Great Concern: Teachers and Educational Development in Papua

Andawat – “we have been teaching with insufficient teachers. Many times we have reported this problem to the local office of education even directly talked with the regent, yet no responses have been made,” stated Pius Amo, a teacher of a Catholic elementary school in Yuruf, Distrik Ubrub, Kabupaten Keerom.

Pius Amo is one of the many teachers who have made their complaints out loud about government supports in overcoming similar educational problems in Papua. Insufficient number of teacher has always been the main cause of poor educational development in Papua, particularly in the remote regions. Yuruf has to face insufficient teaching staffs because no more teachers have ever been supplied to the region. Some teachers who who had once been hired, upon their recruitment to government employed teacher, have been moved to teach in other places.

There are also teachers in other places who have been absent for months, even years from the job like in Terpones, Distrik Towe, Kabupaten Keerom. A teacher could easily walk out of the classroom, heading to the Distrik airstrip and get on the plane which had not been there for months before. “We thought the teacher just went to the bacak of the school, but he headed for the plane. Since that time, 2008, the elementary school in Terpones has been closed for school activities,’ says one of the students.

Right in Kampong Towe Hitam, the distrik capital, the teachers are not able to stay there longer because they can not cope with the high living cost as well as endure the surrounding environment. The teachers’ salaries are spent mostly for air fare to Towe to buy and transport food stuffs. The food stuffs are usually reserved for 1-2 months stocks and when they used up, the teachers have to travel back to the city.

The do not have the ability to adapt themselves by for example opening gardens near their houses to satisfy food supply, ”many wild pigs would destroy the gardens,” they said. Those able to endure the life are teachers of local origins. They can survive under poor facilities and supports from the government. They would say “it is fine to us because we do this for our own mother land.” Sadly, these teachers are very few in number: 1 or 2 teachers if it may. These teachers have teach students of grade one through six which diminish the teaching quality.

Another reason is that the teachers now have to deal with their own promotional administration. Living in the kampong for longer period may mean they would lose good chance to secure their promotion or other promotional activities. “In the past, before the special autonomy was issued, there is a representative office of education settled at the region. Now, teachers have to go through such processes by themselves, leaving the kampong for city,” says Yance Korwa, supplementary teacher at SD Andei, Numfor Island. The distance from Numfor to Biak is 8 hours by speed boat or 35 minutes flight. This may force the teachers to stay long in city.

Many ways have been put by the government to cope with insufficient number of teachers. One way is to merge the classes or shift the classes by morning and afternoon classes. In Numfor, this helps the auxiliary teachers teach the classes since they usually have other jobs in the villages. Biak Government later hire auxiliary teachers from other province in the form of partnership with its own fund allocation. Most of the auxiliary teachers’ pays taken from RESPEK fund or other similar empowerment funds. However, uncertainty comes around for whether they are timely paid. At times they are not paid on the ground that the funds have already been used up.

Local children in Yuruf are prepared to teach. Junior High School (SMP) graduates are trained to teach at elementary schools while Senior High School (SMA) graduates are trained as well to teach at SMP. Schools which even do not have teachers at all, there is one or two volunteer there to teach on alphabets, reading and writing as what Bram Martin has done in kampung Pipal, Distrik Aboy, Kab Pengunungan Bintang. Bram taught the kids who had mastered basically reading and writing whereas Aprianus taught those who were not able to read alphabet. Now, Bram has left Pipal and brought along with him Aprianus to schools in city. Bram, the volunteer teacher, said,”when school exam begins, the kids would come to Aboy. The teachers would read to the kids both the exam items and the answers”.

Ironically, such problems have many times been covered by mass media and directly reported to the local decision makers, but no response has been made. In fact, such failure in education would put government into shame. If in the past government had always been ashamed and worried of its failure in enforcing human rights in social and political areas, this may also be another shame that it is government’s failure to uphold human rights in the field of education as part of fulfilling economic, social and cultural rights of the people. Yet, many supports and attentions have been given to educational development in Papua.

30% of the special autonomy funds has been allocated to education. According to ICS Papua analysis of APBD Papua (Papua regional development budget) in 2009, only 25% of the funds have been put to this sector and most of it (84.51%) have been allocated to staff expenditures (salaries, incentives and honorariums) while only15.49% of it are supplied for public expenditures. In a logcal manner, the allocation of 84.51% should have satisfied the principal educational needs of supplying teachers in remote regions besides many international aids which have been directed to educational development in Papua.

Today, approaches made to educational developments in Papua have to be changed to put aligned national and global needs of education along with challenges Papua has. Educational policies have to respond to the real educational needs in the society and teachers as the key instrument of education.

Special autonomy law has regulated 9 year primary education as compulsory. This means, educational process up to SMP level should have to be taken care well in terms of supplying teachers, facilities as well as transports. Educational policies have to be geared from preparing quality primary education for the economic-disadvantage kids before making decision on sending Papuan kids to pursue studies outside Papua through the various training and education programs.

The existing geographical conditions should have to be settled by stretching links to private aviation companies to manage better transport periodically to teachers who domicile remote regions. The teachers should at least make their optimal stay at the regions with adequate number of teachers to prevent vacancy of teachers and school sessions.

Besides, it is necessary to extend the definition of ‘government and non-government’ as well as vertical, autonomous and private institutions’ to maximize attainment of basic needs of Papuan people as mandated under the Special Autonomy Law. In other places, it is private or non-governmental institutions play many active roles in fulfilling basic needs of the people, including educational need.

One example is a number of elementary schools from religious organizations (non government organization) have actively developed education in kampongs like Yuruf and Ubrub. By all means, government should give actual supports in the form of facilities, teachers and suitable classrooms because such organizations have contributed to achieving government educational goal to brighten people’s living.

Government should also improve administrational system and work mechanism for particularly teachers assigned in remote regions. By doing so, it will prevent the teachers from higher mobilization from the schools regions to government centers. It is also necessary to put higher control over any funds allocated for education either governmental funds or non-governmental ones. This way will assure the allocation of the funds directed properly for their uses or no buildings are set up for futile uses. (Andawat/ALDP)