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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poverty and Education

There is a quite interesting true story in the local tabloid today. It is about a girl who is now working as a migrant worker—a housemaid—in one neighboring country of Indonesia.

She was born in a very poor family. When she was born, her poor parents had to give her to one relative, a widow, because they did not have enough money to raise her. They focused more on her older siblings. However, as poor as her own parents, the widow could not support her education well. She stopped supporting the writer’s education after she graduated from elementary school. Luckily, her first sibling who already worked at that time was willing to support her education until she graduated from senior high school.

After graduating from senior high school, she lived together with this first sibling and helped doing household chores, taking care of her niece and nephew. Unfortunately, the first sibling in fact treated her as unpaid maid. Perhaps it was as a way to pay back for the fund for her education?

Feeling worried about her future, the writer who was smart enough, joined one PJTKI, one institution in Indonesia whose business is to send workers abroad. She worked in Malaysia for four years. Her experience, luckily, belongs to the lucky migrant workers who can get much money. Her plan actually was to get enough money to continue her study to college. However then she changed her mind after going home. When she saw that her adopted mother lived in an almost broken house, she decided to use her money to help build a decent house for the widow who raised her. This caused jealousy in her own parents. Besides, the first sibling asked her to pay back all the money she used to study in junior and senior high school. Her other relatives also came to her to ask for her help in finance.

Her disappointment because she could not make her dream come true—to continue to study in college—made her go abroad again. This time she worked in Hong Kong as a housemaid too. She was “lucky” too because she got good employers. Her problem was still the same—her relatives who kept asking her to send them most of her paycheck.

However, this time she was determined to continue her study. She started to be strict to her relatives. She told them that she wanted to use her money for her future investment—education. She wanted to study in Hong Kong while she was still there. Of course her relatives were very disappointed to hear that. They said that she had better think of getting married, being a good wife, and taking care of children now that she was almost thirty years old. However, she stayed put.

If you have any suggestion for her, you can send email to her email address at


Reading the above true story reminded me of one student of mine. He came from quite a big family too. His parents have seven children. The way his parents raised the children is: the parents supported the first child’s education. After that, the first child would be responsible for the second child’s education; the second child for the third child’s education and so on.

I don’t remember the age gap among those seven children. Since everybody got the same responsibility, no one felt jealous why they had to spare their paycheck with their younger siblings for their education.


Another story again is my own good friend. She comes from less wealthy parents who have seven children. She was the only one who continued the study to college while the others were just senior high school graduates. She told me that she already worked since she was in college, to support her own education, and also to help her parents’ finance.

Several years ago, she told me that she was sometimes tired; she worked hard but she never enjoyed her own paycheck. When she gave little money to the parents, her siblings complained. She didn’t think of marriage because she was worried not able to give some money to her parents that eventually would make her siblings complain.

She got married though at last, in January 2005. I don’t know anymore how she managed her money—for her own need and for her parents.


Another story is a family of five children in my neighborhood. Different from the previous stories, the parents didn’t think that education was important. Due to poverty, they could not send their children to school. The first daughter stopped her education after graduating from junior high school. Then the parents married her off.

Having four children left to raise probably was not as hard as before. But still they could not give enough nutritious food and education facilities to the four children.

Three years ago, the second and the fourth children got accident. They were killed due to that. From their deaths, the parents got enough insurance money from Jasa Raharja insurance company. However, instead of using the money wisely to send the two children to school, the parents used the money to support their daily needs because the father’s wage is low. The woman didn’t work.

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