Governor of Papua introduces free primary education and health for Papuans

Governor of Papua introduces free primary education and health for Papuans

Cenderawasih Pos

The Governor of Papua, Barnabas Suebu, announced that starting today, all payment for education at the primary and lower middle school level for indigenous Papuans will be abolished and that medical treatment will also be provided free of charge. He said that these provisions were being introduced in two gubernatorial regulations introduced today by the Governor.

Speaking at a press conference, the Governor said that development activities must properly focus on the needs of the people and on the human development programme, including pregnant women, babies as well as school children. The health facilities must be adequate and there should be proper provision for better housing, clean water, while economic development should start at the kampung level.

He acknowledged that this was a 'grand mission' that it would by no means be easy. It involves development for the people and their culture and their natural surroundings, so as to enable people to stand on their own feet, to development themselves. The name given to the programme is: Rencana Strategis Pembangunan Kampung, RESPEK (Strategic Kampung Development Plan), and would incorporate a Communities Movement for Kampung Development.

With regard to health facilities, all indigenous Papuans are to be exempted from payment for treatment at district and local clinics, and at the three main hospitals: in Jayapura Dok II, in Abepura and the hospital for mental disorders in Abepura. All Papuans who are unable to afford treatment in these hospitals will be treated free of charge.He went into detail about the levels of medical treatment and said that this would include examination by a doctor, diagnosis, operations, the provision of medicines and other facilities such as blood tests. This would also apply to accident and emergency facilities.

He said that these provisions would also be made available in all the government hospitals throughout the province, including those in the districts and in the municipalities.

He went on to say that all Indonesian citizens living in the province would not have to pay school fees for children in nine-year compulsory education. They should also be exempt from paying for special equipment required at the school unless the school's parents committee decides that money should be raised to cover these requirements. In such an event, the money should be raised from the parents in accordance with their means. Those unable to pay should be exempted.

As regards fees for secondary schools (SMA) and vocational schools, this would be available free of charge only to those indigenous Papuans who cannot afford to pay.

He said that children from peasant families, fishermen families, unskilled workers' families and those without regular employment would be eligible for education free of charge. This will also apply to the families of lower grade civil servants and families of army and police force personnel. School committee meetings should ensure that in the case of those required to pay, this should be applied according to the financial means of the parents.

He said that the level of both education and health should reach a minimum standard. Government services in education and health must truly serve the common people and serve them in the best possible way, thus ensuring that, in future, Papuans are well-educated and of good health.

[Comment: These are surely the minimum standards required. This initiative by the Governor reveals that the Papuan people have failed so far to enjoy the benefits owing to them from the huge profits being earned from the exploitation of Papua's fabulous natural resources. Reports are frequently received from Papua pointing to a serious lack of teachers, many of whom drift away from the remote areas because they prefer to live in the cities, leaving local schools unable to function because of the lack of teachers. The Governor's programme is long overdue and it remains to be seen whether these new regulations will result in a significant improvement in schooling and basic health facilities for the Papuan people and for their children.