Bridging Indonesia’s rural education gap – a documentary

Photo: Niken Riwu

In a first project of its kind for the institute, journalist fellow Niken Riwu has produced a video documentary to carry her message of change. A still from Riwu's documentary shows children reading by candlelight. 

A small plane comes in for a dusty landing at a local airport in the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara. Just 500 metres away from the noise of the turbines, a village lies in darkness. Children there don't have access to formal education and, after dusk, still rely on candles to light their world.

This is the reality I captured in my first documentary project, Bridging Indonesia’s rural education gap. The largest archipelago in the world, with more than 17,000 islands home to around 275 million people, Indonesia is still battling inequality. The further from the cities you live, the harder it is to access public services. But with the rollout of more base stations giving more homes access to the internet, could the news media step in to help to bridge the education gap through streaming content and apps? 

Watch the documentary


I interviewed economists, education officials, media bosses and NGO workers about the problem, and spoke to officials at South Korea’s highly successful Educational Broadcasting System about solutions. 

It’s not the first time I have reported on problems with a constructive lens: in 2019, I told the story of an Indonesian family who moved to Norway to access the healthcare their daughter with special needs required. 

My report raises awareness about the topic in my home country, and brought more opportunities for other families enduring the same conditions. 

Covering a story can do something to change reality. Maybe not for all, but at least for some. Now I hope the documentary I produced during my time as a fellow at the Reuters Institute will inspire similar positive change. 

Journalism serves as a witness to the events happening within our societies, but the media we work in can also pivot to become a learning tool to inform, educate and engage young people. The hope for these children is there, the technology is there; I hope my documentary creates the will to explore new solutions for Indonesia.

– Text prepared with the help of Journalist Fellow Guillermo Draper