Report Suggests Violence Rife in Indonesian High Schools

FEBRUARY 26, 2015

[Updated at 10:36 p.m. to add details and analysis]

Jakarta. More than 8 out of ten Indonesian children experience some form of violence in junior high school, two international NGOs said in a report released on Thursday.

Child rights NGO Plan International and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) said that 1,742 junior high school students aged 12-15 were questioned on the matter in Jakarta and Banten, in 2013-14, in a study conducted jointly with the University of Indonesia’s School of Psychology, with the respondents coming from 20 schools in Jakarta and 10 schools in Banten.

A total of 84 percent admitted having at some point experienced violence in school, the highest percentage in a group of five Asian nations surveyed. One in four students reported having experienced violence in the last six months.

The researchers looked at "all forms of violence, including fear of violence, that occurs in [formal and non-formal] education contexts which result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm of children."

They suggested that the percentage was so high because some forms of violence, such as corporal punishment by teachers, were considered common practice in Indonesian schools.

“Use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline is common and remains an accepted norm in schools. Recent research in three districts of Indonesia showed that corporal punishment is the most common form of disciplining practices in over half [56 percent] of the schools interviewed,” said the report, titled “Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools.”

“Principals, teachers and students [elementary, junior high school and secondary school] reported that physical violence such as hitting and slapping students, and psychological violence such as using abusive words accounted for the bulk of violence against children and young people in schools,” it added, citing various sources.

According to the report, less than half of the students considered their school to be "safe or totally safe."

"More than half of the students mentioned students robbing or snatching things and frequent physical fights among students as some of the reasons making them feel unsafe in school," the report says in its section on Indonesia. "Although relatively low, 28 percent and 22 percent of students mentioned sexual harassment from teachers and punishment, respectively, as reasons."

The NGOs also surveyed schools in Cambodia, Vietnam, Pakistan and Nepal. The overall ratio of students experiencing violence in school in these countries is seven out of ten.

The report suggests that staff at schools are frequently involved in acts of violence.

"Among those who experienced violence in the last six months, 45 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls mentioned the perpetrator to be teaching or non-teaching staff," it says, adding however that the majority of such incidents remains unreported.

Also, "21 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls reported experiencing sexual violence in school in the last six months," with the perpetrators usually being male students.

To improve the situation in Indonesian schools, the report calls for "a school-based violence program, which engages young girls and boys, and teachers to build their gender perspective and skills; focuses on school processes and practices including response mechanism; and strengthens community linkage."

"For a larger change and sustainability, policy and legal framework need to be strengthened, including having an explicit Act banning corporal punishment, policy guidelines on code of conduct, gender mainstreaming in pre-service training of teachers, and review of curriculum," the report says.