Fri, 19 Mar 1999

60,000 children unable to attend school: Official

JAKARTA (JP): At least 60,000 children aged between seven and 15 are too poor to attend school in the capital, an official said on Thursday.

Bahar Laut of the city's social and political affairs directorate, told The Jakarta Post that the children, unlike school dropouts, had never been given opportunities to attend school.

"The parents ask their children to beg on the streets or take care of food stalls, rather than sending them to school."

He said parents could not provide a future for their children within the educational system.

"They feel that once kids come out of elementary school, they will want to go to senior high school and then college."

"When parents don't have money, they will not allow their children to dream of school... so they tell them to forget about it."

Directorate data from 1998 reveals that out of the 60,000 children, 9,072 were aged between seven and 12 and 50,927 were aged between 13 and 15.

He said the large number of children unable to attend school was worsened by the prolonged economic crisis.

"If the government fails to look into the matter immediately, it will have to face the fact that there will be many illiterate (people) in coming years."

Dropped out

Separately, City Councilor Agus Waluyo said on Thursday that aside from the 8,156 schoolchildren who had already dropped out of school this year, another 87,570 were feared to follow suit in the near future due to economic hardship.

Agus, a member of Commission E on social welfare, quoting data from the Ministry of Education and Culture, said that out of the 87,570 students feared to drop out, 35,265 are elementary schoolchildren, 29,600 are from lower secondary schools and 22,700 are from higher secondary schools.

Agus said these students, as well as poor children who could not afford to attend school at all, should be considered a priority during the distribution of government scholarship funds.

The government is reported to have earmarked Rp 13 billion for scholarships for more than 57,000 needy students from private, state elementary and senior high schools in the capital.

Head of the city office of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Alwi Nurdin, said scholarships were being provided under the social safety net program.

"The government is channeling the scholarships directly to the students through post offices located near their homes."

He said the funds covered the students' educational costs, including school fees, stationery and other necessities.

The scholarship provision, sponsored by the World Bank, began last July.

Another Rp 13 billion fund will be set aside to cover scholarships during the 1999/2000 fiscal year. (ylt)