The university, managed by the Okmin Education Foundation, was granted an official operational permit on August 17, 2021. Its inauguration coincided with the country's 76th Independence Day.
On that day, the Indonesian Ministry for Education, Culture, Research, and Technology issued a permit for establishing Okmin University, as stipulated in the ministry's letter of 344/E/O/2021.
Welcoming the establishment of the university, the ministry's acting director general for higher education, research and technology, Nizam, said he wanted to see the university contribute to Papua's human capital development.
In addition to contributing to the improvement of Papua's skilled and educated human resources, Okmin University is expected to play a role in developing the sources of local economy, he added.
"The university campus must also be able to function as a spring for Pegunungan Bintan district's regional development," he was quoted as saying on the ministry's official website, which was accessed by ANTARA.
Nizam urged the university's lecturers and researchers to be dedicated in assisting the enhancement of Papua's development through their teaching and research activities as well as community services.
In this regard, Okmin University's academic community members need to see the university's establishment as a historic step and a new page for Papuan communities in Pegunungan Bintang to move forward, he added.
Nizam said he appreciated Pegunungan Bintang district head Spei Yan Bidana's initiative to boost the quality and expand access to higher eduction in his administrative areas.
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Bidana was born in Oklip sub-district, Pegunungan Bintang district on March 22, 1977. He and his deputy, Pieter Kalakmabin, were installed in office by Papua Governor Lukas Enembe on March 3, 2021.
Bidana described the inauguration of Okmin University in his district as a valuable gift for the people of Papua on Indonesia's 76th Independence Day.
He said he believed strongly in the strategic role of education in creating a literate society and Okmin University's existence was a milestone for better higher education in his district.
"Education is a window to the world. How do people open the window to know themselves and others?" remarked Bidana, who obtained his master's degree from the Gadjah Mada University's Faculty of Geography.
Education is key to Indonesia's efforts to create a literate society in Papua and other provinces, he said.
Bidana's special staff member, Yohannes Sardjono, said the district administration has prepared 110 hectares of land for Okmin University and 10 hectares of land for the development of its integrated campus.
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The government has allocated a budget of Rp2.1 trillion for developing the university campus in 2022, he informed, adding that the university's presence would help improve Papua's score on Indonesia's human development index.
Sardjono's hope is understandable because Papua remains far behind many other Indonesian provinces in terms of the quality of its human resources despite the inflow of a significant amount of funds from the central government.
The scores of Papua and its neighbor, West Papua, remain below the national average of 71.94 on Indonesia's 2020 Human Development Index.
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According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), Papua and West Papua scored 60.44 and 65.09, respectively, on the 2020 Human Development Index. Their scores were lower than Aceh province, which secured 71.94 points.
In Papua, there are at least 40 higher educational institutions, including the University of Cendrawasih (Uncen) and Papua Muhammadiyah University (UMP).
However, none of them, including Uncen, which is regarded as the province's center of excellence, have been able to enter the list of Indonesia's top 20 universities.
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Apart from challenges the universities and colleges in Papua are facing, their real contributions to the improvement of the province's human capital are obvious, and, therefore, need to be appreciated.
The Papua Muhammadiyah University (UMP) in Jayapura, for instance, has been contributing to the improvement of the province's human resources as nearly 90 percent of its registered students are native Papuans, an official said.
"This reality is a matter of pride in the midst of our pluralistic society," UMP's Deputy Rector for Academic Affairs, Indah Sulistiani, told ANTARA in May this year.
Papua's higher education sector is expected to take a major leap forward owing to support from various societal elements at large, she remarked.
Okmin University is located in Pegunungan Bintang district, about 219 kilometers away from Jayapura, the capital of Papua province . Its presence will hopefully make a significant contribution to Papua's endeavors to improve the quality of its human capital.
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