Schools must not discriminate against pupils of unrecognized faiths

Schools must not discriminate against pupils of unrecognized faiths

Deputy for Children's Rights Fulfilment of the Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry Agustina Erni. (ANTARA/HO-KemenPPPA).

Jakarta (ANTARA) - An official of the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry emphasized that schools must strive to respect children's rights and not discriminate against pupils, who professed unrecognized religious faiths.

"The ministry's investigation has concluded that the school has committed multiple violations by denying the pupils' rights to religious education, religious practice, and basic education despite our law having guaranteed such rights for the pupils," the ministry's Deputy for Children's Rights Fulfilment, Agustina Erni, stated in Jakarta on Friday in response to a suspected discrimination case against three pupils of a primary school in Tarakan, North Kalimantan.

Earlier, three pupils of a school in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, were reported to have failed class three years in a row, as their school was unable to provide a teacher to accommodate their faith -- that was found to be Jehovah's Witnesses -- resulting in zero marks in their religious studies score.

The discrimination they endured had a detrimental effect on the pupils' growth and development after the school failed to motivate and provide a conducive environment for them to continue their studies, she stated.

The minister's official reminded schools to not discriminate against pupils based on their professed faith since freedom of religion is protected by the Constitution and law.

"Clauses of our child protection law clearly regulates that every child has the right to worship, think, and express thoughts based on their intelligence level and age under their parent's or guardian's guidance," Erni noted.

The same law also ensured the state's presence to protect the child's rights to profess, learn, and practice their faith, she added.

"The three pupils are not passing their class because of their bad academic performance but because their religious faith is not accommodated by the school," the official stated.

The ministry also concluded that the school violated the Religious Affairs Ministry's Directive on religious class management that directed schools to provide a religious studies teacher of the same faith as the pupils, Erni reported.

She confirmed that the ministry had coordinated with the Education Ministry to address the issue while also affirming that a team had been dispatched by the ministry to provide assistance to the pupils in their hometown.

The ministry suggested that the pupils must receive psychological assistance to relieve the pressure that they have faced after failing class for three years in a row, Erni noted.

The ministry's official also encouraged collaboration among relevant stakeholders to conceive measures to ensure that the religious rights of pupils are fulfilled and prevent the case from recurring in future. 

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