The government and private sector must work together to create a more nurturing environment for children with special needs, officials said on Friday.
Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, the minister for women’s empowerment and child protection, said the onus for looking after special-needs children should not be on the government alone.
“It is also up to the private sector to pay special attention to these children,” she said at the opening of a congress of parents of special-needs children.
“I believe this congress is a good step toward setting up a support group bringing together parents, carers and medical practitioners. It will also push the government and the private sector to do more.”
Wanda Hamidah, a member of the Jakarta City Council’s oversight commission on social and children’s affairs, said there needed to be better enforcement of the rights of special-needs children.
“We need to keep fighting for them because many of them are still being deprived of their most basic rights, particularly in terms of access to health care and education,” she said at the congress.
She added that the council had last week passed a bylaw on the protection of the disabled.
“The bylaw will provide protection for the rights of special-needs children to a proper education, health care, employment and accessibility in public places,” Wanda said.
“It also stipulates punishments, including fines and jail time, for those violating these rights. Our hope is that with the passage of the bylaw, special-needs children will receive better treatment and service.”
The councilwoman said one area that needed particular attention was education, with very few schools equipped or staffed to teach special-needs children.
“That said, the government has a fundamental obligation to provide access to education for all,” she said.
She added that sufficient funding to meet the needs of special-needs children could easily be found, but only if the political will to do so was there.
“Jakarta’s annual budget is huge,” she said. “If we could just allocate Rp 50 billion [$5.7 million] to training teachers, we would have enough to teach all special-needs children,” Wanda said.
There are an estimated 500,000 special-needs children across Indonesia, according to the parents’ group.