Tuesday, 2 July 2013

How a volunteer is preventing violence against children at school in Central Java

Erry in one of his group discussion
sessions on violence prevention.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2012.
Preventing violence in schools is complicated and takes a strong vision, specialist knowledge, experience and patience.  UNICEF cannot do this alone and therefore works with the government and local non-government partners (NGOs). An army of volunteers is also playing a hugely important  role.

A fabulous example of this is Erry Pratama Putra – a man of 37 years from Klaten in Central Java, Indonesia. He first became involved with UNICEF six years ago, when he volunteered during the emergency response after the earthquake in Yogyakarta and Klaten.

“It is our responsibility to ensure children are fully protected from all forms of violence, whether at home, in school or in the community. I don’t have anything to offer except my heart, my soul, my mind, my spirit and my idealism to create a decent world for children as their future is entrusted to us today.”

Based on this strong commitment, Erry has continued working as a volunteer with UNICEF and the Provincial Government of Central Java in Pemalang and Klaten districts to facilitate a programme to prevent violence against children in schools.

"In order to find out what is needed and works best, I consulted with school children, with schools and with education offices in local cities. I also met with a child community called Istana Dhuafa Kampung Beting in North Jakarta. Then I organized workshops in Yogyakarta in October 2012,  inviting 60 representatives of Children’s Forums in Grobokan, Solo,  Sragen, and Semarang as well as 12 vocational schools of Klaten,” explains Erry.

Erry engages in a discussion with child facilitators.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2012

Over the next few months, Erry brought together over 100 representatives of 13 local Children’s Forums, and 20 senior high schools from Pekalongan and Salatiga.

To finance the activities, Erry mobilizes contributions from schools, individuals in the local community and institutions. It may not be much but it is enough to run the activities.

"For a two-hour Focus Group Discussion, we only need some bottled water and simple refreshment so we ask schools to help. For a two-day workshop we need a little more so schools contribute Rp. 100,000 for each four student representatives whilst Children’s Forums contribute just Rp. 75,000.”

Although feeling happy with the number of schools and students already benefiting from the programme, Erry still wants to do more

Erry presents his FGD findings to teachers
and governmental staffs
© UNICEF Indonesia/2012
“More than 40 high schools and over 200 children have been involved in the activities we arrange. I plan to enhance the programme to involve junior high and in the future we surely want to target teachers, educators and principals," says Erry.

"We also learned that schools tend to send only those considered ‘well behaved’ and the high achievers. This means children involved in violence in schools or school gang leaders are often not reached. "

The man who claims to be happy to obtain ‘non cash payment’ for his work in the form of'happy smiles and greetings from the children he supports, sees a great opportunity for the government in accelerating child protection and advocacy programmes.

"The laws on Child Protection and on Juvenile Justice should become part of the in teacher training programmes, and knowledge of child protection issues should become a criteria for the selection of teachers who will be responsible for counseling and students relations."

With parents, community members, schools, and government agencies becoming more aware of the magnitude of violence against children in schools and that they have to work hand in hand to address it, Erry is sure more and more schools can provide conducive surroundings for all students to develop their capacities for a better future.

Junior secondary school students proudly holding an anti violence
banner after a visit by Erry.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2012