Education Institutions Should NOT Be An Incubator for Corruption

It is a fact that schools produce not only scholars, but corruptors as well. In many countries, we find that educational institutions seem to be filled by corrupt behavior. But the education system should not be an incubator for corruption. We should start ousting corruption out of the institutions nearest from our daily lives: schools, colleges, and universities.

“Bad scores can be changed by bribing teachers, certificates can be purchased … How can the next generation be free of corruption, if the educators were corrupt?” said David Riveros Garcia, 19-year-old youth of Paraguay, in the Global Youth Anti-corruption Forum in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday (27/5) then.

He was well aware of corruption is the cause of poverty citizen of Paraguay, which made his mother at the age seven years starving so she had to eat dirt, which forced his father as a child had to shine shoes for the sake of making money. “That’s why I fight against corruption, so that no one else has to end up like them,” he said with gusto.

Then in 2008, in his final year in high school, David led four thousand students to demonstrate against the rampant corruption in the schools. Their strike lasted three weeks. “We were treated like terrorists, soldiers contained us,” said David.

Participants in demonstrations and strikes gradually reduced because all kinds of threats they received. One afternoon, out of nowhere, the Minister of Education called David. The Minister said the government would investigate and audit David’s school.

This November, two years from the strike, none of the officials was prosecuted. “But I believe we did not fail. We successfully opened their eyes that we are different, we are not standing still seeing the corruption,” he said. David is now busy with his new organization, Youth Change Reaction, which promotes transparency and social accountability to youths.

Philippines chose a less confrontative way to push corruption out of its education system. Before 2002, school text books were relatively expensive, about 120 pesos per copy due to a very long procurement process. There were a lot of reports of corruption in text book procurements. The Department of Education was considered the most corrupt agencies in government.

Then, Department of Education partnered with civil society organizations to fix it. They started checking for books’ quality and quantity, and tracked the shipment.

“We involve the scouts to check and track the books,” said Marlon Cornelio, 25 years, from the Philippines, an activist of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia Pacific Youth.

As the result, book prices could be lowered up to 50 percent, while the print quality continues to improve. Textbook procurement process now takes only 12 months, half of the 24 months needed before this partnership began.

In Peru, there is Jorge Mori Valenzuela. The 28 years old male became the Director of the Universidad Coherente and now encourages students oversee the management of the university. ”

We promote accountability in managing public universities. We are building a national network of university watchdog groups, and hoped that students who engage in it will be the driving force of social and economic development of Peru,” he said.

The Universidad Coherente also has a web site about the management of 35 public universities. This site reaches nearly two thousand visits per month.

Meanwhile in Cameroon, Laurent Wambo Gabi, 31 years old, from RECAAD-Cameroon, initiated a number of schools to become islands of integrity. Although the overall education system might be still corrupt, the schools started a “new life” and declared themselves asclean institutions.

“All acts of corruption would be sanctioned. Teachers used to sell school scores, but not anymore. We meet the students, involving them, inviting them to talk about corruption in school, “said Laurent.

“Those reports are followed up by sanctions to give deterrent effect,” he continued. In one school, no less than four teachers were fired because their corruption was proven.

What about Indonesia?

I know there’s a Dermawan Bakri, 19 years, who in 2008 with his friends dismantled the corruption of Sekolah Menengah Atas Negeri(State High School) 3 Surakarta, Central Java. They collected evidences of misappropriate disbursement of School Budget, which had been known for a long time but ignored by their seniors.

The short movie documentary “Our School, Our Lives”, directed by Steve Pillar Setiabudi,showed how Dermawan, Rio Satriawan, Agung Nurjito, and other friends organized a team to uncover the case. They were very selective and made sure team members should not have a conflict of interest: not the relatives of teachers or principal, not taking private lessons from teachers or principal, not the boyfriend or girlfriend of the teachers or principal’s children.

One day, surprising the school authority, they held a demonstration at school, forcing the Principal and the teachers to answer questions about the school budget. They insisted on a comprehensive audit of school funds.

The Surakarta Mayor, Joko Widodo, finally ordered the Regional Supervisory Agency (Bawasda) to investigate SMAN 3. Bawasda had declared the principal was guilty of corruption, and recommended his dismissal.

At the national level, there is a Coalition of Anti-Corruption in Education, consisting a number of NGOs, who actively criticize the education budget. The coalition is pushing schools to open their budget management data, as required by the Act for Public Information Disclosure.

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this is a translated and edited version of my previous post, “Tak Usah Jauh-jauh Memerangi Korupsi: Mulailah Dari Dunia Pendidikan.”

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