Dessy Sagita, Jakarta -- Activists have slammed the government for notallocating more funds to aid poor students while preparing to spendbillions on its vehicle fleet and laptops.
A coalition of NGOs that monitors the state budget said the EducationMinistry had budgeted just Rp 17.3 trillion ($1.94 billion) for schooloperational aid (BOS) for 39 million elementary and junior high schoolstudents next year. Coalition member Muhammad Firdaus, of Asppuk, which helps women set upsmall businesses, said aid had fallen from the Rp 19.4 trillion allocatedfor 42.5 million students in 2009.
The coalition said the data was included in the 2011 ministerial work planand budget submitted by each ministry to the National Development PlanningAgency (Bappenas).
However, Sukemi, a member of the Education Ministry's special staff, saidnext year's BOS spending would in fact be higher than the Rp 16.4 trillionallocated this year. "We are certainly not abandoning the poor students,"he said.
Firdaus said even though the figure for 2011 would be slightly up on thisyear it was still far from enough because it was less than in 2009. TheHouse of Representatives is set to pass the 2011 budget this month and NGOshave been campaigning for major changes before this happens.
The Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) said over the weekendthat the budget was filled with meaningless and extravagant expendituresthat would do little to improve the welfare of the average Indonesian.
The group said it included Rp 371.5 billion to buy more than 4,000government vehicles, Rp 32.5 billion for 3,109 laptop computers and Rp 6.1trillion for maintenance of government buildings.
Firdaus said this meant that while the government was allocating more thanRp 10 million for one laptop, the education allocation would effectivelygive each needy student just Rp 300,000 a year.
"This is far from enough. We estimate that students need at least Rp300,000 to Rp 400,000 a month to cover their tuition, books andtransportation," he said.
Firdaus said he was concerned that the government was intending to have theregions share the responsibility for education. "The problem is, very fewregional governments have shown a strong commitment to education," he said.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, for example, had said he would cut theeducation budget for 2011, affecting scholarships for poor students.
Firdaus also said the government did not allocate enough funding forliteracy programs. "There are four to five million illiterate people butthe government will help less than 50,000 next year," he said.
But Sukemi said educational goals had shifted. "We no longer aim to teachpeople how to read and count but to train them to use proper knowledge tobe independent and to be able to provide a good life for their family," hesaid.
Utomo Dananjaya, of the Institute for Educational Reform at ParamadinaUniversity, said allocating 20 percent of the budget to education, asstipulated by the Constitution, might seem like a lot but implementationwas far removed from the expectation.
Utomo said much of it went to paying teachers' salaries and infrastructure,which he claimed had no direct impact on education development.