29 October, 2008

A Tomb at the House Yard

. 29 October, 2008

It has been more than 15 years since I have been living in Medan. At least once in every year, most often on Easter holiday, I and my family used to visit a village of Tampahan, about 11 km further from Balige, the capital of Toba Samosir district. It takes about 5 hours drive from Medan to Tampahan.

There is a house of my husband’s late grannies located uphill off the road, facing the street of inter province. The cemetery, - I prefer to say a tomb - of my late parents in law is located at the right side yard of the house.
It is common for the people of North Tapanuli to bury down the corpse of family member at their house yard or their private yard somewhere else within the village. They assume they have the right to reserve part of their own house yard for the burial ground or cemetery of the family member when passed away. It is usually at either the front or side yard, but not at back yard, as to honor the soul of the person being buried there. There are still a lot of Bataknese people who prefer to bury the corpse of their parents or grandparents especially of the aged ones at the land of their parent home village. Even if they have to take the corpse across the ocean, they would do it.

The tombs of King Sidabutar
and his family at Samosir island

Cemetery of Nommensen and his family.
Nommensen is a missionary from
Germany who introduced
Christianity to the people

of north Tapanuli in the 19th century

There are many reasons to do so. It can be a wish or request from their parents or grannies when being alive, to ensure that the cemetery will be cared by a member of their family living in the village or at least by someone they may hire. Another reason is as a way for their descendants come to visit their fore father home village. This is what was requested by my father in law before he departed. He was a former member of police officer, and he has the facility to be buried in National Cemetery, but long time before his death, he told his wishes to his sons that his corpse is to be buried at his parents’ home village.

The tombs of my father's grannies
at Butar - Siborong-borong
which is surrounded by rice fields

The tomb of Siahaan's (my husband's clan)
forefather - Somba Debata in Balige

For current generation living in a city, taking corpse of the family member to the village is not practical, wasting time and costs a lot. They don’t care too much about where to be buried when died. However, as a matter of fact, to buy or even to rent the small burial ground at local cemetery costs a lot. The family of the departed has to pay a lot besides must pay for the rent every year including taxes.

Last month when a father of my friend passed away, the family paid 11 million rupiah (=USD11,000) for 2x1.5 square meter of land for burial ground of the death. That is at Simalingkar, which has been the second best cemetery in Medan in this few years. The best one is at Taman Eden, which cost more expensive, 25 million rupiah (=USD 25,000) per corpse to be buried there. This makes the people of Tapanuli Utara, particularly who live in North Sumatera choose to utilize the land at their father home village as burial ground for the family member. So on the way back to Medan from north Tapanuli, it is a common view to see ambulance delivering corpse to certain village at north Tapanuli followed by family of the departed.

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28 October, 2008

Education of Homeless

. 28 October, 2008

Poverty, economic condition in which people lack sufficient income to obtain certain minimal levels of health services, food, housing, clothing, and education generally recognized as necessary to ensure an adequate standard of living. What is considered adequate, however, depends on the average standard of living in a particular society. People without access to education or health services should be considered poor even if they have adequate food. One of the main sources of poverty is lack of educational opportunity.

To break the cycle of poverty in their family, the children must properly be educated. Being aware of this, the government of my country opens an opportunity for all children to have free primary education. The government has put education as compulsory and in state schools is free. Primary education lasts six years. There is no tuition fee; most text book is subsidized by government, and the children can borrow text books from school library. Its aim is to give the children opportunity for a better future and hence to reduce the amount of people living in poverty in the future.

In fact, there are still a lot of children hanging on the road at school time. Some of them stand as beggars, some others sell newspapers on the street, work as street-singers etc. There are many reasons for these children choosing to leave school. As a part of poverty, one of the reasons is their being homeless. A large percentage of the poor people are homeless. A big number of families in a poor live in houses that are literally made out of other people’s rubbish. They rig up some old corrugated iron, some plastic sheeting – and that’s home. The whole families live in just one or two rooms. There is no privacy. There is no indoor toilet either. The whole families often have to eat, work and sleep in the same room. Poverty and bad housing is a problem for the children.

There are lots children live in homes which are on or below the poverty line. Parents are often put under great stress as a result of poverty and unemployment. This can make home life very difficult and full of tension from time to time. Homelessness is just as hard on kids as it is on adults. As a consequence, the children’s education, if in fact they are in school at all, suffers severely. As a result, children often suffer.

School age children indeed spend a lot of time in school. But after school, they come home to do their homework and in school holidays they also stay at home. Besides, school is not the only place where children learn things. In many ways, home is a more important place for learning and developing, where children find out many vital things about themselves. Homeless youth become heavily concerned with stress regarding such issues as staying healthy and enduring small living spaces. They become acutely aware of their basic physiological and safety needs. With all these things going on in these students’ lives, we can not expect them to achieve to the same level as other more advantaged students.

There are major problems with the education of homeless youth today. Besides free education, there is a big homework : How to help homeless people can leave in a house.

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