areas.

In a hilly district near Bogor, about 80km south of Jakarta, volunteers bring a car equipped with a mobile network transmitter weekly to remote villages so students can use the internet. The volunteers provide laptops and mobile phones.

"The problem of learning online is I rarely use a phone, I share my phone with my parents," said Dafa Mahesa Sudirman, 14, who along with about 30 other students grabbed his chance to study online in a wooden shed in their village.

In some villages, teachers have taken upon themselves to create makeshift classrooms at home, allowing children to use the home's internet connection during the pandemic.

Teacher Inggit Andini, right, wearing face shield, offered free extra lessons for students who lack access to the internet at her home in Tangerang, Indonesia.Credit:AP

Only about one in six of Indonesia's roughly 60 million households had an internet connection in mid-2019, according to the Association of Internet Service Providers Indonesia.

Reuters

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