Wednesday, February 3, 1999

Indonesian high school students in the struggle

Resistance magazine's Chris Latham spoke with visiting People's Democratic Party (PRD) student leader Wahyu about the development of the high school student movement in Indonesia.

Question: How has the involvement of high school students in the democratic struggle developed?

Activity with the high school students began even before the May uprisings. For the last two or three years, small groups of high school students have been active around the issues of school fees, against the corrupt heads of schools, against their teachers and also against the corporatisation of high schools.

The movement has escalated from May 6, when subsidies were cut and many students could no longer afford to go to school.

In the beginning of May, their demands were still around education issues. The May demonstrations which overthrew Suharto gave high school students the experience and confidence to be involved in broader struggle. During the upheaval in November, when the People's Representative Assembly had its extraordinary sessions, many more high school students were involved. The first victim shot dead by the military was a high school student.

Question: What has the response been to the involvement of high school students?

There has been a positive response from the community because in the past the image of high school students is that of delinquency, with students being arrested and taken to the juvenile courts. Now they see that high school students are political because students are involved in the fight for democracy, and they have received respect.

Question: Are there specific high school student organisations?

The high school students' organisations in the major cities in Indonesia are the High School Students Solidarity Association (ASPG) in Jakarta, Lampung High School Councils and also many other groups formed in Solo, Yogyakarta and Surabaya.

Mostly these high school students' associations are affiliated to the movement in the city, which has a broader perspective of combining the political forces of the workers, urban poor and peasants. The PRD has a proposal that a nationwide high school student organisation be initiated.

Question: Why does the PRD see organising high school students as important?

We give priority to organising among high school students. We consider it is important to organise the high school students because when they finish high school they go to university or to the college or to the city to get a job. Their experience during high school gives them experience for political work in their workplace or place of study. High school students have also shown their willingness to struggle for democracy.

From Green Left Weekly issue #347

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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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