Indonesian students demand: No cuts to education subsidies!
By Chris Latham
On April 1, Indonesian students involved in the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) participated in a national mobilisation in Jakarta demanding that the government abandon plans to cut education subsidies to state universities. The policy is expected to result in tuition fee increases of around 300%.
The cuts are part of the broader austerity measures introduced by the Indonesian government on April 1, under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund and its Coordinating Group on Indonesia (CGI), in order to repay Indonesia's debts to international banks and corporations.
The slashing of subsidies on other basic items such as food, cooking oil and electricity will force workers, peasants and students to shoulder a greater share of the burden of the 1997-99 economic crisis.
The LMND sent a solidarity statement to the March 22 national day of action against education privatisation in Australia. It was read out at many of the rallies and received a good response.
It explained that due to rising living and education costs there has been a large drop in the number of students going on to attend high schools and universities. Of the 4.5 million high school students enrolled in 1996-97 only 2 million entered university studies in 2000. At the same time only around 5 million of the 7.5 million junior high school students enrolled in high school.
The LMND is demanding: no cuts to education subsidies, free education for the people, and for the arms bill to be cut so that more funds can be allocated to education.
ASIET member Kerryn Williams told Resistance magazine, "The fact that the Indonesian and Australian governments are pursuing the same policy of shifting education costs onto students and their families makes building solidarity between the campaigns of students here and there very important."
[A national speaking tour being organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesian and East Timor will feature former political prisoner Budiman Sujatmiko, a leader of the People's Democratic Party in Indonesia and the campaign against the CGI. See pages 28-29 for details of public meetings in your city.]