Sat, 26 Feb 2000

Teacher shortage in Irian Jaya

JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya: At least 12,000 elementary school teachers are urgently needed in Irian Jaya, the head of the provincial teaching and education office, J.P. Letsoin, said on Friday.

"We needed at least 5,000 religion teachers and some 7,000 teachers for various subjects," Letsoin said.

Despite the high demand for teachers, about 600 already working in the province have requested transfers out of Irian Jaya.

The unstable political situation in Irian Jaya, particularly with growing calls for independence, have prompted many teachers to flee, he said.

"In some cases, students even chased away their teachers and threw stones at them when they gave lectures about Indonesian history," Letsoin said.

The official called on the political elite, community and religious leaders, legislators and local government officials in the restive province to find an immediate solution. "Otherwise we may lose a generation due to a lack of schooling."

Meanwhile, thousands of houses built for elementary school teachers in remote villages in Jayawijaya district have been abandoned by their occupants due to rampant theft in these areas.

The houses were constructed near the 311 elementary schools spread over 28 subdistricts in Jayawijaya.

Teachers apparently prefer to live in rented houses in the district capital of Wamena, despite often having to endure a three to four-hour journey to their schools.

"We feel unsafe. At night we cannot sleep," said Eko, a teacher at Kulagaima elementary school in Hibikosi subdistrict. (eba/edt)