Good governance activist Chandra Jayaratne has written to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka seeking a public clarification on promoting awareness and educating all citizens on human rights, following on an incident in a leading government school where students had been publicly humiliated simply because they failed to bring a certain amount of money they had been instructed to bring.
Jayarathne, in his letter to the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has stated that he noticed this incident when the school had made an announcement – which even those who are residing in the vicinity of the school could hear – listing out all the names of the students who failed to bring a certain payment while ordering them to kneel before the school administration and the peers.
He says that thereafter the students had been informed to bring the money to the school without fail on the first working day this week, although it is illegal to collect money from students in government schools according to the various circulars that have been issued by the Education Ministry.
Jayarathne has questioned that in a day and age where school teachers are made to kneel before students by politicians, the kind of precedent this incident has set by forcing students to kneel and feel humiliated simply because they failed to bring money to the school.
He has requested the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to issue a public clarification on the incident along with necessary recommendations on the rights and obligations of the stakeholders of schools, so that it would help effectively promote ‘respect for, and observance of, fundamental rights’.
We publish below the statement in full;
5th October 2014
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka,
165, Kynsey Road,
Seeking a Public Clarification for the Promotion of Awareness of All Citizens
In terms of Section 10 (f) of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act No. 21 of 1966, the functions of the Commission include a commitment “to promote awareness of, and provide education in relation to, human rights”. In line with the above commitment, I seek from the Human Rights Commission, a public clarification for the promotion of awareness of all citizens.
The clarification sought, arises from an experience of some residents living and passerby close to a leading State School in Colombo. They heard last Friday a public address announcement emanating from the school premises, probably made at the morning assembly of the school. Class identifications were read by the announcer in succession and “all students who had failed to bring the money (purpose not clear) were asked to kneel down”. Thereafter all students who were kneeling down were requested “without fail to bring the money by the first working day of the next week” and these kneeling students were once again asked to “inform their parents of the commitment and give a reminder early in the morning of the next school day”. The students were later dismissed from the assembly and ordered to return their respective classes.
At a time when leading politically powerful persons have set a new trend in society by ordering teachers to kneel down in public and before children, it may be that teachers and principals of school also feel that it is in order to differentiate students who have failed to bring money by asking them to kneel publicly in a school assembly before their classmates, peers, teachers and others.
I believe that a public clarification in the above regard by the Human Rights Commission, along with necessary recommendations on the rights and obligations of the stakeholders of schools, will effectively promote the awareness of all citizens, whilst at the same time “promoting respect for, and observance of, fundamental rights”, in line with section 10(a) of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act.
I was prompted to write to you in this connection, as the very same day, I saw an appendix of a fund raising project distributed amongst the school children by another school, with the aim of building a concert hall. This notice sought the support of the children to sell tickets and get sponsorships to raise Rs 2 million required as expenses for a musical extravaganza. The estimated costs included fees of Rs. 0.5 million for professional singers to be engaged to perform with a professional orchestra paid fees of Rs. 0.25 million, a professional compeer in attendance and souvenir printing costs of Rs. 0.5 million. I wondered whether the children of this school too will also face the humiliation of the type seen at the other school on Friday 3rd October.
Your early response public clarification is much appreciated.
cc. Secretary to the President,
Secretary, Ministry of Education,
Secretary, Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs,
Chairman, National Child Protection Authority,
Editors of Media Institutions – for Media Publication