Teacher deportations yet another overreaction by Indonesian authorities

Jakarta: The deportation of 20 teachers, including two Australians, from the Jakarta International School is the latest measure of the hyper-ventilation induced in Indonesia by a child sexual assault at the school.

The assault of a five-year-old boy by outsourced cleaning staff, and allegations that two more children may be victims, has had an explosive impact.

Child sexual assault, which appears until now to have been rampant but widely ignored in Indonesia, has become front-page news, with new cases reported regularly.  Almost all involve both local Indonesian perpetrators and victims — including the awful case of a paedophile in Sukabumi who raped 110 boys at a swimming pool over 15 months.

And yet the case at the international school, which is attended by the children of expatriates and wealthy Indonesians, exercises a particularly compulsive fascination. University students have regularly protested outside the school gates, demanding it be shut down as a nest of paedophiles.

But the most alarming effect has been on the Indonesian bureaucracy.

The thoroughly corrupt Religious Affairs Ministry, of all bodies, conducted a raid. The pre-school was shut down because it did not have the correct licence from the Education Department. What was not clear at the time was that the correct licence had been functionally impossible to get because of inertia within the Education Department.

Then the head of the department in charge of early childhood  and non-formal education, Lydia Freyani Hawadi, made some wild accusations against the school’s headmaster, and began insisting on new bureaucratic meddling that would have virtually put the school out of operation. She was sacked shortly afterwards.

And now the Immigration Department is deporting teachers.

In a statement late yesterday, the school admitted it had made errors with teachers’ stay permits, known as kitas. It accepted responsibility and thanked the Immigration Department for its professionalism.

Fairfax understands these errors include oversights such as statements that one person was teaching maths when in fact they were teaching physical education.

The deportations do not mean the teachers cannot return. It means they must leave the country, then reapply for visas and then apply for a new kitas.

But the very fact the department combed so thoroughly through the documents of individual, innocent, teachers as the result of an unrelated sexual assault by janitors at their school, says much about Indonesia’s approach to government, bureaucracy and foreigners.

It is little wonder companies are reluctant to open for business here.

Disclosure: The author has two children attending the Jakarta International School.

The story Teacher deportations yet another overreaction by Indonesian authorities first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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