A video of elementary school boys crossing the river using styrofoam boxes in South Sumatra has been making its social media rounds in Indonesia this week, only to be met with local authorities undermining what is rightly a public concern.
The clip, originally uploaded by TikTok user @boykehapiler but appears to have been taken down since, has been reshared on various social media platforms.
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Three boys, dressed in primary school uniforms, were filmed crossing the river at a village in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency using styrofoam boxes as their vehicle. They used smaller pieces of the same material to paddle and navigate their way through the body of water.
Audible conversation between the man filming and the three students revealed that they are all third graders, and are returning home from school.
“They really enjoyed [paddling to cross the river],” the user said at the end of the video, by which point the boys had almost reached the other side of the river.
After the video went viral, local officials proceeded to visit the village and instructed residents to forbid their children from using styrofoam boxes as makeshift boats.
According to Jemi, the head of Tulung Selapan district where the village is located, local residents were concerned about the video going viral and said that the original uploader is not from the area and was therefore unfamiliar with what he’d seen.
“The children here are used to water. They’re even capable of crossing the 120 meter wide river by swimming,” Jemi said.
Meanwhile, Kuala Dua Belas village chief Hartoni said the local children often use styrofoam boxes to play in the water. Though there’s a bridge nearby, villagers are used to water transportation, and parents would usually drop off or pick up their children using boats.
“[Those of] us who live near the water like this are accustomed to using water transportation for easier access, don’t blow the video out of proportion,” Hartoni said.
The boys themselves, or their parents, have not come forward to clarify whether crossing the river using the styrofoam boxes was done for leisure or out of necessity. It’s likely, however, that this is yet another example of children in underdeveloped regions being forced to traverse perilous terrains just to go to school, highlighting the social and financial disparity between urban and rural Indonesia.