:-:GGN EXCLUSIVE REPORT From Sri Lanka:-:
A year ago, Quaden Bayles, a nine-year-old Australian boy drew the attention of the whole world in one night . This boy is known to bear everything while being teased by other children at school because of his condition and he was ready to be dropped out from school. At one point in time , a video of this child crying uncontrollably went viral and It didn’t take long for the Australian rugby team to turn their attention to Quaden who once had dreams about becoming a rugby player, and the fate of ‘Quaden’ became a hot topic in Sri Lanka too.
But what many people did not know was there are many children like Quaden in Sri Lanka , who become School Dropouts due to mental harassment, physical punishment ,verbal-abuse etc.
Under compulsory education, children between the ages of 6 to 14 must enroll in school education. To ensure the rights of education to all children even legal action was taken against parents who did not send their children to schools .
Although educational reforms in our country introduced various of methodologies to enhance educational standards from time to time, it doesn’t mean that we need not to worry about the problem of school drop outs considering the number of school dropouts remains at an insignificant level.
Years ago, we often heard about school dropouts in remote and rural areas. But today, there are reports about irregular school attendance by children living in areas nearer or within Colombo too, which causes them to be dropped out of schools while “Disapamok” (teachers) are being isolated in schools.
Recently we had the opportunity to conduct a survey about children who dropped out the school. What made this survey more crucial was the fact that we were able to discuss some of the vital issues that led the children to not attend schools continually with the children who dropped out as well as their parents and their teachers too .
Poverty was a main factor influencing school dropouts.
“If we eat today, our parents will not be able to feed us tomorrow. So how could they spend money on books and shoes? ” Pradeepan’s father earns a barely sufficient income by repairing shoes and he has a habit of spending his income on liquor almost every day. Hence, almost all of Pradeepan’s family consisted of rice and one vegetable.
In the school, the teacher often reminded Kasun to bring a mathematical instrument box . once during the math’s period teachers found that kasun seated in the back row and he was trying to hide himself . “ Look …. Even today you haven’t brought the mathematical instrument box. You Better go out and kneel down until the lesson is over. ” The teacher, who was punished for kasun , began to teach the other children. Suddenly, the principal was passing the classroom and saw a child kneeling on the floor outside the classroom and stared blankly at the teacher who started making accusations against him in front of the principal a few times .
“Why didn’t you bring a mathematical instrument box ? “ the principal inquired from the child and he could see that the child started to burst into tears “My father died last week. My mother told me that I would sell the uniform material I got at school to get a mathematical instrument box. But since there was no way to give alms (offerings) after seven days of the death of my father , My mother sold both mine and my brother’s uniform materials to make offerings for my father. ” kasun started sobbing uncontrollably .
Some teachers do not understand the difficulties faced by their students , one teacher had asked a an utterly repulsive question from a child who had failed to bring the hundred rupees he was supposed to bring for school needs. “If your parents can’t meet your needs, what made them to give a birth to you?” .The teacher ‘s unexpected question was more painful than a slap in the face , and it was a reason for the child to stop schooling.
There are many reasons which cause children to drop out from schools such as the lack of attention given to them by teachers due to a large number of children present in the classroom, favoritism towards some children by teachers , corporal punishment, and harsh words etc. Also the education in our country is focused on a ‘result’ oriented examination system. Accordingly, the ‘result’ is expected from the children from the day they enroll to the school.
Corporal punishment by teachers is still common in schools. There are some children who are so frightened and oppressed that they are tempted to cut classes because of physical abuse such as slapping , pulling of hair, hitting , etc by teachers .
“ since I was unable to buy a new book for math’s , I was doing math in my text book. “Don’t your parents have fifty rupees to buy a book for you. what a useless parent? … I was very angry when the teacher shouted this at me Infront of everyone in the class . After that incident I lost all my respect towards him, and I was disgusted to even refer him as “sir”
‘Vijith’ who was expecting to sit for the GCE (O / L) examination stopped going to school out of hatred towards the teacher.
“Don’t punish the children” Voices on child protection are often the subject of ridicule and anger from such ‘arbitrary’ teachers.”… “ there is a saying The child who grew up without being chastised is like a curry cooked without stirring ” “when we were children our teachers used the cane to discipline us ‘’ some teachers do not hesitate to justify their punishments by telling such things . It is unfortunate that none of these teachers have realized that there won’t be any inmates in prisons , if the development of a child’s behavior and qualities can be done through punishing.
Lack of adequate toilet facilities in schools is a special reason for the breakdown of girls’ education, One of the two toilets in one school situated in a remote area was overflowing with water and the girls did not come to school for three or four days when their menstrual period had started. This is due to the fact that there is no way to dispose of sanitary napkins and to clean the rags’ used by some girls during menstruation. Also, in some schools, the girls were instructed not to dispose of used sanitary napkins at school and discard them after carrying home .
Due to the prevailing system ,people who were employed in the field of teaching have to work while facing various sorts of problems . since teachers struggle to cover a vast curriculum , it is very difficult to allocate quality time with individual students in the classroom to understand them better. Hence, the end result can be that of a disastrous one.
Although the facts are as follows; there are also some teachers who are very kind to the children and care for them
One teacher shared his experience that he learnt his very first day as a teacher “The very first day as a teacher went to the class, I taught them while being close to and paying attention to each of the children . Later it became a habit to spend quality time with my students . One day some students in my class said to me Sir, the teachers who came for before you taught in the front row and never spent time with us. ‟ I could not put into words how I felt. The family backgrounds of the children who come to school were very different. But really all those kids only wanted the same thing from anyone who taught them . That was love … It didn’t take me long to realize that ‘love’ can do miracles that a cane cannot do ”
Even though he is an inexperienced individual to the teaching profession ,the children who learn from are likely to never become school dropouts .**
*Nilanka Jayasooriya is a Senior Journalist, Author & Social Activists from Sri Lanka. Worked for many leading newspapers of Sri Lanka, living in Colombo.She has also worked for many leading NGO’s of Sri Lanka for Child protection and Urban Community Development programs. She is representing Sri Lanka as an Ambassador for UNWPA (United Nation World Peace Org.)
She holds degree (B.A) of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Post Graduate Diploma in Criminology & also degree holds of Learning For Transformation from the University of GULL.(Global University Of Lifelong Learning)
She is currently working at LEADS Humanitarian Org. LEADS is a Sri Lankan agency dedicated to creating safer spaces and brighter futures for children.