Indonesia: Education unionists take swift action on COVID-19 pandemic

published 7 May 2020 updated 17 June 2020

Since the national outbreak of COVID-19 and the closure of educational sites in Indonesia, members of the teachers’ union, Persatuan Guru Republik Indonesia (PGRI), have mobilised at national and local levels. The union aims to ensure the continuity of education, the safety of educators, students and communities, and to reaffirm the professional aspect of their organisation by providing teacher training.

In Indonesia, schools, universities, and other education establishments began closing on 16 March, leaving over 68 million students without education in the face-to-face presence of teachers.

Since then, the “PGRI National Board and PGRI boards at all levels continue to take action during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Persatuan Guru Republik Indonesia (PGRI) President Unifah Rosyidi. “Social and physical distancing imposed by the government did not prevent PGRI from carrying out its activities.”

Using technology and digital platforms, the PGRI has been able to conduct virtual meetings. On 7 April, it successfully conducted its first virtual national work conference, in which 500 members of PGRI board committees at national, provincial, and district level participated.

“PGRI actions are aimed at strengthening our identity as a professional organisation, lobbying organisation and teachers’ union,” Rosyidi added.

Proposals to government

The PGRI has proposed that the government:

  • Temporarily change face-to-face learning in classrooms and turn to remote education, using ICT, online platforms or by giving assignments using emails or messaging platforms, e-learning programmes, or online classrooms.
  • Temporarily stop all school activities involving lots of people, and not participate in any competitions among schools.
  • Immediately distribute a “Distance Teaching and Learning Guide” for teachers, students, and parents to maintain effective learning. This guide aims to avoid students’ boredom or tiredness; present teachers with alternative models of online and offline teaching; and ensure parents feel comfortable while accompanying their children during online learning.
  • Allocate the funds planned for the cancelled national exam to the COVID-19 response and affected teachers.
  • Give special attention to contract teachers, especially teachers in marginalised, remote, and conflict-stricken areas, with special incentives through national or regional budget allocation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Use other media platforms, such as the national TV channel to broadcast various learning programmes, as the national TV channel has a wide coverage, reaching even the remote islands. The Minister of Education and Culture, in collaboration with TVRI, Indonesia’s national TV channel, has developed a “study from home” programme broadcasting educational programmes.
  • Pay teachers’ allowances for the first three months, with no requirement of fulfil workloads during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Continue to pay the 13th salary month and bonuses due to teachers, lecturers, and education support personnel.

The education union also strongly advised teachers and parents to work together during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosyidi added.

Establishment of union crisis centres

The PGRI has  mandated its board committees at all levels to set up a crisis centre/association of professionals in school subjects (APKS), coordinating with regional governments to develop and provide educators with learning content and learning models for distance learning. This crisis centre should also assist teachers in marginalised, remote and conflict areas in combating and responding to COVID-19.

The union has established COVID-19 crisis centres at provincial, district and city level, to assist regional governments on COVID-19 prevention and response, and help affected communities by raising donations and distributing basic items, sanitary and hygiene kits, and protective equipment for medical personnel.

The education union has also advised members to postpone conferences at district and city levels, until December 2020 at the latest, and to engage in solidarity actions with communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online training

True to its identity as a teachers’ professional organisation, the PGRI also conducted various virtual online training, e.g. using YouTube streaming, or online chat or web conferencing platforms, such as Skype or Zoom.

The PGRI Smart Learning Centre routinely conducts digital learning training via YouTube streaming. The educators’ union has also initiated the COVID-19 teachers’ programme, conducting online training for teachers all over Indonesia, with members of APKS board and the PGRI national executive board acting as resource persons or facilitators.

“We also wish to express our deepest appreciation to medical staff for their commitment and dedication as ‘humanitarian heroes’ during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rosyidi underlined.


The account of the PGRI’s efforts undertaking during the COVID-19 pandemic was released on 21 April and can be seen in this report.