The recent launch of the so-called Kartu Jakarta Pintar (Jakarta Smart Cards) by the Jakarta city administration to support students of low-income families is commendable as it will extend the administration’s existing support programs for students of private schools, who have frequently been excluded from such financial assistance schemes.
The administration has distributed 3,000 smart cards — similar in function to ATM cards in cooperation with city-owned Bank DKI — to students of senior and vocational high schools in the city. Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo handed out the cards to students in North Jakarta last Saturday.
Each card holder receives Rp 240,000 (US$26.7) every month to finance their school activities: transportation fares, books, shoes, etc. The administration plans to distribute another 6,000 cards by the end of this year and 332,000 more to students from elementary to senior high schools next year.
The project is another pro-poor policy of the Jakarta city administration after Governor Jokowi previously launched Kartu Jakarta Sehat (Jakarta Health Cards) to provide Jakartans, particularly from low-income families, with wider access to free health care in all hospitals across the capital.
The smart card scheme, which is intended mainly for students of private schools, is important in view of the limited capacity of city-run schools. Many children, including those from low-income facilities, are forced to go to private schools although they have to pay more for their education.
On the other hand, many of the city’s educational perks, such as the waiving of school fees, are financed with taxpayers’ money and can only be enjoyed by students of public schools.
To make the smart card project effective, however, the administration needs to ensure that the financial assistance scheme reaches those students who really deserve it. The administration also must ensure that the recipients use the money for their school activities and not other necessities, let alone to finance the daily needs of their families.
Therefore, upon distributing the smart cards, the administration needs to have a monitoring mechanism so that the project will be of real benefit in improving the quality of education in the city.