Serang, Banten. “We used to cram 45 to 50 students into each classroom here,” says Komarudin, principal of Kasunyatun State Elementary School in the town of Serang.
“But now because three of our rooms can’t be used, we’re having to stagger the classes so that some students come in the morning and the others in the afternoon.”
The schoolhouse, like many in small towns across the country, has just seven rooms — one for each grade from first to sixth, and a teachers’ room.
When Komarudin was appointed principal here in 2010, he noticed that the entire building was in a state of disrepair and would need to be urgently renovated.
He applied for funding that year from the Serang Education Office and was promised that the municipality would foot the bill for repairs to four of the rooms, while the other three would get funding from the central government.
“But what happened was that only the municipal funding came through,” Komarudin says.
“The three other rooms have been never been renovated because, according to the education office, no school is allowed to receive funding from both the local education office and the central government. The condition of the three rooms now is very worrying.”
He adds that he keeps applying to the authorities for funding, either to repair the rundown classrooms whose crumbling walls and roof he fears could collapse at any time, or to build new classrooms.
Roihah, a teacher, says the threat of a collapse constantly weighs on the students and teachers and makes it difficult to focus on lessons.
“An environment that’s conducive to learning should be comfortable so that the students aren’t distracted by other things, but here none of us feels the least bit comfortable,” she says.
She cites one occasion when it began raining hard and the ceiling in her classroom began leaking in several spots. That prompted her to evacuate the entire class for fear that the ceiling would collapse.
“The government needs to fix all the classrooms that are in disrepair, otherwise there’s bound to be an accident that claims victims,” Roihah says. “We just hope that they address our problem immediately so that the students can have peace of mind when they’re learning.”
The funding hitch at Kasunyatun Elementary is one of many that schools across the country face when requesting money to fix crumbling classrooms.
The problem seems to belie the massive allocation that the education sector is guaranteed from the state budget.
By law, at least 20 percent of the budget must go to education, the second-highest allotment after that for civil servants’ salaries. In 2011, the education budget amounted to Rp 266.9 trillion ($27.8 billion), increasing to Rp 310.8 trillion this year. The draft budget for 2013 sets aside a record Rp 331.8 trillion for education, but in reality only a fraction of that money will go toward schools.
The Education Ministry, which is responsible for the running and maintenance of state schools, will get Rp 66 trillion, while the Religious Affairs Ministry, which oversees Islamic schools, will get Rp 39 trillion. The rest will be shared by 18 other ministries and government institutions for their own education and training programs that have nothing to do with primary and secondary education.
In addition to its allocation from the state, more than half of which will go toward paying teachers’ salaries, the Education Ministry has another source of funding for school building repairs, but one that has drawn criticism from legislators.
In 2010, it created a perpetual endowment, known as the National Education Development Fund (DPPN), using funds left over from its budget from the previous year. The initial amount was Rp 1 trillion. In 2011, it swelled to Rp 3.6 trillion, and this year stands at Rp 10.6 trillion. At the start of 2013, it is expected to increase by another Rp 5 trillion.
The fund may only be used for providing postgraduate scholarships to primary and secondary school teachers, rebuilding schools in areas hit by natural disasters, and funding research on a national scale.
However, Education Minister Mohammad Nuh says that only the interest generated by the fund, and not the principal, may be used. He says the interest currently stands at around Rp 300 billion.
The endowment has come under close scrutiny recently from House of Representatives Commission X, which oversees education affairs, which questions its legality and the high potential for embezzlement.
SP & JG