Wed, 22 Nov 2000

Ministry, PGRI draft bill on teachers' rights, obligations

JAKARTA (JP): The Ministry of National Education along with the Indonesian Teachers Union (PGRI) and related parties are drafting a bill on teachers' protection, rights and obligations especially for those serving their duties in disputed areas, officials said.

"Teachers have been left out for decades and no sufficient effort has been made to lift their wellbeing," PGRI chairman Muhammad Surya said in a media briefing on the commemoration of Teacher's Day and the 55th anniversary of PGRI which falls on Saturday.

"We first realized the urgent need to set this law last year, when there was outbreaks of violence in several parts of the country.

"Thousands of teachers have been left stranded in disputed regions such as the Malukus, Irian Jaya and Aceh," Surya said.

In Aceh, for example, at least 100 teachers, most of them elementary teachers, were either killed or abducted over the past couple of years, Surya said.

"In some cases in Aceh -- where the spirit of separatism still runs high -- they still had to teach Indonesian nationalism, our anthem and about the national red-and-white flag. Those teachers ended up being kidnapped or killed by unidentified gunmen," Surya said.

Similar incidences also happened in Irian Jaya where at least 366 teachers from elementary and secondary education institutions requested strongly to be transferred from the town of Wamena, he said.

"The number does not include the hundreds of school supervisors. In the recent Wamena riot, at least three teachers were killed," Surya said, adding that the situation had become even worse in the Malukus after his office was no longer able to establish contact with its colleagues there.

According to him, none of these severe conditions have ever been anticipated since there are no regulations for the arrangement of the safety, welfare or transfer of these teachers.

Therefore, the ministry and PGRI is now working on the philosophical basis of a protection bill draft, Surya added.

"If a soldier dies, there is a motto 'one dies, 1,000 births to come' but if one good teacher dies, 1,000 pupils will be abandoned. Few people realize this," he said.

In a bid to cope with the problem, the ministry is working on an alternative school project in cooperation with a non- governmental organization in Maluku.

"As for Irian Jaya and Aceh, we are asking the government to allow us to raise the quota of teachers. We hire available contract teachers as only a few are willing to be stationed there," Director General for Primary and Secondary Education Indra Djati Sidi said.

Earlier in the day, Indra Djati revealed that the ministry will maintain the minimum service standard (SPM) for basic, elementary and secondary level education in the wake of regional autonomy next year.

"It is dangerous to let the regions loose to run the education system as the gap between the rich and poor provinces will be much wider.

"The minimum standard will be set nation-wide which would cover the curriculum, competition standard, general requirement for school entry every year, standard facilities from books to learning devices, uniforms and the school organization units as well as the number of functional and administrative staffs. The curriculum will also be divided for children with extraordinary, smart or normal capabilities," Indra Djati said.

Authorities at the regencies, however, are free to put their local content in the curriculum.

As for the offer from East Timorese authorities for Indonesian teachers to work there with a minimum fee of US$128 per month, both Indra Djati and Surya said that so many things have to be fixed first. "It's a long shot and it depends on both country's agreement." (edt)