Friday, February 8, 2013

Age 13yr Girl caught stealing Coconuts – Back to Dickens Era for Sri Lanka

Much time was devoted at the last Cabinet meeting this week to discuss the problem of a girl aged 13 who was caught stealing coconuts worth Rs300, in the Horana area (constituency of Ratnasiri and Vidura Wickremanayake) in order to pay her school the Rs800 required to pay for painting. I am going to concentrate on school payment demands, and will leave the discussion on what should have been done with the child as far as the Law Enforcement is concerned as a separate issue to be dealt with later. The child was taken to Police custody by the way!
I quote from the Daily News article of February 8th
 “The minister said the President paid attention to the fact that it was illegal to collect money from students in this manner.
He said Minister Hakeem pointed out even a circular has been issued stating the President wanted measures taken to prevent a repetition of such situations in the future.”
It clearly shows that the President is completely out of touch with the goings on in schools in 2013! He does not realize that this is a periodic occurrence in every school in the Island, especially from Govt. schools due to the lack of funds for maintenance and repair to say nothing of Capital Improvements.

I also have coconut trees on my land, and I have instances where young people steal my coconuts, both on the ground and also those on trees and take them out. So I know the need for prevention of such as the cost of taking a person to the police station, apprehending the suspect, usually a person who lives nearby, is not worth the stress and agony and time. It WILL NOT yield a satisfactory result. Just hope, now my dogs will chase the thief and bite a chunk out so that a thief will hesitate and be a deterrent in future theft! Then those who live on the property will be the rogues, who the dogs WILL NOT chase after! You never can win can you?

Back to the main point of why she needed money; it is part of a huge and complex problem which the President and his cabinet are incapable of dealing with. It is simply that our Education system even at this stage IS NOT FREE as the Government claims. The constant payments are continuous and there are many in the country, who are unable to pay that which is demanded resulting in this issue.

This blog is littered with essays on the Education system, the weaknesses therein and the underfunding by the State as compared with comparable countries. It is all part of that debate, for which the Government is solely responsible.
I am taking care and paying for a boy age 6 in Grade 2 of the local Dharmaraj Maha Vidyalaya. I will give a brief summary of the facts in my case. To enter the boy into the school I had to supply the school 10 bags of cement for a renovation/construction project in the school. The boy was given his text books by the school, but I bought the book list books which are extra, that the school had sent to the mother, which cost about Rs2,000.

The school provided him with blue material for the shorts and white material for a shirt. I paid Rs 400 to have a pair of shorts tailored and a shirt. Then the boy goes for a tuition class opposite the school in a building one afternoon of the week, which is conducted by his school teacher, for which I bought a book (workbook costing Rs350) and the teacher is paid Rs350 a month to take the class.

I was then told that each class in his year, (there are 3 in his school for second grade, each with 42 kids which one teacher cannot manage) has engaged a parent or another person as a teachers helper, where each parent has agreed to pay Rs 175 a month for their services, as they may have to take a child to the toilet or escort the child somewhere, which the teacher cannot do as she is managing a class!

There is another payment required, I believe it is for every term called a “pahasukam gasthuwa” of Rs275 to take account of miscellaneous costs.

Now why does the President want to fire the Principal of the school for this? Every Principal in Sri Lanka does this as they DO NOT HAVE money for this.

The Newspapers purport that the Education Minister has said that funds will be given to schools for such repairs and renovations, but I can tell you with confidence that there are NO such funds forthcoming if funds are requested. We have a government in a make believe world, feeding the President with stories that are not true and in turn the media reports untruths for public consumption, totally disregarding the reality, which they can easily check with a couple of phone calls.

It is important that everyone understands the TRUTH, then make decisions based on reality, rather than trying to find blame when none should be attributed and solve the crisis in the Gross Underfunding of Education in all sectors in Sri Lanka. There is a harsh reality in Sri Lanka. That is that we do not have FREE EDUCATION at all. Parents have to undergo financial hardship if they are poor to send their children to school, so drastic steps MUST be taken now to address them satisfactorily whilst not trying to escape from the lie which is their own belief system. When those in power are in DENIAL little wonder how we must feel!!!


Anonymous said...

A govt spokesman states that the President is unable to take action against the school officials or the Principal as his position is governed by the Public Services Commission which makes appointments and apparently disciplines Principals!!

Have you ever heard such lies when he can fire the CJ at will!! Another excuse for not doing anything or worse actually solving the problem.

Anonymous said...

No one condones stealing and appropriate action must be taken to prevent theft, and the culprit so warned of the ill effects of stealing.

The Govt. for its part is also guilty of humongous theft. Theft of public resources meant for the education sector, to pay themselves perks, and now a further theft by creating a new line ministry in education compounding the problem.

The punishment therefore of the Govt. should be far more severe. Let the Supreme Court decide what is the appropriate punishment and who should undergo this. It will be an awakening if they have the courage to take a decision on the theft of the Fundamental right to Free Education.

Anonymous said...

It is time the people demand that there is a proper education policy that governs all aspects of education and it is clear what the state responsibility is, rather than just apportioning blame to hapless Principals, who are trying to do a job under odds that are heavily stacked against them.

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

In case there is some confusion here, let me clarify that technically a school Principal or authorities CANNOT force by way of circular for a student to pay their share of the painting cost. They can ask for voluntary donations, and that is how it is currently done.

As I understand it the School Principal can be brought before the Public Services Commission and be disciplined through them in a lawful way for breaking his code of conduct by issuing a signed order that he is NOT permitted to.

It nevertheless does not detract from the fact that children are asked to contribute various costs both for their survival and the schools survival, and non payment can result in indirect shame or worse!