Indonesian Catholic educators praise govt funding

Aid helps finance schools without interference from bureacrats regarding management or curriculum
Indonesian Catholic educators praise govt funding

Franciscan Father Vensensius Darmin Mbula of the Indonesian bishops' conference says government support of Catholic schools demonstrates its serious attention to the improvement of church-run schools. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

The Indonesian bishops' conference has lauded a government initiative to finance dozens of Catholic schools, saying it would save them from financial difficulties.

To date, 25 senior high schools throughout the country, including a minor seminary, have received financial support from the Ministry of Religion, channeled through the Catholic Community Guidance Division.

The program began in 2014 and targeted Catholic schools in remote areas such as Flores, Papua, Maluku and Kalimantan. Two schools were officially registered in August 2016 in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara province while the verification process for two more is ongoing, including St. Francis of Assisi Minor Seminary in Jayapura, Papua.

Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, a member of the bishops’ education commission who is also the chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, said that the government's effort reflects a serious commitment to improving Catholic schools.

"It certainly would make Catholic schools, especially in areas where students come from low-income families, enjoy adequate facilities and infrastructure," he said on Feb. 17.

For years, the government has not paid sufficient attention to Catholic schools and even given preferential treatment to Islamic schools, he added.

"Consequently, Catholic schools charge higher fees to meet operational costs," he said, adding that in poor areas such financial constraints limit students’ access to good facilities and infrastructure.

Eusabius Binsasi, general director of the Catholic Community Guidance Division said that the government’s assistance includes financing school operations, building new facilities and providing books. Funding depends on the needs of each school.

He said he would ensure that the aid does not become part of a government intervention in the school management or curriculum.

"The schools are still the assets of the local church, not the government," he added.

Kamilus Wea, the principal of St. Mary Senior High School in Tanah Merah, Boven Doegul district, Papua said that the school was built in 2015 and began receiving government funding in 2016.

"We received 30 million rupiah (US$2,300) for one year from the government and books too," he told ucanews.com on Feb. 20.

Government financial assistance is helpful because it is difficult for the schools to expect funds from parents, he added.

According to data from the Central Statistics Agency, as of 2015, Indonesia had more than 12,600 private and state-run senior high schools, with a total 4.2 million students. Many of the schools are managed by Catholic institutions and located in remote areas that need financial attention.

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