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Indonesian teachers march for equal rights

Thousands take to streets in various cities to demand civil servant status and added benefits

Indonesian teachers march for equal rights

Contract teachers in Ciamis, West Java, march to demand that they be recognized as civil servants. (Photo supplied by Indonesian Contract Teachers Forum)

Catholics were among thousands of contract teachers who staged protests across Indonesia on Sept. 18 to demand a pay hike and government worker status.

They say civil service status brings benefits they should be entitled to after years of service, but the government, which is offering civil service opportunities to young graduates with little experience, is overlooking them.

According to the Indonesian Education and Culture Ministry, there are about 1.5 million contract teachers across the country.

"The Indonesian government needs to pay attention to our welfare," said Titi Purwaningsih, president of the Contract Teachers Forum.

Their demands include a raise in pay, exemption from an entrance test and upping the age limit on becoming a civil servant.

For a teacher to be certified as a civil servant they must pass an entrance test, which includes a psychological evaluation, and be under 35 years old.

There are many contract teachers over 40, but cannot not be accepted because of their age, Purwaningsih said

"We have worked hard to improve education in this country, but this has gone unrecognized by the government," she added, saying protests would grow stronger if their demands are not met.

Maria Setiyani, 37, an Indonesian language teacher in Bogor, West Java, said she and her colleagues want the government to show its appreciation for their hard work.

"I've been teaching in a private school in Bogor for 14 years. Each year since 2012 I have applied to become a civil servant teacher, and each time I have been turned down," she said.

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Being a contract teacher, all she gets is about $185 per month, which is inadequate to support her family.

If she was a classified as a civil servant she could receive up to $350 per month plus an additional monthly allowance, pension fund, and health insurance.

She also said since they have been teaching for many years, they should not be required to take an exam.

"The government should hire us without restrictions," she said.

Franciscan Father Vincentius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education expressed sympathy for the teachers.

"It's the task of the government to seriously pay attention to the rights and dignity of these teachers," said the priest.

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