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Jakarta Post

Long skirts for girl scouts criticized following river-trekking tragedy 

  • Riza Roidila Mufti
    Riza Roidila Mufti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, February 25, 2020   /   07:29 pm
Long skirts for girl scouts criticized following river-trekking tragedy  Scouting uniform for hijab-wearing female students. (Courtesy of/Handout Pramuka)

The ill-fated river trek that left 10 junior high school students dead in Sleman, Yogyakarta, last week has put the spotlight on the long skirts worn by the female students as part of their girl scout uniform. 

The incident occurred on Friday, when 249 seventh- and eighth-graders from the Turi 1 junior high school went trekking along the banks of the Sembor River as part of scouting activity. During the trek, the river suddenly flooded, sweeping away many of the students.

The 10 fatalities were all female students who were wearing long skirts that made them especially vulnerable to being dragged away by the strong currents, according to Yogyakarta National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) head L. Wahyu Efendi.

Wearing long skirts for outdoor scout activities has drawn offline and online flak. 

Nita Azhar, a fashion designer who said that she helped design Indonesia’s national scout uniform in 2012, said that she was surprised to hear that the Turi 1 junior high students had been wearing long skirts. 

“It is regrettable because […] I also made a special uniform for field activities such as river trekking that consists of long trousers, including for middle school students and girl scouts,” Nita said in a statement seen by The Jakarta Post

Social media users were also very critical of the fact that the students were made to go trekking while wearing long skirts.

“Outdoor activities require proper clothes. How is it possible to move freely or swim freely with a long skirt? This is sad!” Twitter user @tegarid posted on Monday. 

Read also: ‘Reckless’: Parents criticize school for allowing river trek before Yogyakarta flash flood

Some Twitter users recalled their own experiences of being forced to wear long skirts during scouting activities

“I experienced this when I was in elementary school!” @tombarpt tweeted. “Are our scouts still like this? Kids the age of 12 - 14 years old instructed to trek a river wearing long skirts?”

A National Scout Movement regulation on boy and girl scouts’ uniforms prescribes two type of uniforms for female Muslim students who wear a hijab: a “daily” uniform with a long skirt, and a field uniform with long trousers.

The scout movement’s national council spokesperson Guritno said the teachers who served as scoutmasters during the Turi tragedy were negligent in making the girl scouts go on a river trek in long skirts.

“Our guidelines state that for field activities, scouts should wear trousers,” Guritno told the Post on Tuesday. “This is a must.” 

He said that the fact that the girl scouts had been wearing long skirts showed that the river trek lacked preparation. 

“If the school coordinated with the regional scout council, the activity would have been prohibited due to weather concerns and inappropriate uniforms,” he said.

The Yogyakarta Police have named three scoutmasters as suspects in the incident.