Students say commercialisation of education ‘stifling democracy’

Berlawan – February 14, 2008
Banner reads 'Stop the Commercialisation of Education' (Makassar Terkini)
Banner reads 'Stop the Commercialisation of Education' (Makassar Terkini)

Vivi W. – Five hundred protesters from the Indonesian Student Union (SMI) held an action today on Thursday February 14 in Central Jakarta. The protest took up a number of key demands including freedom of expression, opinion and association on campus, the revocation of Directorate General for Higher Education Decree No. 26/2002 on the prohibition of activities by mass organisations and political parties on campus, the abolition of the system of suspensions and “drop outs” and against the draft law on the Education Legal Agency.

The protest, which started at the Horse Statue roundabout in front of the Indosat building in Central Jakarta, then moved off towards the State Palace. In speeches in front of the State Palace, SMI general chairperson Yusriansyah said that up until now the imperialist puppet government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Yusuf Kalla (SBY-JK) have totally failed to pay attention to the education sector. Government programs to liberalise the national education system have resulted in high education fees and many Indonesian children are unable to attend school. In addition to this, existing education laws legitimize anti-democratic and repressive actions on campus.

SMI secretary general Tony Trianto meanwhile said that the government’s free compulsory education program should be provided to all citizens unconditionally. Unfortunately however, the Yudhoyono government is unwilling to do this and only a populist, people based government will be able to carry out such a program.

The protest represented a national action attended by SMI branch representatives from various parts of Indonesia. It was also supported by a number of other people’s organisations including the Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM), the Poor Politic-National Student League for Democracy (LMND-PRM), the Political Committee of the Poor-Peoples Democratic Party (KPRM-PRD), the National Student Front (FMN), Greater Jakarta Workers Solidarity Struggle (SPBJ), the Indonesian Transportation Trade Union for Struggle (SBTPI), the Working People’s Association (PRP). Each of these organisations were given an opportunity to give political speeches.

After protesting for two hours in front of the State Palace, protesters moved off to continue the action at the House of Representatives in South Jakarta.

[Translated by James Balowski.]