Saturday, May 19, 2007

No more money for education, govt tells court

Wednesday, May 02, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled for the third time in favor of the educational sector by insisting 20 percent of the total national budget should be allocated to the country's education fund -- yet the government continues to cry poor.

"(The court) decided the 2006 law on the 2007 state budget, regarding the maximum allocation of 11.8 percent of the state budget for the education sector contradicts the 1945 Constitution and therefore has no legal strength," Jimly Asshiddiqie, the head of the Constitutional Court, told the hearing Tuesday.

The court has twice ruled the government was obligated to allocate no less than 20 percent of the state budget for education.

But the government has so far failed to meet this requirement.

In 2006 the government allocated Rp 44.1 trillion for education -- or 9.1 percent of the total national budget.

This year the education fund was raised to Rp 54.06 trillion -- or 11.9 percent of the total state budget.

The court decided although the government had shown good will in raising the education fund between 2004 and 2007, it was still not able to meet the constitutional demand of 20 percent.

Mohamad Surya, chairman of the Indonesian Teachers' Union (PGRI), said he hoped the government would immediately act on the decision because the 20 percent should be fulfilled every year.

"We want the government to comply with the Constitution and not delay it anymore," Mohamad said.

"We, the teachers, are in the front lines of education.

"We know everything about the dire conditions of our education system.

"We know how many students are forced to leave their schools and how many school buildings collapse," he told reporters after the hearing.

Accompanied by the five teachers and parents who filed the lawsuit, Surya argued the current budget, which includes funding for in-service training, was inappropriate and not in line with the International Convention of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) recommendations on national educational funds.

The litigants also claimed the government had failed to implement compulsory basic education, which should be fully financed by the government, as stipulated in articles 17, 31 and 34 of the Constitution.

The government's representative Paskah Suzetta, head of the National Development Planning Board, said 20 percent could not be provided all at once.

He said it would mean the government would have to add about Rp 60 trillion (US$6.59 billion) to the education sector's budget.

But he said the government had committed to make some efforts to meet the demands of the Constitution.

"We will talk to all stakeholders in the education field to identify all problems -- and more importantly, we will try to improve educational infrastructure," said Paskah.

Mohamad said he would employ all necessary efforts to push the government to comply with the Constitution.

"Don't forget that as an organization, we have a legal standing now, which allows us to use our right for judicial review at any time."

The verdict came one day before National Education Day, which falls annually on May 2. (02)

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