Lombok high school student allegedly prevented from graduating for criticizing principal

Aldi took to Facebook to speak up about students’ efforts to reach school, despite difficulties to get there. Photo: Sembalun Information Centre / Facebook
Aldi took to Facebook to speak up about students’ efforts to reach school, despite difficulties to get there. Photo: Sembalun Information Centre / Facebook

Should a student be severely penalized for standing up to his school principal? Despite scoring high marks in Indonesia’s national exams, Aldi Irpan, a high school senior from Lombok, claims he failed to graduate because he had disobeyed his high school principal.

“I didn’t graduate, because I was perceived as being too forward against the principal’s policy. I was seen as disobedient. That is why the principal did not allow me to graduate,” Aldi told Kompas.com on Thursday.

Aldi is a senior at the State Senior High School (SMAN) 1 in Sembalun. In the report, Kompas.com also interviewed his homeroom teacher, Ruhaiman, who claimed that Aldi is an active, smart and diligent student, albeit critical when he perceives certain school rules as being detrimental to his fellow students.

Punished for disobeying the principal

In his version of events, Aldi laid out how the whole thing began in January when his schoolmate was said to have violated school regulations for wearing a jacket on school grounds. Aldi protested the policy then, adding how it was in the middle of the rainy season and that the weather in Sembalun, where he lives, is extremely cold as it’s at the foot of Mount Rinjani.

Some students kept wearing their jackets because of the cold weather but the school’s principal hit one of the students, Holikul Amin, and even threw a garbage can at him for disobeying the no-jacket rule.

“At the time my friend had already taken off his jacket in the school parking area, but he was hit and had a garbage can thrown at him. There are plenty of rules from the principal that seems unfitting and unfair, but my friends are fearful to speak up. I dare to speak up for their sake,” Aldi said.

But according to Aldi, that was just one of many similar incidents. Aldi said that the conflict reached its peak when he took to Facebook to protest the principal’s decision to send home students who were late to school, even though they had been delayed because of landslides in the area.

“We are the students of SMAN 1 Sembalun, please respect our efforts, we want to go to school for our future so we can make our parents happy. Education is meant for the students and not as a means to complicate, so please look at our efforts,” Aldi wrote on his Facebook post, accompanied with photos of students walking on a broken and muddy road.

Ruhaiman also said that the incumbent principal, Sadikin Ali, had only served in the position for the past year in Sembalun.

“We’ve tried to advise him and give him suggestions … for the use of jackets in this area, for example. Because here, the weather is around 11 to 12 degrees (celsius) in the morning and during the rainy season. It’s different compared to other areas in Lombok,” Ruhaiman was quoted as saying.

The teacher said he was disappointed that Ali did not allow Aldi to graduate.

For his disobedience, the principal also told Aldi earlier this month to change schools and threatened that he would not be allowed to graduate if he stayed put, according to the Kompas.com report. Aldi, however, said did not want to change schools because he was due to take his final exams around that time.

Several civil society organizations, including the Alliance of the Agrarian Reform Movement (Agra) and the Indonesian Women’s Union (Seruni), accompanied Aldi in a meeting with representatives of the school, but Ali remains firm in not allowing Aldi to graduate.

According to Kompas.com, Ali had claimed that Aldi is unfit to graduate because he often rebels against school policies. The head of West Nusa Tenggara education agency, H Rusman, said in another Kompas.com report that he had discussed the matter of Aldi with Ali, who still firmly held onto the idea that Aldi is unfit to graduate. The SMAN 1 Sembalun principal and his team are due to meet Rusman at his office today to discuss the matter at length.

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