If not us, then who?

True story accompanying image

When a group of students in Indonesia suspected corruption in the financial management of their school, they refused to stay silent. Starting the “Save our School” campaign, they succeeded in holding those responsible to account.

The students first suspected corruption in the financing of new multimedia centre. On paper the centre was listed as completed, and the funds had been spent. Yet in reality the room did not exist.

They started digging deeper, comparing the records of different school renovations with the site itself. Quickly other discrepancies emerged. 

Bringing students from the school together, the group refused to give in to warnings or intimidation. 

“The risks that I was going to face were worth it,” says student organiser Darmawan Bakrie, whose parents tried to stop him speaking out for fear he would be failed in exams. “I was sure that when everything came out in the open, the changes we hoped for would come.”

As news of their campaign appeared repeatedly in the media for more than three months, the local mayor took action. He ordered that 750 million Indonesian rupiah (US$66,000) be repaid to the school. The head teacher of the school was demoted and transferred. Other school officials were also demoted or removed from their positions.

Transparency International Indonesia captured the “Save our School” story on film as part of a project which promotes youth integrity in Indonesia. Today, the group have graduated from high school, but they are continuing their fight against corruption.

Speaking in the film, student campaigner Rio called on others to follow their example. “If not us, then who?” he asks. “If not our generation, then whose generation?”

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