The principal of a school in the East literally works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the day he administers the school, and after hours he remains on the premises doubling as the school’s night-watcher.
|Viharamaha Devi Girls’ School: No watchers or security guards. Pix by Mangala Weerasekare and M.D. Nissanka
|Colombo North and Central Regional Eductaion
office: No security guard
The school is too poor to afford a watchman, so the principal remains on duty day and night during the school term, including weekends, and during public holidays and school vacations.
V. Prapakaran is the principal of Wesley High School, Kalmunai. The school sits on a 15-acre property in the centre of Kalmunai town, in the Eastern province. Unauthorised visitors to the school include vagrants and alcoholics.
“They litter the place with empty bottles and remove the water pumps,” Mr. Prapakaran told the Sunday Times. “The students live in fear of intruders. There are three entrances to the premises. This is a big property. I cannot look after it single-handed.”
At Vijayapala Vidyalaya, in Matale, there is only a daytime watcher. The Central Province school, which accommodates 1,900 students, is frequented by vagrants and undesirables at night. School principal W. G. Dharmapala lives in fear of theft, his biggest concern being the school’s prized 20 computers.
“I cannot even depend on my day watcher, who is often absent,” the principal said. “He is paid Rs.375 a day. We need a night watcher but they demand nothing less than Rs.800 per night. We are not in a position to pay that much,” Principal Dharmapala told the Sunday Times.
At Horowapathana Maha Vidyalaya, in the North Central province, the principal and teachers take turns to mind the school premises. The school has made repeated requests to the provincial education department which transferred the school’s watcher to the divisional education office.
Even prominent urban schools are in desperate need of watchers. The majority of these state schools come under their respective provincial councils.
At Viharamaha Devi Girls’ School, in Dean’s Road, Colombo 10, there are no watchers or security guards. The administration has not had a response to its request for a watchman from the provincial education department.
A lack of security guards at schools means nervous parents, who are concerned children going early to school and waiting after hours for transport back home.
Last week, the Sunday Times conducted a round of visits to education zonal offices. It was noted that none had security officers or watchers. “There was a break-in and theft recently at the Education Ministry, which is in the middle of a busy part of Battaramulla town,” said Ceylon Teachers Service Union general secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe.
“This raises the question of security at educational institutions, including schools and zonal education offices. A number of state schools around the country have no watchmen.”
Of Sri Lanka’s 9,762 schools, 340 are national schools and the balance 9,422 provincial council schools. There are a total of 92 zonal education offices, 300 divisional education offices, and nine provincial education offices.
“Schools without watchers attract drug addicts and alcoholics.” said Mr. Jayasinghe of the CTSU. “Provincial education departments have asked schools to collect money from the parents to hire a watchman. The students at rural schools come from families that can barely afford to feed themselves.”
Earlier this year, 10 students at three leading schools were arrested for stealing 10 school computers worth more than Rs.3 million.
It was found that the students had sold the stolen equipment to internet cafes. Such theft would not have been possible if the three schools had a proper security system.
Ministry of Education Secretary H. M. Gunasekare told the Sunday Times that national schools come under the purview of the Central Government and Provincial Schools under their respective Provincial Councils.