Page last updated at 00:48 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Corruption classes in Indonesia

By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

Government poster
Indonesia is tackling corruption through education and in the courts

Indonesians will tell you there are bribes to be paid for almost everything in life - getting your identity card in reasonable time, passing your driving test, avoiding a parking ticket, even getting into the police force.

The experts don't disagree: the country has one of the worst corruption ratings in the world.

Transparency International ranks it in 143rd place - just a few places ahead of economically destitute Zimbabwe.

After a decade of democracy, a newly-vibrant Anti-Corruption Commission, and a president who has made tackling corruption one of his key pledges, graft still remains hard-wired into the system.

And so Indonesia is trying some new tactics, and opening up some new fronts in its battle on corruption - such as the second floor of Jakarta's high school number three.

Pens and chocolate

Today's class is about moral guidance and the importance of transparency. It is part of a pilot project dreamt up by the country's attorney-general to tackle corruption before it happens.

The weekly lectures are modern and interactive. The class, neatly divided - boys on the right, girls on the left - shouts and claps at all the right moments.

And once they've got the theory down, the students can put it into practice outside in the corridor by doing a bit of shopping at the school's honesty bar.

Taking a test
Children in Indonesian schools are now sitting corruption exams
There is everything you could need for your school day - pens, pencils, even chocolate to see you through double maths - and it seems to be very popular with the children. But how honest are they being?

Dika is 16 years old and one of those taking part in the transparency programme. He tells me that most students here are very honest, only a few cheat or take things from the bar without paying.

But he says that's partly because of the new classes, which he believes are a very good idea: "I'm quite embarrassed because Indonesia is seen as one of the most corrupt countries in the world," he said, "I'd like to change that."

Corruption in court

In fact the classroom itself is sparking ideas for the wider battle with corruption.

In the crisp offices of Indonesia's anti-corruption commission, known as the KPK, commission chairman Antasari Azhar shows me the new uniform its detainees are made to wear during corruption trials - before they have been convicted.

He points out the unthreatening blue and yellow colour-scheme; and the words "KPK detainee" emblazoned across the back in the style of a football kit.

"It's important to distinguish between corruption suspect and criminal suspects, because corruption is an extraordinary crime," he explained, "So the treatment should be extraordinary too. One way is to use this uniform as a deterrent; as a sort of shame for the detainees."

But corruption is such a part of the system here, that even if you are convicted, insiders say you can still pay your way through the penal system.

Rahardi Ramelan
Rahardi Ramelan says corruption is hard-wired into Indonesian culture
Rahardi Ramelan is one of those insiders.

He spent almost two years in jail on corruption charges, and he told me that, if you have money, not only can you buy your way to a more comfortable prison life, you're also more likely to be released from jail on time.

"It's not that you can shorten the sentence," he explained, "But if you have money, your time in jail will be according to the regulations."

"If you don't have money maybe you'll have to spend one, two, three, four months more in jail because the system isn't working very well."

Cultural problem

This kind of story has led to calls in Indonesia for separate jails for corruptors - or even for the death penalty.

But corruption here is seen as so pervasive that it has undermined people's trust, not only in the prison system, but also in the police and the courts.

One recent study found that almost half of all interactions with the police resulted in a bribe. Rahardi Ramelan believes that corruption is hard-wired into the culture here.

"It's like a social disease," he told me. "The people in Indonesia - even though we're a republic and a democracy - still live according to an aristocratic system. So, the normal people look to the leaders as if to the king, or the queen."

Back at the school, the afternoon class is about to begin.

They are going to sit a test, unsupervised of course - another part of the honesty programme.

It is one thing trusting children not to cheat or bribe in the classroom.

But the real test - what happens when they hit the world outside - will take a little longer to assess.

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