Schools in Indonesia's Papua Closed For Months As air link cuts strand teachers

Schools in Indonesia's Papua Closed For Months As Air Link Cuts Strand Teachers

Antara News

Classes at some schools in Papua's Mimika district have been at a standstill for the past few months because their teachers are stuck in Timika city. The principal of Jila district`s junior high school (SMP), Natalis Nimbitkendik, said he and other teachers at the school were stranded in Timika.

"We can not return to Jila, because there is no transportation to get there," he said.

He said the teachers usually travel to Jila from Timika on a PT Freeport Indonesia helicopter hired by the Amungme and Kamoro Community Development Foundation (LPMAK). Several villages in Jila district, such as Hoeya, Bela, Alama, Geselema and others are located 3,000 meters above sea level, and can only be reached by air. But since the shooting incidents near the Freeport gold and copper mine, the company's helicopters no longer fly to Jila.

Cantius Emereyauw, a Kamoro tribal community figure, said for the past three months Bona Ventura elementary school had stopped operating completely. The whereabouts of its teachers were also unknown.

"There has been no school for the past three months, because the teachers are not there," he said.

He said he was concerned about the students' future now that their schooling had been disrupted. Elementary schools in Mimika run by the Catholic Education and School Foundation of Timika were also only operating now and then with casual teachers, he added.

Meanwhile, the teachers with civil servant status were not around and were spending their time doing other things in the city, Cantius said. These teachers continued to receive their full salaries and allowances from the state.

The School Operational Assistance funds the schools were receiving from the central and local governments were also being embezzled by the school principals, he said.

"We urge Mimika`s local government to pay serious attention to this situation," Cantius said.