Thu, 27 Apr 2000

Teacher land hike in allowance, still short of demand

JAKARTA (JP): The government has agreed to raise teachers' functional allowances by 100 percent, far below various demands made by protesting teachers.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting at Bina Graha presidential office on Wednesday, Minister of National Education Yahya Muhaimin said the figure was the best the government could do due to financial constraints for the 2000 fiscal year.

Yahya said the 100 percent increase in functional allowances for teachers along with a 30 percent across-the-board salary increase for civil servants had been endorsed by the House of Representatives (DPR).

Any changes to the decision should be further discussed with the House, he noted.

"However, the government will continue to seek all possible ways to improve teachers' welfare," the minister pledged.

President Abdurrahman Wahid is scheduled to have a consultative meeting with House leaders on Thursday. House Speaker Akbar Tandjung is expected to raise the issue during the meeting.

Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simajuntak said teachers' demands were thoroughly discussed during the Cabinet meeting, but the government could not extend itself further due to serious financial constraints.

"We understand fully the hardship faced by teachers, and we will do everything to help them in improving their welfare," Marsilam remarked.

Teachers throughout the country have staged demonstrations demanding higher salaries.

Indonesian Teachers Union (PGRI) secretary-general Sulaiman SB Ismaya told The Jakarta Post that the government decision violated a previous agreement on April 17 between PGRI and the minister of education.

"In the previous agreement the government agreed to give a 300 percent increase in functional allowances. Of course we expect an explanation," Sulaiman said, noting that the latest development was disappointing.

A 100 percent increase means teachers will receive between Rp 90,000 (US$11.25) and Rp 210,000 on top of their basic salary.

Indonesia has about 1.7 million teachers.

Sulaiman conceded PGRI might review its decision to suspend mass rallies. However be pledged that even if there were further rallies, they would not disrupt end-of-term examinations.

"We will keep on fighting but will not harm students' education," he remarked.

The teachers' demonstrations have continued this week. In Medan, North Sumatra, a protest was held on Tuesday by the Teachers Communication Forum for Teachers Struggle (FKPNG).

The charged that the government was unsympathetic to the teachers' plight.

"If the government cannot treat teachers properly, let teachers become the president and director general of budgeting," one protester said. (dja/byg/prb/39/sur)