How a threatening moment led to reform in North Luwu

By Medha Basu and Nurfilzah Rohaidi

Interview with Indah Putri Indriani, Regent of North Luwu Regency, Indonesia.

Image: Indah Putri Indriani, Regent of North Luwu Regency/Instagram

For Indah Putri Indriani, Regent of North Luwu Regency in South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia, the road to inclusivity was a rather dramatic one.

She was threatened at gunpoint for transferring a teacher to a school in another region without informing her beforehand. This incident was the “turning point” for Regent Indriani, who is currently spearheading inclusive government initiatives to improve education.

“It became a lesson for us that decision-making must involve the affected ones - those who will be impacted directly by the programmes,” she tells GovInsider.

Education for the underserved

Education inequality is a major area of focus for the Regent. A study showed that in 2012, only 47% of North Luwu’s 259 primary schools had enough government-recruited classroom teachers.

Since then, Indriani has been working with the USAID Indonesia Local Governance Service Improvement (Kinerja) programme to fix this, beginning with redistributing skilled teachers evenly throughout urban and remote areas. “We do not lack teachers but the distribution is not good,” she explains. “In remote areas, there are no teachers, but in urban areas, they are abundant.”

Engagement played a central role to this teacher relocation programme. Public discussions were held for citizens, media, civil society organisations and the private sector, Indriani says. These multi-stakeholder forums, or Warung Demokrasi, effectively helped reduce resistance to the programme, and change mindsets around being relocated. 128 teachers were reassigned to 76 schools as a result, according to Kinerja.

The Regent has also proposed a training programme, Sarjana Mengajar (Bachelor in Teaching) to “recruit fresh graduates to teach in a remote area, and overcome the lack of teachers”. It was conceived as a solution to a nationwide moratorium against local governments recruiting new public servants, which would mean a skills gap, she explains.

Through Sarjana Mengajar, Indriani hopes to attract talent by offering incentives: “Whoever wants to go to that particular remote area will get priority in government mentoring programmes in the future,” she says. And to get around limited regional government budgets, next year, she will introduce a “philanthropy model”, where volunteer teachers are trained to carry out one- to three-month placements.

The Sarjana Mengajar programme is not only for fresh graduates, either. “People from a wide spectrum” are welcome to apply, she continues. “Even if you have a good career in Jakarta, if you want to go back home and do this, you have a place,” she remarks.

Data and dialogues

Regent Indriani intends to increase accountability and transparency by publishing budgeting data, for instance, and ensuring that citizens have access to it. “‘This is the data, and the budget that we prepared is this amount’ - and that’s reported openly,” she says.

Open communication with her citizens is “most important” - and so is data visualisation. It is not enough to just provide data in its original form, she believes. “If we just give the people the data or statistic, it's just a number. But when we create a visualisation or infographic, that's more understandable for the people,” she says. She is currently “in the finalisation process” of providing data visualisations for various government activities.
“If we just give the people the data or statistic, it's just a number. But when we create a visualisation or infographic, that's more understandable for the people.”
2018 will be a busy year for the Regent, who is from academia herself. From her days as a political science lecturer at the University of Indonesia to her current leader role, her “interest and passion to bring benefits to many people” have kept her going, she shares.

As an educator, Regent Indriani knows only too well the importance of equality in education. Eventually, she hopes, it won’t matter where children are born - through open government, partnerships, and a focus on skills, young minds in even the most remote villages will be given a fair chance.