Muddled education, jumbled politics
Posted on January 26th, 2018

By Fr. Augustine Fernando Diocese of Badulla Courtesy  The Island

Justice and fairness, righteousness and truth do not easily surface in many human affairs. This is especially so in the political and public affairs of Sri Lanka due to the various types of persons who are corrupt and unable to measure up to responsibilities. These people slyly creep up or through political influence get posted to enviable positions. In Sri Lanka one needs political support to get to any positions one is not normally qualified to hold. And this holds true for high positions in the many fields in the public institutions, agencies of the government and its administrative service and even in the legal sphere.

Many in Sri Lanka are now habituated to illegally, illicitly and immorally adopt short-cuts to reach positions one cannot reach on merit. Far more than merit, other considerations not worthy of attention get preference.

TAMIL PRINCIPAL VS CM

It is in a context of an environment of muddled education and jumbled politics that the thorny issue has cropped up between the Principal of the Tamil School in Badulla and the Chief Minister of Uva Province. What has led to the present situation need to be taken up and inquired into. There are other related matters which I found in my investigations these past couple of days, as I too have been Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Badulla for nearly eight years and afterwards Vicar General of the Diocese of Badulla for twelve years. I have kept in touch with the Cathedral Parish of Badulla and its school children since 1976. Currently, I am the Director of the Institute of Integral Education, Bible Apostolate and Catechetics at Bandarawela and with the help of an Assistant Director concern myself about education and Catholic religious education of the children of the Diocese of Badulla which cover the whole of Uva Province. Our concern, as far as possible, extends to all schoolchildren of Uva in their integral education, social and civic consciousness, responsibility and reconciliation among different communities.

St. Ursula’s Convent school was taken over and vested in the State and that school has now been bifurcated and given new names, Vihara Maha Devi Balika Maha Vidyalaya and Tamil Balika Vidyalaya, quite contrary to the Act of state take-over, with the partisan political backing of that time,.

Though the Tamil Balika Vidyalaya Principal has an axe to grind against the Chief Minister and the Chief Minister is accused of overstepping in the manner of ordering the Principal, and a propaganda campaign is on in favour of the Principal, finding the truth of what actually happened may be problematic. Yet an impartial inquiry is very much needed.

1. As matters stand presently, it is presumed that the truth of what happened cannot be reliably obtained from the accusing Principal nor the Chief Minister.

2. The Principal had at first said that when she met the Chief Minister who had ordered her to come to meet him, he did not order her to kneel down. When she said that, she has been quite calm and not agitated. Later, she changed her stance. Did partisan politics creep in?

3. It is said that the Secretary in the Chief Minister’s Office in a reprimanding manner told her to kneel down and ask pardon as the Chief Minister threatened to transfer her to a school in a rural area. And she knelt down and asked pardon. What happened exactly?

4. Is the Secretary a person with loyalties to the JVP whose prominent members in the Badulla district were at the Chief Ministers at the time? And did they try to twist matters and make use of this incident to their political advantage?

5. The Chief Minister had ordered the Principal to meet him as a parent of a child had complained to the Chief Minister that the Principal refused to admit the student even though the Chief Minister had recommended the application.

6. What are the admission policies adopted by the Principal? Are they departmental policies or personal policies? Why did the child not qualify for admission? Have parents to go after politicians to get a child admitted to this school?

7. Did the Principal not refuse to admit two poor children (siblings) to Grade 3 and 4, under the care of their grandmother as the father had abandoned them and the mother had died.

8. Did the Parish Priest of Badulla St. Mary’s Cathedral, intervene on behalf of the two poor children and again meet with her refusal.

9. Did not the Parish Priest then appeal to the Provincial Director of Education, with documentary evidence regarding the two helpless poor children.

10. Did not Provincial Director of Education, considering the facts presented to him, order the Principal of the Tamil Balika Vidyalaya, Badulla to admit the two children?

11. Did the Principal not admit them immediately?

12. The Tamil Balika Vidyalaya, Badulla, is a school founded by the Catholic Church and vested in the Government. Yet does the Principal not routinely refuse to admit Catholic girls to the School when they have all the rights to get admittance ?

13. Did the Principal not keep a small poor child standing out in the sun without letting her come into her class? Could someone be so wicked to children and be still found fit to be a Principal?

14. Is a person evidently prejudiced against non Hindus fit to be a Principal of a Vested Catholic School?

15. Is the Principal so evidently prejudiced against poor children, fit to be a Principal?

16. Did the Principal refuse to permit a child, of the Girls’ Home (within the School premises, which had been there for so many years, as an orphanage) with a patch on her hand to attend the School and forbid all the children from the Girls’ Home from attending the school and did she not ask all of them to be sent home?

17. Did she not have to withdraw her arbitrary order and allow the children of the Girls’ Home to come to school as that patch on the child’s hand was not infectious and was not a danger to other children? Was that after an order from the Provincial Director of Education?

18. Did she not have an insidious plan to close down the Girls’ Home and forcibly acquire those premises for the Tamil School?

19. Did not the Principal try to turn this Vested Catholic School to a Hindu Tamil School?

Did not the Chief Minister disallow such name change and turning it to an exclusive Hindu school and prevent Catholic and Muslim children from being admitted to the School? Is not the Chief Minister quite aware that the Act of vestition of the School in the State makes it improper to change the name of a vested school? Is not the Principal’s attitude a ‘couldn’t care less’ one?

20. Is not this incident, between the Principal and the Chief Minister, the result of a final build-up of the conduct characteristic of the Tamil School Principal?

21. Didn’t the Principal weep profusely and shed tears before the TV cameras and when that was over suddenly return to cheerful laughter so much so that the observing children remarked that the Principal is a good actress?

Let not short-sighted politicians try to muddy the water and fish there at election time as they usually do disgracefully and opportunistically. If an inquiry is being made, let not an incident be overblown out of context and the whole background that led to this incident be forgotten.

Quite apart from the Tamil Balika Vidyalaya Principal trying to turn tables on the Chief Minister, inquiry should be made to determine whether this person on the whole is fit to be a school teacher, let alone a Principal. Let the Education Department be mindful of the school children and scrutinize the candidates for appointment as Principals and even give them an in-service training to better equip them to handle so responsible a mission.

The primary and vital intention of the Catholic Church in founding this school as every other Catholic school, is to give a wholesome education to children and not to give employment to anyone, even priests and religious men and women, even though much care and preparation is made to enable them to competently handle the mission of education. The ill-conceived schools take-over distorted that vision and the chaos and disorder of jumbled politics messed up education and continues its running riot up to the present day.

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