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Papuan bishop slams education chief over teacher recall

Thousands of Indonesian children set to lose out after state-paid teachers pulled from church, privately run schools

Benny Mawel, Jayapura

Benny Mawel, Jayapura

Published: July 17, 2019 08:16 AM GMT

Updated: July 17, 2019 08:20 AM GMT

Papuan bishop slams education chief over teacher recall

Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika in Papua says recalling state teachers from private schools will jeopardize the education of thousands of children in church and other privately run schools in the region. (Photo courtesy of Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia)

Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika has roundly condemned a move by authorities in a Papuan district for pulling state-employed teachers from private schools, including Catholic ones.

Calling it a “betrayal,” he said the move jeopardizes the education of thousands of children studying in church and other privately run schools in the district, where many teachers are civil servants paid by the government.

The teachers are being employed in private schools, which are struggling due to teacher shortages in the private sector.

However, Mimika district education department chief Jeni O. Usmani recently issued a circular telling all state-employed teachers that they will be withdrawn from private schools later this year. She said the move is necessary to ensure a better education for students studying in public schools in the district.

Bishop Saklil said the decision will only cause a shortage of teachers in more than 50 schools run by the Catholic Church and others run by Protestant churches.

“This policy has come as a great disappointment to the Church,” Bishop Saklil said July 15. “If the district pushes ahead with the plan, many Papuan children will not have an education because private schools are mostly in remote areas where indigenous children are studying,” he said.

He called for legal action to be taken against Usmani as withdrawing the teachers will only create chaos. “This kind of policy betrays education in Papua,” he said.

Yones Douw, a rights activist, said withdrawing the teachers “violates children’s rights to an education.”

He said Papua lags behind other regions and what the government must do is to recruit more teachers to teach in private schools because indigenous children in Papua depend largely on private schools in villages. Developing Papua must begin by developing schools, he said.

Engebertus Surabut, a parent, said recalling teachers from private schools is a way of forcing parents to send their children to public schools, which would create hardship because distances children would have to travel to get to school.

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He said both public and private schools have the same goal, which is to educate.

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