12/02/2010, 00.00
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Indonesian Government boycotts Catholic schools, at risk of closure

by Mathias Hariyadi
Jakarta is calling for the withdrawal of state teachers from private Catholic schools, forcing foundations to pay salaries of new teachers. If the project goes through, the schools in the poorest and most isolated areas at risk of having to close because of bankruptcy.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Catholic educators, school administrators and experts all express serious concern about the recent government proposal to withdraw hundreds of government teachers from private schools, mostly Catholic. If this plan goes through, there will be serious consequences: the foundations need to quickly find new teachers and pay them at their own expense. This is likely to bring about the closure of many private Catholic schools in remote and poor areas. The students' families, in fact, would not be able to pay fees or for new teachers.

"The issue is crucial because the government plan affects private schools especially in remote areas." Says Fx Budijuwono Onggobawono, chief operating officer of the Catholic school of Saint John Tangerang (Java province), who explains: "Its impossible for any private school to replace a teacher suddenly. Moreover, another problem is their payment. " The State guarantees the public schools a financial aid package called Sekolah Operasional Bantuan. But private schools will get nothing, and the only source of funding for school activities comes from the parents of students.

Over the years, the Ministry of Education has practiced a policy of "lending" his teachers to private Catholic schools, as a form of funding private education. The Indonesian Constitution of 1945, provides that the State is responsible for the  education of citizens. In this spirit, the ministry had sent teachers on a mission to private schools, arranging for their salary as if they worked in government structures.

“This move goes against our Constitution," said Sulistiyo, head of the Association of Indonesian Teachers (Pgri) last week accusing the state of discriminating between public and private schools. And Iwan Hermawan, general secretary of the Independent Teachers' Association added: "If this plan goes ahead, it is certain that dozens of private schools will end up in bankruptcy, and will have to close."

An expert on Catholic education, who prefers to remain anonymous, told AsiaNews: "The main problem resides in the National Education Law, according to which the government is authorized to be responsible only for state schools. Therefore, an application needs to be made to change the law”.

Brother Frans Sugi, of the Catholic Pangudi Luhur Foundation, said: "At the moment we have not yet been informed in an official manner by the authorities on this sensitive issue. But if the proposal is implemented, we'll have to find 80 new teachers. " The foundation of Brother Sugi is managed by the brothers of the Fratris Immacolata Conceptionis (FIC), a prestigious Catholic congregation with more than 1,500 teachers spread across dozens of schools across the country.


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