For reason of their religion, three children in Indonesia were not allowed to advance in their elementary studies in the past three years.
The children — siblings identified only by the initials M, who is 14 but still in 5th grade; Y, who is 13 and in 4th grade; and YT, who is 11 and in 2nd grade — were made to repeat their respective grades for three successive years since the 2018/19 academic year because they are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In a statement, the Commission for the Protection of Indonesian Children (KPAI) said the children from Tarakan in North Kalimantan have been losing out on their formative years because they belong to a non-mainstream faith in Indonesia.
“The three children … said that they don’t want to continue with school if they’re held back a year for the fourth time,” said KPAI Commissioner Retno Listyarti.
Listyarti said the children have lost interest in their studies.
“They are by no means academically challenged, but were presented obstacles and discriminated against by their school for their faith,” read a report on Coconuts Jakarta.
“The school has violated the law by not giving them access to religious studies, setting baseless requirements and questioning their belief,” said Listyarti in the statement.
Listyarti said that in 2019, the siblings all failed religious studies — which is required in the curriculum — even though they were denied access to classes.
The children’s parents even pleaded with the school to let the children partake in mainstream Christianity studies, but the school refused on the grounds that their denomination of the faith is incompatible with their beliefs.
A court has overruled the school’s decision mandating the children to repeat their grades, ensuring their right to an education and freedom for religious belief.
Listyarti, however, said the school always found other ways to flunk the children, such as giving them low grades in other subjects.
Neither the school nor the local education board have issued statements responding to KPAI’s report.
Indonesia only recognizes six religions, including Christianity. The Jehovah’s Witness denomination, however, was once banned in 1976 because of a series of legal violations, including the congregations’ refusal to salute the Indonesian flag.
The ban was lifted in 2001. Indonesia has an estimate 28,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, a tiny minority in a country with a population of about 270 million.