The Trustees of Jaffna College Funds, a group of volunteers based in Boston that manages the funds sent to Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, have demanded Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah, the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Jaffna College and Ms. Vijulaa Arulanantham, Vice Chair to step down from the Board to make way for new leadership following allegations of corruption, physical abuse, nepotism, inefficiency, and administrative irregularities at Jaffna College. The Jaffna College Board includes Mr Rajan Asirwatham (a prominent corporate leader), Dr Selvi Chelliah (former Principal of Uduvil Girls’ College), and Mr Muthuratnanathan (former Deputy General Manager, Ceylon Electricity Board – Northern Region) among others.
The Trustees have also insisted in their latest letter (please click here to read the letter in full) that Jaffna College and its Board be governed under an amended constitution that accommodates representatives of different stakeholders of the College such as professional educators, parents, outside education specialists, and alumni with a variety of professional and academic skills. The letter also states that the members should represent several Protestant denominations, none with a majority position. The Trustees emphasize that the amended constitution should ensure greater transparency in the administration of Jaffna College.
Until the Chairperson and the Vice Chairperson of the Board resign and new constitutional changes are initiated, the Trustees will reduce the funds allocated to Jaffna College for the third and fourth quarters of the year 2018 by 20% and 50% respectively.
The Trustees also note that they will reduce the funds allocated to the College by 100% from the first quarter of the year 2019 if their demands have not been met satisfactorily by then.
The Trustees have pointed out in their letter that the current Board led by Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah has failed to address the following problems at Jaffna College:
* the Principal has limited ability and autonomy to act as head of the school;
* the Board is involved in day-to-day operations, rather than providing oversight and setting strategic direction;
* the Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India acts as permanent Chair according to a change in the 2014 Constitution;
* stakeholders are alienated, disenfranchised, express extreme dissatisfaction with the Board’s leadership, and have great concern for the school’s future;
* concerns exist regarding the adequacy of internal financial controls over the school’s funds, including grants made by the Trustees;
* the Trustees of Jaffna College Funds have been prevented from independently reviewing the school’s financial transactions;
* articles in the local press allege misconduct and mismanagement; and
* allegations have been made of an unsafe or threatening environment for students, including allegations of physical abuse.
Colombo Telegraph has brought out five reports regarding the administrative irregularities at Jaffna College since January 2017 when the funding to Jaffna College and Uduvil Girls’ College was reduced by 20% per quarter for the first time.
The Trustees have proposed that the following should be given primacy in creating a new constitution for the governance of Jaffna College:
1. Establishment of an independent board: The Jaffna College Constitution should require that the Board consists of people who have a stake in the College’s success, such as professional educators, parents, outside education specialists, and alumni, with a variety of professional and academic skills. Members should represent several Protestant denominations, none with a majority position. The chair of the Board should be elected from among the Board’s members, and all members should have term limits.
2. New Principal-Board relations: The Principal must be a professional educator with strong leadership skills. As chief executive of the school, the Principal should have autonomy over the day-to-day operations of the school. The manager position should either report to the Principal or be eliminated. The Board must refrain from the day-to-day management of the school. Instead, the Board must support the Principal, periodically reviewing the Principal’s job performance, providing oversight and setting the strategic direction for the school.
3. Increased transparency: There must be an increased level of transparency and accountability about the school’s operations, consistent with best practices at other leading schools in Sri Lanka. As your partners in this shared endeavor, the TJCF should have unlimited access to all financial information, including the use and control of funds and related party transactions.
The Trustees’ letter notes that their efforts to address the problems at Jaffna College were treated with animosity and that the Board even threatened the Trustees with lawsuits.
Nearly six weeks ago a teacher of Jaffna College was arrested by the local Police for allegedly sexually abusing some students of Jaffna College who attended his private tuition classes. The suspect continues to be under remand custody. A few hours before the arrest happened, the teacher was issued a letter of suspension from Jaffna College by the Chair of the Board.
Relevant reports and statements: