Child-friendly pesantrens: building safe havens in schools
Endorsing information about preventing sexual abuse and exploitation in schools.
A modest sign frames the entrance of the Sultan Hasanuddin Islamic Boarding School (pesantren) in Bajeng, Gowa district, South Sulawesi province: “Welcome to a Child-friendly Pesantren”. Intricate Arabic calligraphy adorns the predominantly green walls of every corridor in the school, outlining information about preventing sexual abuse and exploitation.
This topic is often shrouded in silence in pesantrens across Indonesia. Within the enlightened halls of the Sultan Hasanuddin pesantren, however, these issues have emerged in open conversations among both students and their teachers.
"This issue is not something new, but recently we learned that simple gestures like winks and whistles are actually forms of harassment that need to be reported," says Surmaniah Nur, a teacher at the pesantren, who recently participated in a training session for the Child-friendly Pesantren programme hosted by UNICEF, along with 15 other teachers. The programme aims to create pesantrens that fulfill children's rights, including their right to protection from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse.
During the training, the teachers learned about gender-based violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, mental health and psychosocial support, and how to handle cases that are reported to them.
Sultan Hasanuddin is one of 25 pesantrens in five districts across South Sulawesi that are part of the Child-friendly Pesantren programme, involving approximately 350 teachers.
The training also introduces teachers to positive discipline. According to a 2014 study conducted by UNICEF and PUSKAPA Universitas Indonesia, 51 per cent of surveyed santris had experienced physical abuse, while 48 per cent had experienced verbal abuse.
Dr. M. Bachtiar Syamsuddin, MA, the chairperson of the pesantren, is grateful for his teachers' participation in the programme, and welcomes the insights on positive discipline.
“We used to give rewards and punishments to discipline our students such as cleaning the toilet, standing in the pesantren yard or reading the Quran under the hot sun,” explains Bachtiar. “But now we eliminate physical sanctions and prioritize an educational approach that is more beneficial both for students and the environment.”
After the training, the pesantren established a special committee to provide safe reporting avenues for students, who can report either directly to the office or indirectly through chat boxes placed throughout the pesantren.
The school also set up the “Santri Forum” – similar to the Child Forum – to increase engagement and awareness among students. A pair of students from each class were selected to be agents of change, appointed as Pelopor and Pelapor – pioneer and reporter – for sexual abuse and exploitation prevention. These students were introduced to violence prevention through the UNICEF-supported ROOTS anti-bullying programme in schools and to life skills education for the prevention of child marriage.
“In Islam, I was taught that the best humans are those who are most generous to others. I want to put this message into practice by protecting my friends, especially the new santris.”
How You Can Help
Thanks to your generous contribution and collaboration with all stakeholders, UNICEF can continue to promote and provide training for teachers on the importance of information about preventing sexual abuse and exploitation of children in schools. This challenge is a shared responsibility to protect and create a safe learning place for children.
However, there is still much that needs to be done to reach schools in other areas throughout Indonesia. For that, we need your support.
If you want to support this program to reach a wider range of children and schools, please donate to UNICEF. We would really appreciate it.