COVID-19: ICRC backs preventive measures in Pesantren Gontor Islamic boarding school
On 22 June 2020, the ICRC regional delegation for Indonesia and Timor Leste donated face shields, medical gloves and masks, contactless thermometers and posters on hygiene guidance to Pesantren Darussalam Gontor Ponorogo – an Islamic boarding school in East Java.
This programme aimed to assist the school's committee in the screening process of the returning students after the Ramadan period, as part of the prevention measures against COVID-19. Gontor is among the first Pesantren (traditional Islamic boarding school) in Indonesia to resume their learning activities during the pandemic.
Established in 1926, Pesantren Gontor is a vast network of Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia, with 14 branches and around 380 Pesantren registered as member alumni. This year, around 6,000 students - boys and girls - have arrived at their campuses in the town of Ponorogo city and in Mantingan district respectively. Various measures have been taken by the Pesantren to adapt to the situation during the pandemic.
The heads of the Pesantren Gontor released a statement in May obliging every student to undergo rapid testing before returning, and the students' journeys back to the Pesantren were organized by regional alumni associations, in order to limit an additional influx of parents.
The ICRC's assistance to Pesantren aims to support the Indonesian government's response in East Java, the country's latest epicenter of the virus. As of 27 June 20202, more than 11,000 confirmed cases have been reported in East Java.
According to the data from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, there are around 500,000 students in 4,450 Pesantren in the province. Alexander Faite, the head of the ICRC regional delegation for Indonesia and Timor Leste, said, "This donation is an integral part of the ICRC's commitment to working with relevant stakeholders, including religious institutions, in preventing COVID-19."
Ustaz Dr Adib Fuadi Nuriz MA, the head of the Association of Pesantren Alumni, appreciated the initiative. "We will use the items to welcome students in campus one and two, starting this evening. May God grant this donation as a good deed for all of you. I thank you for everything," he said.
At the same time, the ICRC also donated similar items to the Gontor Alumni Association branch in Surabaya, as the welcoming committee for students arriving in the local Juanda International Airport. Around 1,500 students from Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua were reported to have landed in Surabaya.
Charles Dorman-O'Gowan, the ICRC Asia Regional Coordinator for Global Affairs, responsible for the ICRC's engagement with Islamic circles in Asia, said, "The ICRC's longstanding engagement with religious circles in Indonesia – and throughout Asia – positions us well as an organization to respond to the humanitarian concerns of religious institutions.
In the case of Pondok Pesantren, for which social distancing will be extremely challenging, the provision of protective equipment and hygiene guidance goes a long way towards mitigating health risks to students and staff - as well as the wider community - during the COVID-19 pandemic."
The ICRC is also collaborating with the Indonesian Red Cross for potential assistance to other Pesantren.