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Sekolah Damai guides schools to combat intolerance, radicalism

Jakarta-Moderate Islamic think-tank the Wahid Foundation knows that in order to root out radicalism and intolerance in schools, it has to start with the teachers.

The foundation has joined forces with the Indonesian Islamic Education Teachers Association (AGPAII) to develop a program called Sekolah Damai (school of peace), which guides headmasters and teachers, as well as students, in promoting tolerance in classrooms.

The program’s manager Alamsyah Dja’far said the Wahid Foundation had long detected a growing radical viewpoint among students, particularly those who are involved in school extracurricular activities called rohis (Islamic spirituality lectures).

This finding is based on two studies in 2016 and 2018, which both involved more than 1,000 rohis members from hundreds of senior high schools across the nation.

“Based on our survey in 2016, over 60 percent of the participants said they’re willing to wage jihad in the Syrian war zone,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

“A similar survey in 2018 further revealed that around 10 percent of the participants supported the deadly Surabaya bombings.”

The students gained such ideas from social media, as well as from their Islamic-education teachers, who held radical beliefs. 

Launched in 2017, the Sekolah Damai program has so far partnered with 60 schools, 60 teachers, over 4,000 teachers and 180 rohis organizations across Java. Alamsyah said that the program guided the schools to apply various initiatives to promote tolerance.

“For example, there is a school that encourages students of different religions to pray according to their respective beliefs before starting a class in the morning,” he said.  

Twenty schools have been selected as the pilot projects of Sekolah Damai after passing several stages.

In the introduction stage, all stakeholders in the potential beneficiaries -- 60 schools in the four provinces -- learned about Sekolah Damai in a two-day workshop. The participants were then asked to draw up an action plan to be implemented at their schools.

The top 20 schools, which showed strong commitment and solid action plans, were then chosen for the pilot projects.

Alamsyah expected Sekolah Damai to forge a partnership with governors and their provincial education agencies this year. Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo has given the nod for the implementation of the Sekolah Damai program in schools across the province. 

Ganjar previously revealed a finding that at least seven headmasters in senior high schools, vocational schools and special needs schools were indicated as holding radical views.

“This should be addressed quickly,” Ganjar said.

A 2018 study by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) and the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) shows the pervasiveness of radicalism among Indonesian teachers.

Sixty percent of 2,237 surveyed Islamic-education teachers were found to be intolerant. The majority of the teachers tend to marginalize religious minorities, with 56 percent of them rejecting the idea of non-Muslims establishing religious-based schools in their neighborhoods.

Furthermore, nearly 50 percent of them also held radical points of view.

“Twenty-nine percent of the participants were willing to wage jihad in the Philippines, Syria or Iraq in the fight for the establishment of an Islamic state,” the study found, adding that around 28 percent of the participants have also considered sharing their intention to enforce an Islamic state on others.

By Ivany Atina Arbi and Suherdjoko

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Semarang/Sun, October 27, 2019/03:18 pm