Papua’s education still far from picture perfect

Papua’s education still far from picture perfect
, 5 July 2010

The dilapidated building of YPPGI Kopo elementary school in Paniai regency in Papua speaks loud on the little attention given to the education sector in the country’s resource-rich province.

The building, with its frail wooden pillars and dry-leaved roof, was the learning place for the school’s first to fourth graders.

The school’s principal Yahya Nawipa said that the building was not a decent place for the students to study but they could not do much about it.

He said he had written to the administration and the National Education Office in Paniai but there had been no response on his request for a renovation.

“A new building has been built, yes, but only for fifth and six graders,” he told The Jakarta Post, who was in Paniai on invitation from Oxfam and the Community Welfare Development Foundation (Yapkema) in Paniai to look at the Raising Her Voice program.

Nawipa said the elementary school had 208 students and the school was badly in need of repair to ensure the safety of both students and the teachers.

Poor facilities were also disclosed by another school principal, Barnabas Jeimo of SD YPPGI Enarotali. He said the school, which teaches 345 students, had limited teaching facilities such as school textbooks.

Many teachers, he said, were also restless, waiting for certainty on their promotion and others were questioning the decision on their teaching certification from Papua province’s National Education Office.

“I hope to receive a reply from the office in charge to deal with teaching certification for our teachers who passed [the tests teacher qualification tests],” he said.

School principal Paulus Agapa of the state run SD Inpres Maiyubutu also faced lack of school textbooks as well as tables and chairs for the classrooms.

However, he raised concern on the lack of teachers in the regency’s remote villages, where it is common for a school to only have one teacher.

“My school is in the center of Paniai regency but it is still lack of facilities,” he said, adding that the regency has 116 elementary schools.

Lack of teachers was blamed for declining education quality in Paniai regency, according to school principal Tomuara Tanjung from SD Inpres Enarotali.

The principal, who has been teaching since 1990, also raised concern of lack of encouragement from parents to send their children to school.

“Children here in Paniai have a strong wish to go to school, but parents’ role in sending their children to attend school is very low,” Tomuara said.

Some existing teachers, she said, were lacked discipline in teaching.

“Many teachers assigned in Paniai are not professional as they have not received training from the government. The education system has a long way to go,” she said.

She said everyone in Paniai regency should work together to achieve better education.

Teachers alone, she added, could not work provide better education without the support from both the provincial and regency administration in providing better facilities.

Former supervising coordinator for elementary to senior high schools in Paniai regency, Sirylus Magay, said many elementary schools in the regency, especially in remote areas, still lagged behind their counterparts in other regions.

“I taught for six years in an elementary school in Bibida district,” he said. “I taught first to sixth graders because there were not enough teachers.”

He urged the government to pay more attention to improve teachers’ welfare, from providing decent housing and healthcare to access to electricity, such as providing solar cell assistance.

He said that many teachers in Paniai used candles for lighting, and that this impacted on their ability to prepare lessons.

“Many teachers also do not receive health assistance from the government. How can they pay attention to teaching [when they are sick],” he said.

“I hope the Paniai regency administration pays attention to the teachers’ welfare so they stay in the job.”