"Swastanisasi" means privatisation in Bahasa Indonesia. Four important universities in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung and Bogor are on the menu for the voracious multinationals and the International Monetary Fund. International capital is breaking into the temples of knowledge through the new laws of financial autonomy. This is the international policy of capital, to run education on the basis of market laws. But the students, encouraged by the successful overthrow of Suharto are moving into action against the imposed "otonomie versie rektor" (the rector's version of autonomy).
The massive cuts of the education budget show the real pro-capitalist priorities of the Wahid-Megawati government. This so-called democratic government is completely submitted to the dictatorship of international capital which wants its loans to be paid back with extra profit. The education budget for the year 2000 will be cut by 20% while military expenditures increases significantly. The development funds in particular will be cut by 60%. This means that all 70 state universities in the archipelago will be forced to increase the fees and impose other
cuts. Universities expect thousands of their students to drop out. Indeed the rate of students coming from poor families ranges from 18% to 70%. They will not be able to pay for the fee hikes. Already the education of Indonesian young people has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the crisis : 6 million young people do not reach the end of junior educations and millions have dropped out. In one school of Jakarta , 70% of the pupils do not attend classes because they are helping their parents to find some food or are too ill as a result of malnutrition, and this is not an exception. As a direct result of the financial crisis two years ago 8 million young people dropped out of education. Capitalism is hitting the weakest. A movement similar to the one in Mexico at the State University (UNAM) is needed. If this movement is linked to the workers' movement awakened by the price increases of fuel and electricity, it can shape the next stage of mobilisation in Indonesia.
There is plenty of money which could be used to fund education. Rp 500 trillion will be spent on the bail out the debt-ridden banks. Most of that money comes from the government or to be more exact from the people's taxes. This is 2,5 times the budget for the year 2000. 30% of the state budget is also spent on the repayment of the interests of loans. So it will only be natural if the student movement raises the demand of the cancellation of the public debt, the end of the scandalous bail out of the banks and the reduction of the military expenses as a way to finance the education system. Those measures would be the first steps in the direction of the nationalisation under workers control and management of the banks and the financial sector. The only way to save the Indonesian youth, workers and poor farmers from the nightmare of misery, exploitation, oppression and ethnic/religious pogroms is to take control of the whole economy via nationalisation of the levers of production, the implementation of a democratic plan of production based on the needs of the people and not on individual profit of a few. These would be the first steps in the direction of socialism.
We met a student in Yogyakarta who actively involved in a campaign opposing these attacks on education:
"The "otonomie" of the campuses is a new form of intervention of capitalism in education. In the past the state and the government were already doing this. Now it is the turn of the international capitalists. This "otonomie" is the new great plan of neo-liberalism in our country. As a consequence young people inside and outside the universities will be more oppressed and exploited. These are the concrete consequences of this plan:
- 1) the university will be run as a private company
- 2) the university will have the legal status of such a company, which amounts to its privatisation.
- 3) the university will be reduced to a client of capitalist investors. They will impose their will on the content of the courses in the faculties. The university efficiency will be measured by its return on investment - that is, a completely profit driven education system. Our universities will be reduced to the production of cheap intellectual labourers.
- 4) the government subsidies to the running of the university will be reduced to zero over a period of 5 years (-20% a year).
"Our universities are abandoned to IMF and multinationals who will mould the universities and later the whole education system in the interest of profits.
"We oppose this with demands for free education for all, a high quality education system, freedom of political speech and organisation, fees must be integrally paid by the government.
"In mobilising the students we first of all try to explain to them the consequences of these plans and how to combat them. We are building a conscious and serious movement of students not just hollow actions without following-up. That's why we do not only mobilise the students at the campus but also agitate amongst the poor and the oppressed layers of society outside the campus. The poor people (workers, peasants and urban poor), are already suffering a lot and have no access to a better education not to speak about entering university. Privatising university will increase the fees for students. Today our parents pay around 225.000 to 400.000 Rp (between £25 and £40 or 1 to 3 monthly wages for workers) every semester for our studies. The IMF plans will increase the fees to at least 1 million Rp (£100 or 7 to 8 monthly wages). Under these conditions it will be impossible for working class youth to go to university. We can not tolerate this. Our campaign is really striking a very sympathetic chord with students at the different faculties. We are giving a new impetus to the student movement."