Tawuran, the phenomenon of street fighting between high school gangs in Indonesian has placed student’s lives danger. Dikanaya Tarahita and Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat report on why the Tawuran is now large among Indonesian students, and what must be done to end the dangerous school tradition.
The number of cases of street fighting in Indonesia has increased in recent years. For instance, in Yogyakarta, a city that has the largest number of students in the country, there has been a rise in student violence, with 43 cases reported in 2016 . A more recent example is a bloody brawl that occurred among some students in Ciputat earlier in April 2017. Based on police reports, students threw stones at each other. In its aftermath, police confiscated these from involved students, along with Celurit, machetes, and swords in order to prevent another outbreak.
A fight that has been broadly reported on involved students from SMK Adi Luhur and SMK Bunda Kandung. One student fighter died in the incident, while the other sustained major injuries. The fight was recorded and uploaded with a witness’ mobile and shared widely on social media platforms.
The increase in Tawuran fights is a serious cause for concern. High school students bring their collection of weapons to school, including knives, machetes and sickles in order to be prepared for when a brawl occurs.
This anarchic behaviour has a negative impact not only on victims and perpetrators of the violence, but on the wider community. Tawuran incidents often occur in spaces open to the general public. The gangs will sometimes vandalise public and private property.
What causes Tawuran?
There are many reasons why Tawuran continues in Indonesia.
It is argued that juvenile delinquencies has flourished due to the degradation of moral ethics amongst some Indonesian students. Scholars have identified that the spread of Tawuran is due to schools paying little attention to character building and student thought, failing to foster mature approaches to treating each other with respect.
Most cases occur between schools that share a long history of street fighting. Starting from Orientation day, new students are taught to hate students from enemy schools. This disharmony is implanted as part of a tradition inherited from senior classmates to junior classmates. Nowadays, not even the root cause for two schools to be fighting against each other is of importance, only the knowledge that a students from an adversary school is their enemy.
Students perceive winning a Tawuran fight as a demonstration of strength and toughness, placing them higher up into a chain of school hireachy in which the those at the top are feared by the rest. Senior students will ask first years to join their gang. In the case where a student refuses, they will be branded as someone with no solidarity to their Almamater. The gang will threaten them by saying that unless the student joins them, they will not defend the student from pursuit by an adversary school’s fighters. Peer pressure is often the strongest reason for Tawuran’s existence in Indonesia.
Joining the school’s gang earns the adoration of fellow classmates who encourage them to use violent methods to defend their Almamater. This harmful perception leads to a lack of respect for sportsmanship among students. At various inter-school sports competitions, the winning team may have their school’s pride tested by follow up street fighting against an opposing school.
Tawuran may be conducive to the environment in which a student lives in. This has been the case for those living in densely populated areas. Provided only with low levels of education in families that are financially strangled or living in the slums of Jakarta, some students join Tawuran gangs as a means of survival.
Solutions to ending Tawuran
It is undeniable that concrete efforts are needed to end the continuous phenomenon of street fighting in Indonesia. The government must issue a law prohibiting Tawuran with stern penalties to both the students and the schools involved in the brawls. Strong warnings must be given to students who perpetrate violence and incite hatred among other students. A possible tactic is participating student’s suspension from school.
Enforcing punishments should be complimented with efforts to promote and educate Indonesian society about the dangers of Tawuran. This can be carried out through public seminars and announcements, and in mainstream media. Media production industries need to consider the impact of serials or movies that depict gang violence and street fighting in a glorified and unrealistic manner on its young viewership.
Education that pays attention to both academic achievements and character building should be promoted by the Ministry of Education. Studies on moral ethnics could be incorporated into standard curriculum, and given equal priority and time as other studies such Science and Mathematics. The government must realise that to develop the country’s next leaders, it is not sufficient enough to only emphasis academic qualifications. Respect for other people must also be taught if the country is to sustain a peaceful and dignified Indonesia.
Schools should foster closer communications with pupils’ parents, as efforts to develop students’ characters take place not only in school, but also at home and with their families.
Tawuran is a serious problem affecting the peacefulness of everyday life in Indonesia. Efforts need to be made by different sectors of society in order to promote a culture of respect among high school students, lest they grow up to continue the volatile practice of Tawuran into adulthood.
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat is a PhD student researching Asia-Middle East relations at the University of Manchester.
Dikanaya Tarahita is a freelance writer from Indonesia and studied HR Management and Industrial Relations at the University of Manchester.