Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Saturday launched the Jakarta Smart Card, a program to give better access to education for students from low-income families.
A smart card, which is actually a Bank DKI ATM card, contains Rp 240,000 (US$25) and will be reloaded on first day every month. The cards can be used to pay for the students’ personal school expenses, such as uniforms, books and transport.
The administration distributed over 3,000 cards on Saturday to students from North Jakarta high schools in Tanjung Priok and for students from four other municipalities in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.
Jokowi said that by the end of the year over 10,000 smart cards would be distributed to underprivileged students from 98 private schools and 15 state schools.
The administration plans to give cards to all underprivileged students across the capital in 2013 and will pump more than Rp 600 billion into the plan.
Over a quarter of a million students are eligible for the assistance: 55,000 senior high school students, 60,000 junior high school students and 135,000 elementary school students.
“Giving new money will directly address their problems. The students know what they need best. Some might need uniforms, some others might need books,” Jokowi explained.
Misun, 18, said the money would be his salvation, covering his monthly tuition fees of Rp 300,000, too much of a burden for his mother who works as a housemaid.
“Since my father passed away, my mother has worked hard to send me to school. I am so glad that there is a program like this as it will relieve her load,” said Misun, a student in an vocational accounting school in North Jakarta.
Parents also sounded their enthusiasm for the program, seeing it as a deliverance from grueling school-related expenses.
“I don’t even know what an ATM is,” said Ahmad, one of whose twin sons was enrolled in SMA Muhammadiyah in Central Jakarta and was due to receive the card on Saturday.
“But I received a letter from the school yesterday that informed me my son will receive monthly money through it. I can only say, God is great,” said the 55-year-old street vendor.
Nita Yuwasiatih, SMA Yappenda deputy principal, echoed Ahmad, saying her school applauded the program.
“I won’t restrict my students on what they use the money for as long as the school needs have been met, because the money is theirs to use,” she said.
Jokowi said that because the students could use the money freely, the administration would conduct a survey of teachers and parents to check what the students used the money for.
“Don’t use the money to go to the cinema or buy a television set, or else I will revoke the cards,” Jokowi told the students during his speech in SMA Paskalis.