Access to Education for Refugee Children in Indonesia During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Challenges and Adaptation Strategies




Accessibility, COVID-19 Pandemic, Indonesia, Refugee Children, Rights to Education


The protracted refugee situation in Indonesia during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased refugee children's vulnerability due to the non-fulfillment of their fundamental rights, including the right to education. Drawing on data collected through interviews and observation of refugee children during fieldwork in the cities of Batam and Makassar, this paper aims to investigate how and why their access to education has changed during the pandemic. This study finds that, shortly before the pandemic, the Indonesian government provided access to education for refugee children through the issuance of the Circular Letter from the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology Number 752553/A.A4/HK/2019 dated on 10 July 2019. However, the pandemic complicated the accessibility of education for refugee children suggested by the Circular Letter due to lockdown policy and mobility restrictions. The complication is apparent in four aspects of accessibility, namely: access to information, activities in the learning process, environmental support, and the motivation of refugee children. Notwithstanding, this study also finds that the pandemic has induced developments of adaptation strategies through the adoption of online learning among refugee communities to enable wider access to education for refugee children. Therefore, the pandemic may have revealed the urgency for a more rights-based policy on refugee treatment in Indonesia.

Author Biographies

Raden Ajeng Rizka Fiani Prabaningtyas, Research Centre for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency

R. A. Rizka Fiani Prabaningtyas is a researcher at the Research Centre for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency (Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional/BRIN), Indonesia. She graduated from the Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia, with a bachelor’s degree in international Relations. She obtained her master’s in International Relations (Advanced) from the Australian National University in 2018. Her research interests are Indonesia’s diplomacy and foreign policy, international refugee studies, and forced migration. 

Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti, Research Centre for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency

Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti is a Research Professor at the Research Center for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Indonesia, focusing on forced migration, ASEAN and border studies in Southeast Asia. She graduated with a master’s degree in international migration from the Department of Human Geography and Environment, Adelaide University, South Australia. She obtained her doctor’s degree in forced migration from the Department of Criminology, the University of Indonesia in 2014. Since 2015, she is the co-convenor of the Asian Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM), which is a Track II Meeting of the Bali Process. 

Athiqah Nur Alami, Research Centre for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency

Athiqah Nur Alami is a researcher at the Research Center for Politics, the National Research and Innovation Agency (Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional-BRIN), Indonesia. Her main interests are on gender and Indonesia's labor migration and Indonesian foreign policy. She just completed her Ph.D from the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore with her dissertation on infrastructural governance of labor migration. 

Faudzan Farhana, Research Centre for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency

Faudzan Farhana is a researcher at the Research Centre for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency (Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional/BRIN), Indonesia. She got her bachelor’s of Law from Hasanuddin University, Indonesia in 2011 and LL.M in International Maritime Law from Swansea University, UK in 2019. In BRIN, she is a member of two research teams, namely ASEAN Research Group and Forced Migration Studies. Her research interests are International Law, specifically on international organization and law of the sea, as well as strategic issues in ASEAN. 

Arfan, Sultan Thaha Saifuddin State Islamic University Jambi

Arfan completed his undergraduate education at the Ushuluddin Faculty of the State Islamic Institute Sulthan Thaha Saifuddin Jambi in 2002. His master's and doctoral degrees were completed in the Anthropology-Sociology Department at the National University of Malaysia, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, in 2015. He has worked as a researcher on several projects with religious themes, plantation communities and social change. Apart from being a lecturer at Islamic State University of Sulthan Thaha Saifuddin Jambi, he is also involved in this research on the education of child refugee migrants. 


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