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Government rejects claims of using teachers' salary for free school lunch program

Jakarta Globe - March 4, 2024

Medikantyo Adhikresna, Jakarta – Ahmed Zaki Iskandar, a consultant to Chief Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto, has rebutted allegations that the free school lunch program would utilize the state budget designated for teachers, namely the School Operation Assistance (BOS) fund.

He clarified that there are two types of BOS funds: the regular and the affirmation fund (BOS Affirmation).

According to Ahmed Zaki, the Regional Government of Tangerang Regency proposed to the central government the use of funds from the BOS Affirmation instead of the regular BOS. This suggestion was put forth after the trial run of the free school lunch program at SMPN 2 Curug Tangerang last Thursday.

"I want to clarify that the regular BOS fund is allocated for school operations and the payment of contract teachers. Conversely, the proposal recommends using the affirmative BOS for the free lunch program. The accounts differ, but the channel remains the same through BOS," Zaki explained in an interview with Beritasatu.com on Saturday

Examples of the BOS Affirmation involve allocating additional funds for schools in specific regions facing certain economic or social challenges. These funds can be used to provide books or educational equipment, support scholarship programs for students with special needs, or aid other initiatives aimed at improving the quality of education in that particular environment.

Zaki emphasized that he faced criticism following the attention, particularly after mentioning the BOS as the funding source for the free school lunch program. However, the central government is currently conducting a comprehensive study.

This includes exploring various financing possibilities for the free school lunch program, especially for elementary and junior high school students still in the trial stage. The former mayor of Tangerang for the 2013-2023 period expressed openness to criticism and suggestions regarding the ongoing trial.

He expressed regret over excessive criticism from certain parties, particularly with unwarranted suspicions. Zaki mentioned that all involved parties are collaborating to develop a nationwide program based on humanitarian principles.

"Yesterday, I was criticized, with claims that the education budget would be reduced. No, the government has no intention of reducing the education budget; in fact, it will be increased. Let's not prejudge; this is genuinely a good and humanitarian program," Zaki said.

In the same context, Zaki underscored that the trial of the free school lunch program was initiated by the Regional Government of Tangerang Regency.

Last week, the Indonesian government conducted a trial run of the nationwide free meal program initiated by the projected winner of the presidential election, Prabowo Subianto. The trial featured a menu consisting of chicken rice, boiled egg rice, siomay (fish cake), and gado-gado (salads with spicy peanut sauce).

The proposed budget for the program is approximately Rp 15,000 ($1) per child per day, excluding the provision of milk. The program aims to cover around 82.9 million students gradually until 2029, with an estimated budget of Rp 400 trillion ($25.5 billion).

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/government-rejects-claims-of-using-teachers-salary-for-free-school-lunch-progra