Schoolchildren parade with pictures of Indonesian nationalist heroes in Wamena (Jenny Munro)

Education is a mess in Papua’s highlands, but fault doesn’t lie with the Papuans alone

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Schoolchildren parade with pictures of Indonesian nationalist heroes in Wamena  (Jenny Munro)
Schoolchildren parade with pictures of Indonesian nationalist heroes in Wamena (Jenny Munro)

Jayapura, 28/12 (Jubi/Inside Indonesia) – A recent Inside Indonesia article by Bobby Anderson argues that the greatest failures of special autonomy in Papua are not those elements implemented by Jakarta, but health and education services turned over to provincial and district authorities. Anderson is right that special autonomy is a boon for the powerful and a disaster for the majority, including school children. But at every turn, he finds a way to blame Papuans, ignoring a broader context of historical mistreatment, state repression, and power dynamics that implicate state and corporate actors.

Rather than find fault with indigenous teachers, parents and district officials in remote areas, I suggest in this article that we need to look at the ways by which Indonesian policies are promoting movement from remote rural areas, rather than investment in local capacities, and thus contributing to the evisceration of rural services. I question core assumptions that Anderson and other commentators have about the so-called Papuanisation of the civil service. It’s also much too easy to blame a local indigenous ‘elite’, forgetting that this elite does not operate in isolation from powerful Indonesian and corporate interests. While Papuans may be the easy target in attempts to diagnose Papua’s contemporary ills, Jakarta persists in a colonial tradition of rolling out development policies without regard for local wisdom or critique. We should never forget that.

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