Migrant Worker Deal Expands Education to Thousands of Kids in Malaysia


FEBRUARY 13, 2015

Jakarta. The Malaysian government has finally agreed to issue a permit allowing Indonesia to establish learning centers for thousands of Indonesian children whose parents are working in oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo.

The deal was sealed during President Joko Widodo's state visit to Malaysia last week, and forms part of a wide-ranging agreement to improve the rights of migrant workers traveling from Indonesia.

Muhammad Iqbal, the director of Indonesian Protection at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the deal had been struck after a decade of negotiations.

The permit, however, only allows the learning centers to be established inside plantations, meaning about 33,000 children who do not live inside the plantation areas will miss out.

"There are 54,000 Indonesian children in Sabah and Sarawak and only 21,000 of them have the access to education, so there are more than 30,000 children [that] can't access education," Iqbal said on Friday.

Iqbal said Foreign Affairs Minister Retno LP. Marsudi asked her Malaysian counterpart in January to allow more centers to be built. Joko made a similar request to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak last week.

Iqbal said currently there were 382 community learning centers for Indonesian children operating in Sabah and Sarawak.

"We are preparing 168 teachers from Indonesia. They are young educators recruited by the Ministry of Education and Culture," he said.