South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin issued a stern warning Tuesday to schools to not demand school admission fees under any circumstances, once the free education program comes into effect in the coming school year.
“We will meet out punitive and administrative sanctions on schools that breach the rule, particularly those demanding fees from new students for no clear reasons,” Alex said. “Schools will only be allowed to charge fees that are effectively contributions, but should discuss the matter with parents and get their prior consent.”
He added thorough understanding and full support from all regencies and municipalities were essential to facilitating and implementing the free education program.
To educate the public on the free education concept, the governor’s office will conduct routine evaluations of the implementation of the program, as well as of the free healthcare program, in 15 regencies and municipalities in South Sumatra.
Alex said lack of understanding on the part of the public, as well as by regency and municipal administrations over the free education program could raise differing perceptions and interpretations.
The program is not intended to lower the education standard, as critics have claimed, but to further improve education quality through continuous supervision, according to the governor, with program implementers required to stick to the existing guidelines.
Armansyah, 35, a resident of Sukabangun district in the provincial capital Palembang, expressed doubt that the program could be implemented effectively, adding the junior high school where he planned to enroll his child would still demand an enrollment fee.
“The amount is still unclear, but a number of parents have raised the issue that they were charged these fees,” said Armansyah, a trader at a traditional market in the city.
“We’re afraid the program will not run effectively, due to these demands for payment.”
Maryati, a resident of Demang Lebar Daun, also in Palembang, concurred, saying her two children had registered at a senior high school the previous week, and several parents had also complained about the existing enrollment fees. “The fees are still there, though it’s not ethical to mention the amount,” she said.
The provincial administration has set allocated Rp 188 billion (US$1.8 million) to be spent on 1,680,165 students in private and state schools, from the elementary to senior high levels, in the province’s 15 regencies and municipalities.
Only national standard (SSN) and international standard preparatory (RSBI) schools are allowed to ask for school fees and payments for other expenses.
The monthly financial aid per student will be Rp 10,000 for a elementary school students, Rp 15,000 for a junior high school student, Rp 80,000 for a senior high school student, and Rp 90,000 for a vocational school student.
The South Sumatra administration has issued a bylaw earlier this year on the implementation and service of the free education program, and applied it across South Sumatra.