SCAMS IN THE CITY

Indonesia Expat - - COTENTS -

Pa­puans Tricked into Send­ing Kids to Fake School

By Ken­neth Ye­ung

On Fe­bru­ary 17, po­lice ar­rested a wo­man for hold­ing seven Pa­puan chil­dren, aged four to 13, at a house on Jalan In­ti­s­ari Raya in Pasar Rebo, East Jakarta.

The wo­man, iden­ti­fied only by her ini­tials SK (35), had posed as a nun when she vis­ited the Pa­puan town of Timika al­most two years ago. She en­cour­aged fam­i­lies to let her take their chil­dren to Jakarta for ed­u­ca­tion at a pres­ti­gious Catholic school or a sem­i­nary.

On ar­rival in the na­tional cap­i­tal, the boys and girls were taken to the house, which be­came a vir­tual prison, where they were abused and ex­ploited. Lo­cals were told the house was a ‘shel­ter’ for or­phans. The chil­dren were al­lowed out­side only to beg for “so­cial do­na­tions.” Some­times they were left at a neigh­bour’s house when SK was away.

The Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Child Pro­tec­tion, which led the res­cue op­er­a­tion, said the chil­dren re­ceived some home­school­ing but the ‘shel­ter’ was un­reg­is­tered and lacked a teacher.

Com­mis­sion chair­man Arist Merdeka Si­rait said SK rou­tinely con­tacted the chil­dren’s fam­i­lies to ask them to trans­fer funds to cover the ‘school fees.’ He did not re­veal the amount of the fees.

The case came to light af­ter one of the chil­dren, Kristina Ma­gal (11), es­caped by climb­ing over a wall af­ter be­ing beaten for al­legedly steal­ing bread from a food stall op­po­site the house. She said she and the oth­ers were of­ten de­nied food. The lo­cal neigh­bour­hood chief’s wife learned of her plight and con­tacted the com­mis­sion.

Si­rait said the worst abuse was suf­fered by the old­est child, Kristina’s sis­ter, Magda (13), who had to take care of the oth­ers and keep the house clean. He said Magda was threat­ened with rape and be­ing forced to drink mop wa­ter. If the house­work was deemed un­sat­is­fac­tory, she was pun­ished by be­ing de­nied food and had to sleep on a bare floor. Her two younger broth­ers, aged seven and five, were mal­nour­ished. They also had skin diseases, as they were rarely al­lowed to bathe. Af­ter be­ing res­cued, they were hos­pi­tal­ized.

Po­lice and the com­mis­sion had man­aged to con­tact the fam­ily of the four sib­lings and flew them to Jakarta. They were still try­ing the find rel­a­tives of the three other chil­dren, who have been taken to a safe house run by the So­cial Af­fairs Min­istry.

The un­cle of the four sib­lings, Janua Wa­mang, said he was tricked by the prom­ise that they would re­ceive a proper Chris­tian ed­u­ca­tion. He said he reg­u­larly trans­ferred money to the ‘school,’ not know­ing of the abuse.

At a press con­fer­ence, he said SK had once pun­ished one of his nieces by in­sert­ing a stick into her mouth, forc­ing it open “from morn­ing un­til morn­ing.” “She was beaten. And her head was slammed into a wall,” said Janua.

Yu­nita Du­mara, the mother of the sib­lings, said she was duped be­cause SK had claimed to have al­ready brought

“Ed­u­ca­tion scams take many forms. One of the worst is when chil­dren from re­mote Pa­pua prov­ince are taken to Java on the pre­text of re­ceiv­ing an ed­u­ca­tion.”

Pa­puan chil­dren to Jakarta and other cities in Java to pro­vide them with an ed­u­ca­tion. She said she had tried to com­mu­ni­cate with her daugh­ters and sons by tele­phone at least once ev­ery two months, but SK rarely an­swered phone calls.

Si­rait urged peo­ple in Pa­pua not to hand over their chil­dren to ‘mis­sion­ar­ies’ in the name of re­li­gion.

Other cases have been re­ported of Pa­puan chil­dren be­ing lured to Java with the prom­ise of free school­ing only to be sent to strict Is­lamic board­ing schools and be­ing forced to con­vert to Is­lam.

Phone Thief

School chil­dren are of­ten tar­geted by scam­mers, as they are more likely to be trust­ing of older strangers. In the West Java town of Cian­jur, po­lice are look­ing for a wo­man who posed as a trainee po­lice­woman, be­friended school­girls and stole their mo­bile phones and valu­ables.

The wo­man, aged about 30, wore a white Is­lamic veil and hung out out­side el­e­men­tary schools. She would start chat­ting to girls af­ter classes, ask­ing for in­for­ma­tion about a school. She would tell them she was a PhD stu­dent at Pad­jad­jaran Univer­sity and also train­ing to be a po­lice­woman. Next, she would con­vince the girls to ac­com­pany her to a fast-food restau­rant. Then she would ad­vise the girls to go to a prayer area, while she guarded their phones and bags. When the girls re­turned, the ‘po­lice­woman’ and their phones had dis­ap­peared. Af­ter a rel­a­tive of one vic­tim re­ported the crime on so­cial me­dia in Fe­bru­ary, nu­mer­ous other vic­tims rec­og­nized the wo­man and her mo­dus operandi. Some said she some­times posed as a char­ity col­lec­tor for an or­phan­age. Sev­eral said she hyp­no­tized her vic­tims.

Phony Schol­ar­ships

In Aceh prov­ince, school of­fi­cials in the town of Bireuen have warned par­ents that scam­mers are try­ing to trick them into think­ing their chil­dren have won schol­ar­ships.

The prin­ci­pal of Bireuen Se­nior High School 2 said dozens of par­ents had con­tacted him to ask for de­tails about the schol­ar­ships. He said a scam­mer us­ing the name Mulyadi had tele­phoned par­ents and in­formed them their child had made great achieve­ments and was to be re­warded with a schol­ar­ship worth Rp.7.5 mil­lion.

Mulyadi then told the par­ents to con­tact a lo­cal ‘ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment of­fi­cial’ named Faisal. He asked for their bank ac­count numbers and full bank­ing de­tails, claim­ing he wanted to trans­fer the money as soon as pos­si­ble. But no funds were ever sent. In­stead, the par­ents had put them­selves at risk of bank­ing fraud, es­pe­cially if they fol­lowed in­struc­tions to check their ac­counts at an ATM and were tricked into trans­fer­ring money.

While In­done­sia man­dates 20 per­cent of gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture on ed­u­ca­tion, schools and ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials still need to pay more at­ten­tion to teach­ing stu­dents and par­ents of the risks of scams.

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