Tue, 29 Jul 2003

Cilacap begins free school-medical program

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Cilacap, Central Java

Entering the 2003/2004 academic year, the Cilacap regency administration has introduced a free education and medical program for students of state junior and senior high schools to make middle-level education a success in the regency.

Cilacap Regent Probo Yulastoro said in his office here on Saturday that according to the program, annual school fees and medical costs at public health centers would be waived for all students of junior and senior high schools, but initially it would only apply for students at 16 state junior and senior high schools.

"The program will be fully implemented in all state schools in the regency by 2006. After that, we will seek ways to implement a similar program at private schools," he said.

Cilacap has 58 state junior high schools and 71 senior high schools. There are 109 private junior high schools and 60 private senior high schools.

Probo said the program was aimed at helping low-income families and encouraging children to remain in school at least until senior high school.

"The government is also concerned about the difficult economic situation that has affected many low-income families because besides paying school fees, parents have to buy uniforms, books, shoes and other material for their children," he said.

Chairman of the regency legislative council Frans Lukman said the free medical and education program would be financed by the interest on the regency administration's trust fund worth Rp 60 billion (US$7.3 million) that has been deposited in a bank in the regency.

The money in the trust fund was raised from the regency's annual budget. Over the next three years, the amount is expected to reach Rp 80 billion.

"With the funds, the local administration will cover all education fees of students in state junior and senior high schools and the students' medical fees at public health centers in the regency," said Lukman.