Guardian staff and agencies – Early every morning in a city in Indonesia's far east, sleepy teenagers can be seen trudging through the streets on their way to school.
The students are taking part in a controversial experiment to get the day off to a much earlier start.
The pilot project in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara province, has twelfth-graders at 10 high schools starting classes at 5:30am.
Authorities say the scheme, announced last month by governor Viktor Laiskodat, is intended to strengthen children's discipline. According to parents, though, children are exhausted by the time they get home. Schools in Indonesia generally start between 7 and 8am.
"It is extremely difficult, they now have to leave home while it's still pitch dark. I can't accept this ... their safety is not guaranteed when it's dark and quiet," Rambu Ata, a mother to a 16-year-old, told AFP.
Her daughter Eureka now has to wake up at 4am to get ready and ride a motorbike to school.
"Now every time she arrives home, she is exhausted and falls asleep immediately," Ata said.
School usually finishes about 3.30pm in Indonesia.
"It has no correlation with the effort to improve the quality of education," said Marsel Robot, an education expert from Nusa Cendana University.
In the long run, sleep deprivation could endanger the students' health and cause a shift in behaviour, he said.
"They will only sleep for a few hours and this is a serious risk for their health. This also will cause them stress and they will vent their stress by acting out."
Indonesian news outlet Kompas reports that the Indonesian Ombudsman has asked the central government to intervene in the trial, which has been running since February.
The Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry and the Indonesian Child Protection Commission have also voiced calls for a review of the policy, Kompas reports.
A 2014 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that middle and high schoolers start classes at 8:30am or later, to allow enough time for sleep.
The Kupang rule change was also challenged by local lawmakers, who demanded the government cancel what they called a baseless policy.
But the local government has maintained their experiment, despite the criticism, and even extended it to the local education agency, where civil servants also now start their day at 5:30am.
Rensy Sicilia Pelokilla, a civil servant at the agency, said that starting earlier made her healthier because she now has to join group exercise sessions in her office that she once slept through.
"As a civil servant I am ready to comply with the regulation and I'm going to do my best," Pelokilla said.
– With Agence France-Presse