A major headache for Indonesia as bullying casualties continue in schools

Art Image from Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA (Jakarta Post/ANN): Fatal bullying cases continue to haunt schools in Indonesia despite a regulation issued by the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry last year aimed at preventing violence at educational institutions.

A 15-year-old student at Islamic junior high school Madrasah Tsanawiyah in Situbondo regency, East Java, died recently after he was beaten by nine other students.

The assault left the victim in a coma, and he was hospitalized for a week before passing away on Sunday.

Just a few days prior, Aldelia Rahma, a 10-year-old elementary student from Padang Pariaman Regency in West Sumatra, died after her classmate set her on fire a few months ago.

On the day of the incident, Aldelia and her classmates were ordered by teachers to clean up their classroom and to burn the trash they collected in the school’s backyard.

Aldelia was standing next to the burning trash pile when a male student, identified only as R, suddenly doused her with gasoline, and she immediately caught fire.

The girl suffered burn wounds on 35 percent of her body and underwent four different surgeries before eventually succumbing to her injuries last Friday.

According to the victim’s family, the perpetrator had bullied Aldelia for some time before the fire incident took place, including by kicking and punching her face as well as hitting her head.

However, when Aldelia reported the bullying to a teacher, she was blamed instead for "playing with male students".

Increasing violence

According to a 2018 survey by International Students Assessment (PISA), 41 per cent of Indonesian students reported being victims of bullying at least a few times a month.

The figure is almost twice as much as the average bullying rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, which stands at 23 per cent.

In the past five years, the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry has recorded an increasing trend of violence against women and children in Indonesia – from 11,057 cases in 2019 to 18,175 cases last year.

In December, nongovernmental group Cahaya Guru Foundation revealed that they found 123 cases of violence in schools throughout 2023 that led to the death of at least 19 individuals. House of Representatives speaker Puan Maharani last year urged the government to find a comprehensive solution to school bullying, saying that the problem had reached an "emergency" level.

Amid the rising trend of violence in schools, the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry issued in August an antibullying regulation, which among its provisions mandated all education units to form violence prevention and handling teams (TPPKs) to protect students.

However, education expert Anggi Afriansyah of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) said that the implementation of the ministerial regulation remains lackluster.

"A lot of schools have not formed TPPKs. On the other hand, many TPPKs established in schools are not effective to prevent school violence as they're only active when bullying cases occur," Anggi told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Continuous education

Anggi further said that it was challenging to prevent bullying in schools as a lot of teachers did not have a deep understanding of the types of bullying and the complex power imbalance behind a lot of bullying cases.

"Many teachers fail to take bullying seriously, simply chalking it up to children joking around or blaming the victims’ personalities as the reason they get bullied. Teachers also often fail to educate the perpetrators, which eventually leads to another cycle of violence," he said.

The Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry's deputy for child protection, Nahar, said that a continuous education about bullying – for teachers, parents, students and the public at large – was key to address school violence.

"We have a thorough regulation in place to address bullying problems, including how to prevent violence at schools, how to deal with bullying cases and how to support victims," Nahar told the Post on Monday.

"However, Indonesia is a vast archipelago with a lot of different cultures. Some schools may be able to implement the government's antibullying policies quickly and some may take a longer time," he added.

Nahar also said that the ministry would encourage schools to discipline bullies to prevent recurring incidents. -- The Jakarta Post/ANN

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