Revoking School Violence; the Thorn inside Our Education Posture

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta, 

    Written by: Simon Sibarani, a communication consultant specializing in development and public policy sector, based in Jakarta. He currently provides strategic counsel to international organizations, government institutions, and development actors that aim to refine their communication and advocacy work.

    Violence is not surprisingly new to Indonesian education’s history rolls. We have seen overmuch cases in academic institutions across different regions in Indonesia, from a student with special needs who was bullied at a private-owned university in Depok mid this year to one committed by a group of high-school students in Palembang last week.

    Some happen under our nose, while others occur and yield wider recognition as propagated online. Regardless how viral they may get, our response as a nation remains ephemeral. We get distracted easily as we react to any subject.

    Plan International and International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) reported that 84 percent of Indonesian children confronted with violence at schools. For the record, this number oversteps the overall prevalence that marked 70 percent in Asia. In addition, the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) also recorded that from 26,954 reports filed between September 2011 and September 2017, 34 percent of the children encountered judicial procedure, with 19 percent of the cases related to education.

    Enough figures have signaled that we, as a nation, are not bringing this subject anywhere.

    Why School Violence Agenda Calls for Escalation

    International reviews have suggested that school violence can flourish to be a broader and multifaceted issue hence it entails collective awareness of its criticality. There are at least three reasons why school violence agenda needs to be prioritized.

    First, it is a tremendous understatement to safeguard everyone’s human rights to any access of life including a safe environment for learning, especially children as the vulnerable rights holders. To those who witness the persecution, school violence will develop lifetime emotion trails and unwanted atmosphere incompatible with learning.

    Second, various scientific endorsements also imply the associated societal costs of school violence. The victims of violence show greater likelihood of committing future violence (Osofsky & Osofsky, 2001). Equally, most persecutors also possess high penchant of not outgrowing the behavior, but bringing it into their adult life instead and letting it manifest in their family, workplace, or other relations within their functions in community. Today, violence also emerges in what we largely call “cyber-bullying”.

    Third, school violence plays a stake in shaping the country’s development. UN’s office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children has cited prevalence from countries with a relatively different landscape. In the United Kingdom, for instance, 16-year-olds bullied at school are twice as likely to be without education and have lower wage levels at age 23 and 33, than those who are not bullied. They are also three times more likely to suffer from depression and five times more likely to have a criminal record. In Brazil, youth violence alone is estimated to cost nearly US$19 billion every year, of which US$943 million can be linked to violence in schools. While there has yet to be an informed calculation for Indonesia, these should already suffice for policy makers to take decisive steps.

    All the Scheme and Where They Flied Blind

    The Government of Indonesia (GoI) has issued several law products within the past decade. The Law No.35/2014 on Child Protection, as revision to Law No. 23/2002, clearly accounts the circumstances and penalty stipulation upon violence on children. Ministry of Education and Culture also issued ministerial regulations (Permen) to regulate the countermeasures, sanctioning, and prevention scheme through the Permen No.82/2015 and Permen No.18/2016.

    This is a welcome antidote, albeit one with questioned feasibility.

    First, the framing of the regulations is still very top level and national-centric. There are evident constraints of school settings between districts, provinces, and islands which the policy fails to weigh. There has yet to be the precondition of academic resources and actors to undergo assessment-driven decision making to navigate within their own pressing needs and local concern.

    Second, the law enforcement needs to battle false cultural acceptability. Absence of common understanding on ‘violence’ still can be found in many layers of Indonesian community. In fact, teachers and parents might have caused some degree of pain that is blindly considered normal towards students to coin discipline or convert certain behavior, which Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines as ‘corporal punishment’. A rooted culture of school and parental corporal punishment has opened doors for violence to assimilate with teaching method. In turn, the community often do not take student’s complaints of violence seriously hence minimizing the situation and presenting permissive culture to violence for generations to come.

    Third, the rules are there, but there is no clear strategy yet. Discussion on school violence are mostly still sparked by incidents, which usually followed by normative emphasis on existing regulations by government. Many elements of society have thrown ample of data and assessment to the floor, but there has yet to be a democratic discussion on where we stand and where want to go collectively. Inter-agency synchronization is also still lacking within the government’s stronghold. For instance, there is no harmonization of Law No.20/2003 on National Education System with the Permen on school violence, nor specific roadmap within scalable time, while there should be.

    Restoring Schools to Lead the Battle

    In global setting, school violence is almost omnipresence that every country currently battles. It often reflects the socioeconomic condition from where the students are drawn therefore tackling school violence entails integral perspective encompassing education system, general community, and family empowerment. However, as the fertile grounds where the cases largely transpire and students allocate their time the most, school is also a key institution where non-violent behavior can be learned, particularly in condition where Page 3 of 4 students’ close community and family fail to promote such. To this end, school management may carry out end-to-end reconditioning, from policy to curricula, which this following part specifically discusses.

    On policy level, the most critical thing is to present democratic process in developing a National Roadmap to tackle school violence head-on. The government needs to provide an integrated strategy that covers at least common ground on our current stance, where we navigate, and most importantly how we achieve the objective through effective data-based decision making, adaptable tools, valid evaluation, and measurable results.

    Countries with relatively diverse nuance have implemented such integrated strategy. In Philippines, the Anti-Bullying Act provides the framework for national awareness-raising initiatives and school policies. In Australia, the National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) was developed in 2003 to promote the national approach to combating bullying and violence in schools; the NSSF is legislated under the Schools Assistance Act 2004. Croatia also rolls out Safe and Enabling School Environment program which consisted of two parts, a public campaign and school-based interventions. Consequently, an evaluation in 2008 indicated a reduction in the incidence of frequent bullying from 10 percent to 5 percent and a reduction in the number of children bullying others from 13 percent to 3 percent.

    All this strategy requires schools to adopt policies to address incidents of bullying, establish relevant mechanisms and reporting requirements, and outline sanctions for non-compliance. Along the line, however, we must never neglect that clear strategy is one thing but ensuring its inclusiveness is different debate. Therefore, participative discussion with provincial and local governments is staple, as democracy remains as the oil to any policy engine in a populist country like Indonesia.

    Within the school realm, socio-emotional curricula have been proven effective in tackling school violence. As example, initial assessment can be done to students to identify their initial levels of aggression. This kind of information will be useful to inform the manner of treatments, such as providing knowledge and skill for students to replace their aggressiveness with more responsible behavior. School personnel also needs to be prepared to respond to any kind of eventuality.

    These curricula have been implemented in few countries, prominently by the Institute of Educational Sciences of the U.S Department of Education. Studies show that such programs reduced fighting, hitting, bullying and verbal conflict by 25 percent when applied to all students and by 33 percent when applied to selected high-risk groups of students. The Task Force on Community Preventive Services in the US also finds that it decreases violence among children by around 15 percent across age groups.

    A paradigm shift is also needed, notably in perceiving the persecutor and the victim and putting both on the same bar. While remedy efforts have been done to victims, prevention proposal can be done to students who are at greater risk for aggressive behavior not only through sets of socio-emotional curricula but also exposure to diversity through classroom discussion and perform respectful behavior towards differences.

    In the 2016 UNICEF U-Report opinion poll on the experience of bullying to which 100,000 young people in 18 countries responded. Among those who had experienced bullying, 25 percent reported that they had been bullied because of their physical appearance, 25 percent because of their gender or sexual orientation and 25 percent because of their ethnicity. This signifies how violence largely links to a false understanding on differences followed by inappropriate behavior as response hence corrective action is absolute here.

    Lastly, school management can also join force with students as strategic partner in battling the violence. Participatory approach may manifest by involving students to develop the rules and responsibilities in class therefore creating collective sense of belonging to the value. In turn, some practices in other countries suggest that conflict prevention games and role-play situation can be sample of tools to embody the value.

    Ending school violence is indeed not an overnight fight. It is a systemic issue that requires systemic approach to be tackled. At the end of the day, schools and policy-makers may play critical role in leading the battle, but community members also need to participate by improving the social and community norms and dynamics that are among the root causes of school violence and bullying. Besides schools, altering these norms and dynamics requires coordinated efforts at all levels of society and across all sectors. Such approach can only be carried out if we, collectively as society, agree for a change and it happens when we choose to care.


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