The Jakarta Post
My 9-year-old nephew beamed with joy to return to school after such a long holiday. He was enthusiastic to be reunited with his classmates having just entered the fourth grade. I was happy for him, and relieved to not share the worries of my senior colleagues who have children entering university for the first time.
This is understandable, as July marks the nightmarish new student orientation, commonly known as 'Orientation Week', 'Welcome Week' or 'Freshmen Week'. It is a period of time at the beginning of the academic year at a university or other tertiary institutions during which a variety of events are held to familiarize and welcome new students.
The name of the period varies by country. In Indonesia it is called Ospek at university, or MOS at high school. The orientation initially aimed to help new students to organize their classes, acclimatize to student life and introduce them to other new students. It consisted of programs such as outdoor activities, leadership training, organizational management and other positive activities.
Unfortunately, this noble goal has lost its significance, replaced by the primitive tradition of the abuse of power, bullying and violence. The main aspect of Ospek and MOS today is hazing (bullying). It may consist of verbal harassment or initiation activities that involve humiliation.
The event organizers of Ospek are senior students, not an educational board. In the absence of a board, seniors tend to turn this activity into a carnival of horror and terror. They often seek revenge for similar abuse they endured from their seniors in the past. Ospek has thus transformed itself into a collection of dreadful activities for freshmen. Many parents also criticize the orientation for being expensive.
How could they not be scared? The gruesome images displayed on the news about Ospek are enough to make us skeptical of its benefits. Mass media continues to report inhumane activities that have led to several fatalities.
New students are required to go through rites of initiation including marching, dressing up in stupid costumes and even doing push-ups or physical tasks that sometimes lead to violence and death. It always sparks controversy and long debates about how this misguided Ospek benefits the students and school.
The annual tragedies resulting from such initiation rituals have led to a clamping down by authorities in recent years. Sadly, the measure has not been effective in promoting more positive activities for freshmen.
I personally agree with the action taken by the Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Minister and some regional heads to stop senior students from degrading Ospek or MOS. Schools and colleges are supposed to be the place to build good character. These are places where knowledge thrives and common sense prevails. Schools are beacons of enlightenment that nurture students' character.
If school authorities fail to stop these negative aspects of Ospek, their integrity should be questioned.
Depok, West Java
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