Tue, 09 May 2000

Poor children face dropout from school

JAKARTA (JP): It is feared over 14,000 children from poor families in Central Jakarta may soon drop out of school as their parents can no longer afford to pay the fees, an official said on Monday.

Head of the national education ministry's central Jakarta office Giat Suwarno said at a discussion with some 350 teachers in the mayoralty that the children -- from elementary to senior high school -- are currently depending on scholarships provided under the social safety net scheme.

"Based on a survey conducted recently, we found a total of 198,762 students coming from poor families (in the mayoralty). Of that number, 14,462 students are liable to drop out since their parents are very poor," Giat said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post.

He urged the city administration not to stop or cut the budget allocated for education under the social safety net program, locally known as the JPS.

"If the administration aborts the JPS for education package in the city, those students will drop out from their schools," Giat said.

He said some of the students surveyed were already enjoying JPS scholarships. Monthly scholarships amounts are set at Rp 10,000 each for elementary school students, Rp 20,000 for junior high school students and Rp 25,000 for senior high school students.

Giat asked the authorities to look at the possibility of slightly increasing the sum since students have to pay for transportation. Child fares on city buses have just been doubled to Rp 200.

"They get free schooling, but the poor parents still have to work hard for their children's transport to school," he said.

In response to the request, Central Jakarta Mayor Andi Subur Abdullah, who also attended the meeting, promised to convey the demands to Governor Sutiyoso soon.

During the discussion, teachers also took the opportunity to question law enforcers present, including head of the Central Jakarta Prosecutor's Office Andhi Nirwanto, about what action police officers were taking against drug dealers in the area.

Endang, a teacher at St. Theresa High School in Menteng, said drug dealers could be seen hanging around Jl. Agus Salim who usually offered drugs to her students.

"Should my students refuse the offer, they steal the shoes of the students," she said. (bsr)