Some people might not think a birth certificate is very important. It is only a piece of paper, isn’t it? It’s probably not something you think about very often. But if you ask me why my birth certificate is important, the answer is simple: my birth certificate gave me a second chance to go to school.
I did not have a birth certificate because my parents did not know the importance of having one. I was often bullied. Other children called me illegitimate and a sinful child. Even my teacher teased me for being so big for my age. It was painful.
Two years ago I was forced to drop out of school when I was only 12 because my parents could no longer afford to send me. I live in Jakarta so I spent the days on the street with my mother, trying to help her to sell food. Sometimes I would sing on the street to ask for money from people going about their days. I would always look at the other children in their school uniforms and long to be just like them. It was my dream to become a teacher, but I needed to help support my family.
Sometimes the police asked the children on the streets for their birth certificates when we were working. I was always scared that this might happen to me. I thought I might be arrested if I couldn’t prove how old I was.
Everything changed when I was walking along the street with some of my friends and we saw a small room where some children were learning to read and write. The teacher told us he was helping the children, who also could not attend school, so I was happy to become a member of this group, Yayasan Rumah Kita (supported by Plan International Indonesia).
I was excited when the staff told me they could help me to re-enroll in school, but when I tried to return, it was a very difficult situation because you must have a birth certificate to prove your age. I didn’t have one. I was thinking, “Will I have to live my entire life on the street?”
It was only when my mother spoke to Yaysan Ruman Kita that they explained how to apply for my certificate. I am so happy now because I am studying in the sixth grade and I can tell my friends the date I was born and my real name. Soon I will be able to take the national examinations too.