In 2006 the NIMD programme in Indonesia went full steam ahead with three Sekolah Demokrasi (Democracy Schools – SD) up and running in the districts of Lembata (Nusa Tenggara Timur - NTT), Jeneponto (South Sulawesi) and Malang (East Java). Set up by NIMD’s Indonesian partner, Komunitas Indonesia untuk Demokrasi (Indonesian Community for Democracy – KID), the SDs are run by local ‘Implementing Agencies’ (IAs): NGOs that were carefully selected through a tendering procedure.
In the curricula for the SDs these IAs use both generic modules that were developed by the KID (for instance ‘Democracy and Human Rights’, ‘Political and Government Systems’, and ‘Democracy Concepts’), and modules locally developed by the IAs themselves – an expression of NIMD’s conviction that democracy reflects universal values but has to be rooted in local contexts to be viable. Of the participants that joined the three SDs in the beginning of 2006 – in total around ninety individuals – some seventy passed a final exam in February 2007.
Well-known as a quite closed and xenophobic district, Jeneponto seemed a hard nut to crack for the Melania Foundation, KID’s Implementing Agency in South Sulawesi. But eventually Melania and KID succeeded in winning the trust of the population and local leaders, after which around thirty participants joined the local democracy school. During 2006 there were thirty-two class meetings of one day each during which not only several centrally developed modules were dealt with, but also two locally developed ones: ‘Conflict Resolution Based on Local Practices’ and ‘Writing Skills’ – related to the fact that participants are expected to publish at least five articles dealing with democracy in the local press. The Jeneponto SD organized five ‘public dialogues’ that all focused on democracy and local issues, such as ‘local governance and the decision making process’, ‘the social movement in relation to democracy and Islam’ and ‘revitalizing local wisdom in dealing with conflict’. The participants also organized eight radio talk shows of three hours each, which almost gained the status of ‘town hall meetings’, and in which topics similar to those of the public dialogues were discussed with a wider audience. Melania and the SD in Jeneponto started a website and published five newsletters. Some twenty-one participants took the final exam in February 2007.
The town of Malang in East Java has always been famous for its political activism while the inhabitants have a well-known penchant for education. Small wonder that the local NGO Placid Averroes is the most active among KID’s Implementing Agencies. In 2006, the SD that was implemented by Avoerroes completed some eleven class meetings of two days each. Initially a little less than thirty participants enrolled, consisting of individuals from all walks of life including local business men, (party) politicians and members of the district parliament (DPRD). Recently, twenty-one participants took the final exam.
In addition to the generic KID modules, the Malang SD also used two locally developed modules: ‘Historical and Social Dynamics in Malang’ and ‘Institutional Framework Analysis’. Furthermore, the SD-participants took turns in presenting twelve radio talk shows and six television talk shows they organized around themes having to do with furthering democracy in East Java. More specific topics, such as the pollution by a factory in a particular village, were also addressed in these broadcasts as well as during a public dialogue session and a field work visit. Placid Averroes has meanwhile published twelve newsletters and five books, such as ‘Democracy: History, Practice and Dynamics’ or ‘Bureaucracy Reform and the Democratisation of Public Policy’.
Lembata is a small island opposite of the provincial capital Kupang. Compared to the other SD regions, Lembata is the most isolated and underdeveloped district, which, for instance, is not yet linked to internet and lacks local radio or TV-stations. Thirty-five participants enrolled at the start of the Lembata SD while twenty-six took the final exam. Some six class meetings were held of three days each in Lembata’s capital Lewoleba, where individuals from twenty-one different villages and nine sub-districts (who sometimes had to travel for long hours by bus) gathered to follow courses. LAP Timoris, the local Implementing Agency, also published six newsletters and organized a field trip during which it managed to connect what was discussed in class to a local traditional ritual known as Moting Maung. This ancient ritual, is still used in the community of Lembata to resolve local problems democratically. During the ritual, local public officers from Lembata are sworn to death when taking up their position so that they would always be at service to the public of Lembata first. The tradition carries a strong mystical reverberation and is still considered sacred by the local community. This is home grown democracy in Lembata.
Traditionally the Moting Maung was only attended by men. Members of Lap Timoris lobbied the traditional leaders and explained that the SD would benefit everyone and that women needed to be included. After negotiations with the local traditional leaders, a modified Moting Maung was agreed upon, one in which women could participate. It was also agreed that the ritual would not involve the swearing to death of participants. Instead the swearing involved a commitment to the democratization of Lembata. The first SD style Moting Maung was held in March 2006 in the village of Ile Ape and was attended by several women. The tradition has since quietly developed to be the way for the community to express its views, discuss problems and find resolutions peacefully.