PT Selaras Inti Semesta’s promises that have failed to materialize

On Friday afternoon (21/4) the Kampung Zanegi clinic grounds were crowded with people, sitting together on the mats they had spread out to discuss various matters connected with the PT Selaras Inti Semesta (SIS) industrial forest plantation. One interesting and serious issue concerned the promises the company had made to support the education of Zanegi’s schoolchildren.

Bonafasius Gebze, acting village head of Zanegi, related how when PT Selaras Inti Semesta first arrived in their village it made promises about education. Imitating a company representative he said “Not only will we manage your forest, we will also educate your children”.

At that time the company had not yet started operations, and there were several children who had completed middle school in Zanegi [middle school (SMP) is usually from 11 to 14 years old], and Pace Bon (nickname) put forward a list of names, hoping that they would be given scholarships for continuing their education from the company. A company representative said “the company’s activities have not yet commenced, so just be patient, once the company starts work the children will get schooling and be able to study in Java or wherever”, but the current reality is that this promise remains unfulfilled, and meanwhile thousands of hectares of forest have been felled.

Not many Marind children from Zanegi are able to continue their education to middle school. “Most children who have gone to study in Wayau or Kumbe come back to the village and don’t continue. They don’t last long in the dormitory or staying in other people’s houses, they need funds for food and so on, their parents have no money to pay for their children’s needs, and so in the end they just come home”, related Jordanius Poliyama, the headteacher of the Zanegi elementary school.

The community is hoping for support from the government and the company to pay for a proper education for their children to a higher level. “But they pay us no attention, the company does not care about the parents, for example by giving them decent jobs, or scholarships for middle and high school, and so parents cannot support their children’s education”, explained Jordanius Poliyama. A community member doubted the company’s promise, interjecting “Maybe they are scared that if the children get too smart, it will allow them to demand back everything that has been seized from them”.

At present only three people originally from Zanegi village remain employed by the company and their status is still day labourers, without permanent contracts and with an income far below what they obtained before the company arrived.

The condition of pupils who attend the village school is also of concern, their abilities and knowledge remains low, and one of the reasons for this is the low availability of food for the children “Previously before the company arrived, children could last studying until 12 noon, now they ask to go home at 11am, crying with hunger, because they are not eating at home. The company is here, but there has been no positive development.” said Jordanius, who has been teaching in Zanegi since before SIS commenced operations.

Jordanius has also paid several visits to the education service to ask for support in providing more houses for teachers in the village, because there are seven teachers, but there are only two houses, and so they are forced to make do with what there is and live together. The government’s only response is to say that the company had already promised to build supporting facilities. However, these have still not materialised and the community is forced to depend on the government and the company.

The Zanegi Village head offered his opinion, “Now we have become the victims, forced to fit around their plans (ie. the company). Actually we didn’t get much education and don’t have many skills, but we are forced into this situation so we will work for the company and be dependent on them. Really the government should prepare the community before accepting investors, by giving them education and knowledge until they are smart enough”

All community members present in the meeting that afternoon were of the opinion that formal education was necessary so that they could not be fooled by others, and so they could have the ability for work for the company or in government offices, or manage their own community enterprises.

Source: Pusaka

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