Connect with us
Appendix 02: Aceh, Indonesia — young lives in conflict
Tuesday, May 21, 2013

(Aceh was at the epicenter of the tsunami that struck the region on December26, 2004.)

Thirteen-year-old Sri has fond memories of her home village in North Aceh in Indonesia. Though she has lived in a camp for the internally displaced in the neighboring region of North Sumatra for three years, such a long time for someone so young, she still misses her old friends. "I had many friends back home, and very nice teachers," she remembers.

"I was very sad the day we were forced to leave because of the conflict. The whole village was chaotic. The schools closed, and my teachers fled in fear of their lives. Our neighbors and friends, who stayed behind, cried and told us that they would help protect us, but my parents were too afraid. We left our belongings behind, and traveled to North Sumatra," Sri quietly recounts.

Formal education is often unavailable for refugee children, especially for those who have already passed through primary level. If local schools do exist they are often too expensive for destitute refugee families to afford. Sri is one of the lucky ones. She is in the second year of a local junior secondary school near the refugee camp in Sei Lepan, about three hours from Medan. A humanitarian organization has been able to provide her with a scholarship, as her family could not afford the school fees. “I love to study because it will make me smart!” Sri says with great hope. In the camp, education is still only available for elementary schoolchildren, and only a few young people have the opportunity to take their studies further.

"We will never return to Aceh,", Sri says suddenly, anticipating the question on the lips of the JRS worker, unspoken for fear of upsetting her. "I know that more people are fleeing from Aceh now that the problems there are getting worse," she says. "I heard that on the radio."

Despite being only 13, she works hard to understand what is happening to her by piecing together the fragments of information that she picks up. Knowing this, it seems apparent that giving the youth the possibility to go to school is vital for peace-building efforts in the future.