Autonomy watch: Regent dreams of more Papuan professors

Autonomy watch: Regent dreams of more Papuan professors
, 03.05.2010

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura

Tolikara Regent John Tabo has a dream that the regency located in Papua's mountainous region can produce a professor.

To realize the dream, Tolikara regency administration has been sending school students to attend special and intensive courses at Surya Institute to excel in mathematics and sciences.

His dream, he said, arose from his frustration of people's negative impressions of people living in mountainous regions of Papua, judging them as unintelligent and disadvantaged.

Papua has several noted professors but they do not originate from that regency.

He hoped that by sending students, he could prove people's negative conceptions were wrong.

"When I was at school, I often heard people saying that people from mountain regions were not intelligent," recalled Tabo.

The program to send students to the institute, which began last year, has yielded fruits.

When the World Vision Indonesia held a seminar to mark its 30th anniversary in Jayapura last year, third graders Merlin Kogoya and Demira Jikwa from Tolikara regency attracted the attention of seminar participants. Both could solve mathematics questions without aid of mathematical instruments. "I hope the children from Tolikara can compete," Tabo said.

Tabo said the administration set aside Rp 1.2 billion (US$120,000) for students' education and living expenses during their time at the Surya Institute.

"They will learn there and hopefully become professors," said Tabo.

Tolikara regency and the institute are working together to host the Asia-Pacific level International Astronomy Olympics, participated in by 15 countries, in October this year.

The regency administration has also sent several teachers to advance their teaching skills at the institute for eight months.

Upon their return, they're expected to train and instruct other teachers in Tolikara to also increase their mathematical teaching ability.

The administration has also sent 20 of 60 high school graduates to study at the institute to help them master maths. "This program aims to create a more intelligent generation who can compete with youths across the country," said Tabo.

He said the program was launched to help provide Papuan children with quality education and lose the stigma that they were unintelligent.

He said Tolikara might be located in remote Papua, but its younger generation must excel.

He said he did not question sending the children to the Surya Institute since many Papuan children have shown world-class achievements.

He cited George Saa, who won the First Step to Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 and Anike Bowaire, who won the same medal in 2005. Surya Bonay won the First Step to Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2006.

As part of its effort to improve the educational standards for children in Tolikara, the regency administration has also built a dormitory in Jayapura for students from Tolikara, costing Rp 17 billion.