Agus Maryono , The Jakarta Post , Purwokerto | Thu, 06/05/2008 10:12 AM | The Archipelago
The low education level in Banyumas regency, Central Java, is because of high costs preventing poorer parents from enrolling their children in more advanced level schools, the local education office says.
Based on its 2008 data, 7 percent of the regency's population of 1.5 million graduated from high school and only 1.8 percent from university, while the majority, or 64 percent, finished elementary school.
"We are very concerned and will continue urging the executive body to set aside 20 percent of its budget for education in Banyumas," vice speaker of Commission A at the local legislature, Muhsonudin, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Muhsonudin, a National Awakening Party faction member, said the Banyumas regency administration had only a tiny budget for education.
"The regency has earmarked only 8 percent of its total budget for education despite the fact that it could actually be as high as 15 percent," he said.
He said the regency budget was Rp 900 billion (US$100 million) last year and not much different this year.
"However, most of these funds are still used for routine expenditure and matters which we think are less strategic, such as funds for official trips," Muhsonudin said.
He says the administration has yet to put education on the priority list, as is evident from the 8 percent allocation this year.
"We have done our best, but apparently the council has other political priorities. Members have their own interests and those with the most seats will win," he said.
Separately, Banyumas Education Office head Haris Nurtiono said the low level of education among people in the regency was linked to the prevelance of poverty.
"This is particularly true now when the prices of basic needs have risen due to the fuel price increase. I'm certain this will mean the level of education will gradually drop," Haris told the Post.
He said his office had been providing scholarships to needy students since last year, especially to elementary school students.
"We earmarked Rp 6 billion for the purpose, with each needy student receiving Rp 600,000," Haris said.
He acknowledged, however, that this sum was insignificant because it was just for the enrollment fees to be admitted to junior high school.
"We will try to seek other ways to help the needy so they can continue studies until senior high school at least," Haris said.