The Ex-Street Child Who Knows How to be Grateful

Inspired by her childhood, Mery Rosmaryati, 34, built an education facility for underprivileged children.


The slum area of Prapatan Mega in Rawamangun Sub-District, East Jakarta, was suddenly lively of children. One by one, kids are seen entering the 5x5 meter Mushola At-Taubah semi-permanent building where locals usually pray. However, the building is no longer just a prayer house as children now study there. Thus, it has another name: Rumah Belajar Teko (English: the Teapot Learning House).

The students came with their drawing books and crayons. Not long after, they are absorbed in imagination, which they express in their drawing books.

"Draw good, I will mark your drawings," a woman’s voice can be heard in the classroom.

She is Mery Rosmaryati, 34. Mery is the founder of the Rumah Belajar Teko, a facility that provides education for underprivileged children, whose parents are street vendors, litter collectors or side street singers.

The Rumah Rubel Teko actually stands for Rumah Belajar Teras Koalisi (the Coalition Terrace Learning House) and has established its own teaching philosophy in: "Small, but Accommodates A lot," Mery said to

The semi-permanent building was built in 2011, on land leased with some money set aside by Mery’s husband, who works for a travel company. The land where the building stands used to be full of waste.

"I cleaned the land from waste by myself. I would burn the waste every morning. My husband would help me once he arrives from work," said Mery, who is a mother of three.

Mery built a prayer house as she noticed how her children had to travel long to participate joint prayers. "I decided to build a 3x3 meter Musholla and an Al-Quran reading school, or Taman Pendidikan Al-Qur’an (TPA). A volunteer teacher from Asrama Sunan Giri is teaching the students at the facility.

Day after day, more and more children would come to learn to read the Al-Quran at the Musholla and this gained the attention of University students not far from the kampong. "The Musholla was expanded a little bit to accommodate the numerous children," he said.

In addition to money, the students also began teaching the children school subjects.

Mery became increasingly inspired as she remembered who it was hard for herself to obtain an education when she was small. "I was just like these children. Seventeen years ago, I was like these children. I was accustomed to the profession of a street singer at the Pasar Pramuka intersection,” Mery said.

She recalled how it was hard for her to obtain knowledge. "My parents would tell me to find my own money if I wanted to study at school. Tuition was expensive. I don’t want my children to be like my when I was young. I want Indonesian children to be uneducated," she said.

However, her efforts are not without obstacles and the main obstacle came from the parents.

"They prefer their children to make money," Mery said. This did not break her spirit. She approached the parents one by one. "I explained to the parents that I am not asking for anything in return and that the most important thing is that their children can get an education," she said.

Mery’s efforts paid-off. The parents were eventually persuaded and urged their children to study at the Rumah Belajar Teko.

Mery says she has found her own happiness in being able to help underprivileged children to obtain even just a little bit of education. "I am happy because the children are getting an education. They don’t speak rough now as I have taught them politeness," she said.