Wed, 19 Mar 2003

Contract teachers hired to teach kids in troubled regions

Yuli Tri Suwarni The Jakarta Post Bandung, West Java

The government has begun a program to provide additional training to contract teachers working in conflict zones.

The Ministry of National Education is providing the training for 280 teachers hired three years ago on a contract basis to work in West and Central Kalimantan, Poso, Papua, Maluku and Aceh.

The head of the Center for Upgrading Teaching Staff (P3G) at the Directorate General for Basic and Middle Education, Abdorrakhman Gintings, said the contract teachers would receive additional training in social psychology, dealing with emergency situations, HIV/AIDS and children's rights.

"Besides giving them additional scientific knowledge, the teachers will also be given the skills that will enable them to help their students solve the problems they face because of the conflicts," he said here on Tuesday.

Gintings added that over the next several years, and in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), additional contract teachers would be recruited to work in conflict areas.

He said that this year, 40 new contract teachers would be sent to Aceh, West and Central Kalimantan, Papua and Poso in Central Sulawesi, while 35 teachers would be hired to work in Maluku and North Maluku.

"The teachers are expected to help their students deal with the trauma caused by these conflicts, and to provide information to parents and authorities about the right of children to receive a proper education and to be protected," he said.

But this program might draw some criticism because many of the students affected by the conflicts in West and Central Kalimantan, Poso and Maluku have fled the regions.

Thousands of students who fled the conflict in West and Central Kalimantan are living in Madura, and many of those who fled Poso, Maluku and North Maluku are now residing in North Sulawesi, Jakarta and Sorong.

The timing of the decision to send more contract teachers to these areas might also be questioned, considering that the conflict in West and Central Kalimantan occurred in 2000, and the conflicts in Poso, Maluku and North Maluku began in 1999.

Gintings said P3G also would deploy a number of people to the areas to train the teachers how to deal with emergency situations in the workplace.

He said the program was being adapted from Unicef's training program for contract teachers deployed to teach students in Palestine.