Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh – A senior high school in Sabang, Aceh, expelled an 11th grade student last month after she got married, saying it did not permit married students to study at the school.
The official expulsion letter acknowledged there was no written law barring married students from going to school. The parents and parents-in-law of the student, Syarifah, protested the school's decision, insisting that marriage should not limit a student's access to education.
"I want my daughter-in-law to continue going to school, despite her marriage, because there is no law banning students from getting married," Syarifah's father-in-law, Sayed Jamaluddin, said.
Syarifah, 16, was initially a student of state-run SMAN Krueng Barona Jaya in Aceh Besar. She was transferred to SMAN 1 Sabang in early August in order to marry Sayed Shah, 36. They got married on Aug. 11, 2014. In December, the school returned Syarifah to her parents and she has not attended school since.
"We broke no law. They got married legally because according to Islamic teachings a grown-up woman is allowed to get married," Sayed Jamaluddin said.
"Initially the marriage was not a problem," he said. "My daughter-in-law went to school as usual. Her husband took her to school. Indeed, as a polite wife she kissed her husband's hand when entering the school. But that is a usual practice."Sayed added that his family had reported the case to the heads of both the Sabang and Aceh education agencies, as well as to the Sabang Legislative Council. The Aceh Education Agency said that the right to expel Syarifah fell within the schools "autonomous rights".
Separately, Aceh Legal Aid Institute's program manager, Rudy Bastian, said there was no rule banning a married student from going to school and continuing her education through senior high school.
"This is a form of discrimination against a child's rights and access to education," Rudy Bastian said, pointing to Law No. 23/2002 on child protection.
Law No. 1/1974 on marriage, he added, also stipulated that it was legal for a 16-year-old girl to marry. "The school, therefore, has no right to expel the student," he said.
Meanwhile, administrators from the SMAN 1 Sabang school denied the accusation of having violated rights. The school's principal, Nur Cahaya, said that students who got married while in school could negatively influence their fellow students.
"Children of that age are not yet permitted to know about sexual relationships between a husband and a wife. We worry about a married student sharing stories about her relationship with fellow students in her class," Nur Cahaya said.
Another factor behind the expulsion, Nur said, was the local custom whereby parents took their children out of school if they married at an early age.
School administrators said they would not allow students to marry while still studying and recommended that Syarifah's parents transfer her to a different school willing to admit her.
"For sure in Sabang, there is no precedent [for such a case]. We will help with the transfer process if that is what they decide," Nur Cahaya said.