Saturday, July 16, 2011

Drop the advertisements for the Post of “Principal Trinity College, Kandy”

The intrigue that has arisen from the recent revelations by the Sunday Leader, first on account of the expulsions of prefects from St Thomas’s College, Mount Lavinia which eventually led to the official resignation of the Warden (Headmaster) though the invisible hand of the Presidential prodigal Namal seems to be stamped all over it, and now the furor over the Rs200M loss also claimed by the Sunday Leader at Trinity, has created another similar search for a new Principal of Trinity.

Let us take the Sunday Leader first. It was established by my uncle and as far as I know his status as publisher was never relinquished during his sober and conscious period. I however take issue with the sensationalism created in both accounts that has put these esteemed schools into a kind of public shame, which I do not believe is warranted. Now St Thomas’s is looking for not only a Warden but also a Subwarden, and I can only assume it is the same team of the two Bishops of Colombo and Kurunegala who by their position have undue rights on the Boards of Governors of these Church of England schools who indirectly select people for these positions.

For the purposes of this essay I will ignore the St Thomas’s one, as it would get too convoluted, though I have interests in both schools, as I had an uncle and grandfather on the Board of Governors of St Thomas’s. In Trinity’s case I did go there many moons ago, as at that time, I was probably the first of the 4th generation of my family at that school, namely father, grandfather and great grandfather all on the paternal side. When I was at the school both the Bishop of Colombo, and of Kurunegala were relatives, and now I find that four of the current Board of Governors, also share common ancestors with me.

I have not looked closely at the accounts of Trinity to find out the real issue, but with my experience in auditing the accounts of such esteemed institutions in the UK I feel I am entitled to put my two cents. These include the Oxford University Chest, many Oxford Colleges, University Departments, and Imperial College of London and Eton College, the latter being the most prestigious public schools in England, which the current Prime Minister attended to say nothing of Princes William and Harry’s old school.

The mischievous reporting by the Sunday Leader of this loss goes to show how much they understand of schools accounting practices. There is no chance in a zillion years that Trinity could have lost Rs200M in money, that is ludicrous. Any person who has a pea brain of common sense will realize that. So whoever leaked the story had an agenda to finger point someone and those at the butt end of this saga, the Bishops, the Governors and the Principal is engaged in a round robin of the blame game.

In a nutshell, the error was as a result of incompetent accounting, as people in Sri Lanka do not know how to properly account for schools as they are different both to Public, Non-Profit, or Private enterprises. The incompetent accounting personnel in the school have not entered the receipts and payments in the correct box, and the Principal not being knowledgeable in accounting, and not caring tuppence for the Governors, consulted reputable accountants who did not know how to correct the errors either, a typical Sri Lankan lack of “Kalpanakaranna”.

In my limited understanding, someone trying to do the Principal a favor, leaked this loss to the Leader, and the Governors who had some hand in appointing these incompetents were implicated. The Governors in their childish game appear to take revenge on the Principal believing it is his hand at play, has decided not to renew his contract, which expires this year, and hence the ads for this post.
Who suffers in this old man’s game? It is the poor students of Trinity. They do not deserve this kind of abuse, so guys swallow your pride and listen to me.

First the Bishops, you sweet Lordships, you have undue power vested in you due to accidents in history, you are not really competent in knowing how to run schools today, so appoint Governors, as you have rights to do, of people who know education, accounting, vision, who can empower youth with leadership qualities, and forward thinking people who know the future is in the hand of the young.

Governors swallow your pride, as the Principal did not care two hoots for you as you were not able to contribute positively to the school in anyway. He has been one of the best achieving Principals Trinity has ever had, balancing the books, so that the school does not run a deficit. He has achieved great heights in Sports that no other Principal has and something all old Trinitians are proud of. Drop the search and give the incumbant an extension of at least 3 years.

Principal just realize that despite your achievements that there is pettiness around, and so swallow your pride and seek guidance from the Governors who like to be consulted as they are providing of their services voluntarily and you get paid to do yours. Continue your stellar work and just do what is necessary to get your teaching credentials so you are technically also Principal and not Acting.

I honestly do not believe that there is another more competent person lurking out there, who can do the job as well as the current incumbent. A new principal at this juncture would be bad for the school, that is now feeling extremely proud of their achievements, and now have to buckle up and improve on providing the thinking leaders of our land, and not the barging leaders that St Thomas’s has produced.
Sunday Leader, there is so much investigative reporting you can do, that will bare open some of the mega robberies of the country’s resources that takes place every day. Don’t attack individuals, just the collective state for the corruption and abuse of power. False sensationalism smacks of chequebook journalism.

May I add in closing that, I do not follow the old school, nor am I a member of the Old Boys, nor have I been to any of the Bradby matches in the past 6years I have been back in Sri Lanka, as I have been a fulltime working farmer, unable to take time off for such luxuries. I am merely adding an opinion as one who wants all schools to produce thinking leaders which this nation lacks, and I am sure I will not be able to afford to send a son of mine to a fee paying establishment such as Trinity. As things stand today, thinkers don’t get scholarships, good crammers do.


Anonymous said...

You could not have said it better. All stakeholders other than the Students of Trinity and their parents are complicit in this mess.

The pomposity of sensationalism on a subject they know nothing about by the Leader, the Bishops who really should just concentrate on their flock, the Governors, well intentioned but egoistic, the auditors as well as the accounting section of Trinity that is grossly incompetent, and lastly the Principal who like all men from the forces lack of tact, wit and common sense, produced an achcharu of their own making.

It seems to me that you seem to be a stakeholder in all aspects except that of the Principal and you took his side, that shows independent thought devoid of prejudice.

Thank you for the contribution of Kalpanakaranna to the body politic.

Anonymous said...

It is sad that the private education system seems to be facing similar problems as the public one from unwanted interference in its management. Those who suffer are the pupils.

It is important therefore to first recruit the right personnel as the Principal, and then devolve much authority to him to carry out his task.

When it comes to keeping proper books and records and finally preparing accounts, then it is OK for the oversight committee of the Board of Governors or the equivalent to have certain powers to ensure all controls are in place and the status of the institution is in sound financial shape.

If recent history is any judge of the current state, the Board and Principals in many Private Schools seem to have been at loggerheads, and the less powerful person in the Principal has had to surrender or resign.

Principals are under huge stress to take in students who seem to be breaking many an entry requirement rule, which adds to their workload.

He is therefore caught between a rock and a hardplace isolated and blamed whatever he does. So spare a thought to that position and determine what kind of individual you want there before making such appointments.

Anonymous said...

you should become principal

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

Thanks for the helpful comments, as to the last one suggesting I should become the Principal, there are two important reasons I am ineligible for the job.

The first being that I do not have the relevant teaching credentials for the Department of Education to endorse me as a Principal, and the second being, I will spare no moment in trying to get all the students to pursue agriculture as the most important career goal much to the dislike of the Board of Governors and the Parents!!!!

Jack Point said...

I was speaking a parent of a current student.

He said that the previous audit reports had raised numerous questions and the auditors had recommended that a qualified accountant be appointed.

It appears that there revenue shortfalls in day-to-day operations and that these were met, essentially from capital. However a full investigation will be needed before fraud can be ruled out.

(I have not seen the reports myself, this is the gist of what he told me)

I think the Church is quite good at setting up and running schools, we would have no educational system if not for the missionaries.

However finances are now complex and as a policy the church needs to have the services of proper accountants, at the centre and at the level of school administration. The governors also should have at least one who is financially literate.

Anonymous said...

While you are very correct that there was no fraud at all but a hopelessly incapable accountant posting moneys into the wrong accounts due to incompetence, it nevertheless does not mean the Principal or his sponsors should go to the press and expose a lie.

Whilst that is sin enough for not renewing his term, he further aggravated the Board of Governors by siding with the old boys against the Board.

Like you say his tact leaves so much to be desired that it is not forgivable and hence he is history