Papua - Children from seven tribes `still malnourished'

Children from seven tribes `still malnourished'
The Jakarta Post, Timika, Papua

9 April, 2010

Timika is the city's name

its mountains, rivers are very rich in natural resources

Amungme and Kamoro are great tribes

The gold and copper mines, we are very proud of them.

So sang the students of the St. Ursula Kindergarten in Mimika Baru district in Timika, Papua, in tribute to the area's wealth of resources.

Looking on were their teachers, officials from the local education agency, and representatives from the Amungme and Kamoro Tribal Development Institution (LPMAK).

The event was held recently in conjunction with the Provision of Food Supplement to Schoolchildren (PMTAS), aimed in particular at children from the seven tribes in Timika regency.

The children were perhaps unaware of the irony in the song, which praises the bounty of a people whose children are categorized as malnourished.

Over at the Inpres Nawaripi Elementary School, the students' condition is a stumbling block in their education, say teachers.

Emanuel Wolor said most of the students suffered from malnutrition and often missed classes because they were sick or lethargic as a result.

He blamed the condition on a combination of the parents' negligence and economic hardship.

Children from the Kamoro tribe are particularly poor learners compared to others, Emanuel said.

He added he hoped the PMTAS program for children from the Kamoro and Amungme tribes, as well as five others, would help improve the children's nutrition and consequently their performance in class.

The PMTAS outlines its mission as improving the nutrition of children from the seven tribes so they grow more active and attend school.

"During my stint at Inpres Nawaripi, I faced many difficulties when teaching children from the Kamoro tribe," Emanuel said.

"Many of those in the first, second and third grades - and even some in the fifth grade - still can't read, write or count."

He said the school offered extracurricular classes for reading, writing and math, but had been undermined by a low attendance rate, with most of the children taking up other activities at home.

"The illiteracy issue is a big problem in Mimika," Emanuel said.

Local education official Benny Tsenawatne said the Kamoro and Amungme tribal communities lacked access to schools or health clinics, and suffered from low human resource development due to the lack of attention from the local administration and the tribal development institution.

"I hope the PMTAS program can be further enhanced to improve the nutritional standard of children in Mimika," he said.

Benny urged parents not to keep their children from attending after-school lessons.

Instead, he said, they should encourage their children to study hard and strive for a brighter future.

"The Mimika Education Agency has failed to heed native Papuans' education needs," he said.

The program has been implemented in the high plains areas, including at Arwanop, Tsinga and Banti villages, and coastal villages, such as Kokonao, Atuka, Mapurujaya and Nawaripi.