Sat, 12 Mar 2005

Damaged schools seek funds for renovation

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The newly planted grass in front of SDN 3 state elementary school in Ciburuy village, Cijeruk district, in Bogor, West Java, does little to hide the woeful condition of the school building.

Hardly able to withstand the weather, the rickety doors and holey wooden walls of the school have become familiar to students over the past several years.

Since its construction in 1983, there has been no renovation or construction work done to the school as it has slowly fallen apart.

"The place has been this way for ages. Water leaks down into the classrooms when it rains because the ceiling has holes," principal Endang Sugandi said.

The school consists of three classrooms that are able to hold a total of about 133 students, albeit in cramped conditions. In each of the six-by-six meter classrooms, three students are seated at each desk.

In one classroom, there were three rows of five desks each. The first row held third graders studying math, while the other two rows were filled with fourth graders poring over their English lesson. There was only one teacher in the classroom to handle all of these students.

"This is what happens at our school. One teacher handles two grades. We only have two permanent and two part-time teachers, which is not enough, but the main problem for the time being is the condition of the school building itself," Endang said.

The government came to the school's rescue on Tuesday, providing it a grant of Rp 100 million (about US$10,869) for reconstruction.

Minister of National Education Bambang Sudibyo visited three primary schools in the village to present them grants of Rp 100 million each.

"We were notified that the schools were in disrepair so we provided a solution by giving them and other schools in the same situation grants.

"This is all the central government can do for the time being. For the reconstruction, the surrounding community needs to be actively involved in helping the school," the minister said.

Bambang said direct grants to schools were more effective and less costly than giving grants to local administrations, which then hire contractors to repair the buildings.

"That is more expensive and takes longer. And the active participation of the surrounding community in donating labor and construction materials will speed up the process even more and saves money," he said.

The director general of junior and high school education at the ministry, Indra Djati Sidi, said the money for the grants came from a special fund for repairing damaged school buildings.

The total fund for 2005 is Rp 1.4 trillion, compared to Rp 650 billion in last year's fund.

"That should be enough for about 10,000 to 20,000 schools, if we estimate that each school needs about Rp 50 million to Rp 100 million, depending on the severity of the damage," he said.

There are about 120,000 damaged schools in Indonesia, according to the deputy director for programs and institutions at the education ministry, Husaini Wardi.

He said this special school repair fund had been in place for three years. In 2003, when the program began, the fund was Rp 625 billion. (005)