October 5, 2023
JAKARTA – The government is planning to work closely with the police to prevent bullying in educational institutions amid an increase in reports of harassment at school in recent months.
A 14-year-old junior high school student in Temanggung, Central Java, set fire to his own school in June after allegedly undergoing extensive verbal and physical bullying by other students.
Late last month, an 8-year-old elementary school student suffered permanent damage to her right eye, allegedly after an older student poked her in the eye with a wooden skewer. According to the victim, the perpetrator attacked her because she had refused to hand him her pocket money.
Last week, a video showing a middle school student in Cilacap Central Java attacking another student went viral on social media, sparking public backlash.
The video showed one student punching, kicking and stomping on the other while about a dozen other students watched the incident and recorded it. The victim suffered a broken rib in the assault, and the police have named a 15-year-old suspect in the case.
The Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI) recorded some 23 cases of bullying in schools across the country this year, 50 percent of which took place in middle schools.
“One elementary school student and one junior high school student have died this year following physical assaults from their peers,” FSGI secretary-general Heru Purnomo said in a statement on Monday.
“One bullying victim also suffered severe burns after being lit on fire by other students. Bullying also contributed to the suicide of two elementary students this year,” he added.
A 2021 nationwide survey conducted by the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry found that 20 percent of boys and 25.4 percent of girls between the age of 13 and 17 said they had experienced one or more types of violence within a one-year period.
A 2022 National Assessment Survey conducted in more than 260,000 schools across the country by the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry showed that 34.51 percent of students were likely to experience sexual violence, 26.9 percent were prone to being subjected to physical punishment and 36.31 percent were at risk of bullying.
Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said a lack of rehabilitation measures for perpetrators was one of the main reasons that bullying in schools was hard to prevent.
“The perpetrators in the Cilacap bullying case were expelled two times previously for assaulting other students. This means that expulsion is not enough to stop the students’ violent behavior. Some sort of rehabilitation efforts are necessary,” he said on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara.
He claimed 70 percent of bullying cases could be detected early, especially if the perpetrators had been previously expelled from their schools for harassment.
Muhadjir said his ministry was planning to formulate rehabilitation measures for bullies in cooperation with other ministries and institutions, arguing that relying on schools and the students’ families was not enough to stop violent behavior.
“I’ll also talk with the National Police chief so that officers can be intensively involved in addressing bullying in schools,” he said, adding that bullies should be criminally prosecuted under the country’s juvenile justice system.
House of Representatives speaker Puan Maharani recently urged the government to find a comprehensive solution to school bullying, saying that the problem had reached an “emergency” level.
“The government should not let school bullying continue to happen without offering a comprehensive solution, especially when the perpetrators and victims are children,” he said on Friday, as reported by Tempo.co.
She advised the education ministry to reintroduce moral education in the school curriculum to help students build positive characters.
“Schools should be a place to foster responsible, empathetic individuals with good behavior and should not only focus on academic achievement,” she said.
Heru of the FSGI also urged the education ministry to implement prevention measures in educational institutions to create a safe, comfortable and violence-free environment for students.
“It’s also important to prioritize a restorative justice approach for bullies, since a lot of times they are only victims of their home situation or their environment,” he said, referring to a concept that focuses on mediation and rehabilitation rather than punishment.