Ni Komang Erviani , Contributor , The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Thu, 09/11/2008 11:05 AM | Bali
As of August this year up to 10.16 million or 6.22 percent of the Indonesian population aged over 15 years old are still illiterate despite the success of the government’s illiteracy eradication program, Minister of National Education Bambang Sudibyo said.
Speaking at the commemoration of International Illiteracy Day at the Art Center in Denpasar on Monday, Bambang said that 65 percent of the illiterate population, or 6.6 million people are women.
The National Education Ministry’s data shows that the number of illiterate people still reached 15.4 million or 10.21 percent of the country’s population aged over 15 years in 2004.
The number dropped to 12.88 million (or 8.44 percent) in 2006 and 11.87 million (7.33 percent) in 2007, Bambang said.
The minister said the government would speed up the reduction in the percentage of illiterate people next year to only 5 percent, or about 7.7 million people.
“The achievement of this target will be six years ahead of a similar target set by UNESCO countries in an education conference in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000,” he said referring to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
At the conference, where Indonesian delegates took part, UNESCO members agreed to set a target to cut the number of illiterate people by 50 percent, by the year 2015.
Bambang explained that Indonesia’s optimism on achieving the target faster is based on the high priority given to illiteracy eradication by the government.
“We have set aside a fund of Rp 1 trillion (about US$110 million) annually for illiteracy eradication,” he said.
He explained that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had issued a Presidential directive in 2006 supporting the national campaign for illiteracy education and accelerated implementation of nine years of compulsory education for everyone.
“One of the triggers for the high level of illiteracy is that too many students are dropping out in the first to third grades of elementary school,” the minister said.
State Minister of Women Empowerment Meutia Farida Hatta Swasono, who was also present at the ceremony, said that the high illiteracy rate among women was mainly caused by gender inequality in a number of areas in Indonesia.
Data from the Central Statistics Agency shows that 81.26 percent of the total of 6.6 million illiterate women were found mostly in eight regencies in East, Central and West Java, South Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara, Banten and West Kalimantan.
Illiteracy eradication, Meutia said, has also been given much emphasis in her office in line with the eradication of poverty and the struggle for gender equalization.
“Illiteracy has to be wiped out for the sake of social justice and equalization of gender opportunities so that the social status of women will be lifted in the community,” she said.
At the ceremony Bali Vice Governor Anak Agung Ngurah Puspayoga also added the commitment of his provincial administration to the campaign against illiteracy.
“Illiteracy has to be wiped out because it is closely related to ignorance, powerlessness and poverty,” Puspayoga said.
Bali Education Office data shows that the number of illiterate people aged between 15 years and 45 years reached 29,419 in 2006, spread across in nearly all regencies in Bali. But the number had dropped to only 14,709 as of the middle of this year, according to the data.