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20th June 1999

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Teaching children to care

The Kandy Association for Community Protection through Animal Welfare (KACPAW), was formed recently and had its first sterilization/immunization/awareness programme on June 5. Its aim is to work towards eradication of rabies and sensitizing the public regarding responsible pet ownership. The programme was conducted at the Peradeniya Maha Vidyalaya. The Association will conduct its programme initially in schools in the Central Province, and will extend its programme to other segments of the community, especially the low-income groups, in due course.

In October 1998, a group of persons from Kandy followed up a project that was prompted by an initiative taken by Dr. Eileen Pethiyagoda (now one of KACPAW's patrons), who made a written request in 1996 to the President to allocate funds and a block of land in Kandy to set up a home for homeless dogs.

A block close to Kandy was earmarked for this project and the Central Provincial Council offered funds to the Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) . Soon after, a building estimate for Rs. 786,132.00 was ratified by the KMC Commissioner for this home. However, the project had not been followed through. It is the work carried on to revive this project that led to the forming of KACPAW.

KACPAW believes that rabies can be eradicated through a programme of systematic curbing of the growth of unwanted dog/cat populations through sterilization and immunization. In Sri Lanka the main source of human rabies is the dog, especially the stray. While the present system of catching and killing these stray animals is extremely cruel, inhumane and distasteful to a vast majority of Sri Lankans, this does not curb the growth of the stray population in the long term or help reduce the incidence of human rabies. New populations of strays continue to come into existence because people abandon puppies, especially females, on the roads and public areas. Neither do they immunize their animals against rabies. Thus the cycle continues with much cruelty perpetrated on these hapless animals and people falling prey to rabies. What is lacking is public awareness about the need to sterilize/immunize dogs/cats (i.e., responsible pet ownership) as well as related issues. We need to eliminate the problem and not the dogs. Public awareness through education and sterilization/immunization should take place concurrently to have the desired effects.

KACPAW decided to target school children in its education programme (initially in the Central Province) as it believes that they will be highly receptive to its message of responsible pet ownership and will in turn be able to carry it to their homes, villages and towns. Besides, this will instil humane values in children, which will eventually help steer the Sri Lankan society towards one that values humane sentiments, a much required social 'commodity' at present.

On June 5, KACPAW sterilized the dogs on the premises of the Peradeniya Maha Vidyalaya and those in its immediate neighborhood and conducted awareness programmes for the pupils of the school through lectures, posters and videos on the danger/prevention /treatment/management of rabies and on the need to become responsible owners of pets. KACPAW is extremely grateful to the Principal of this school, Mrs. S. Sooriyarachchi, who readily gave permission to for this programme. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science of the University of Peradeniya conducted the sterilization/ immunization programme. Dr. Ananda Jayasinghe, President KACPAW and Acting Head and Senior Lecturer of the Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine of the same university, Dr. Niranjala de Silva, Member of the KACPAW advisory committee and the head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies and several other members of KACPAW conducted the awareness programme on rabies and responsible pet ownership.

KACPAW hopes people will support their two-pronged programme of community and humanitarian service, which is provided voluntarily by its members. KACPAW wishes to invite the various government departments, organizations and individuals to join/support the Association in its work and help fulfil its objectives in a bid to make Sri Lanka a rabies-free society valuing humane sentiments.

Those who wish to support KACPAW can contact its secretaries on telephone no. 08-224887 or 074 470292 or write to its official address: 191, D.S . Senanayake Veediya, Kandy.

Shakespeare hits the schools

By Laila Nasry and Ruhanie Perera

Fairies, witches and - iron-headed soldiers darted along the cor- ridors of the BMICH. No, it was Dramanot a dream or the product of a fevered imagination, but the scenes at the BMICH as the Inter-School Shakespeare Drama Competition got underway last Saturday .

The atmosphere backstage was exhilarating. Walking along the corridor one was caught up in all the hype, excitement and nerves. Doors with good luck notes stuck on them banged incessantly as the actors, directors and crew members rushed in and out checking last minute details. Outside, people both young and old streamed in by the hundreds for the schools' biggest social event of the year.

At the finals held on June 12, St. Peter's College and Holy Family Convent emerged overall DramaChampions, to the rousing applause of the audience. As the curtains closed it was the words of the Bard that took centre stage- "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players."

It was a hard-fought contest, as it usually is, and the jubilation of the winning schools was well deserved. But over the years, controversy has dogged the Inter- School Shakespeare Drama Competition and this year was no exception, with the semi-finals being the scene of much heartburn.

That of the 30 schools who entered, only four schools are chosen for the finals, "is so unfair" said many disappointed participants. This point is proven by the sad faces one sees at the semi-finals once the results are announced, and as Mohamed Adamally (one of the judges) rightly said, "some schools deserve a second viewing." But a lack of funds and time makes it an impossible task.

Organising a competition of this nature is a herculean task. The objective of this competition as the Dramaorganisers see it, is to teach the importance of English to the students. But the fact that most schools do not send in their entries on time makes their job all the more difficult. They did, however, organise a workshop for the schools and a separate day was allocated to answer the queries forwarded by the schools. This time as an encouragement, a certificate will be awarded to all those who participated in the competition.

This year for the first time the three member panel of judges comprised actor-directors -Jerome L. de Silva, Indu Dharmasena and Mohamed Adamally. Having been actively involved in the Shakespeare Drama Competition as participants and directors, they brought with them a wealth of experience.

Yet, some competitors felt that it was this very fact that created a controversy. They pointed out that the judges had directed these very same extracts before and that they were aware of the potential of the students having worked with them in the past.

"I don't agree that bias is possible. If there was bias it would have been negated because there were three judges. The three of us judged dispassionately because we know how much hurt it can cause the participants," said Jerome. Regarding the fact that they knew the participants, both Indu and Jerome said there was the tendency to judge more critically.

Many observers felt the inclusion of an academic to the panel would have negated some of the Dramacriticism.

But since a rule prohibiting big names in the local drama scene from directing the schools had been brought in, the organisers felt it was best to "utilise Indu, Jerome and Adam instead of academics used in the previous years." The rule stated that the directing of schools should be the charge of the drama teacher, in order to avoid any disadvantage towards outstation schools. However, as Mr.C.Bartholomeusz, a representative of the organisers, the Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) stated, the rule was not specified. Thus one saw many schools having past pupils who are big names in the theatre circle directing them.

The question then arises whether the rule really served a purpose? Were the out -station schools at any less disdvantage? A student from a leading school in colombo who did not want to be identified felt the rule was of no use as most schools in Colombo had the help of the so -called "professionals" but just for the record stated the name of their drama teacher as director.

Jehan Bastians, who directed the winners' in the boys' category- St Peter's College, believes a pool of dirctors should be established for the benefit of both the Colombo and the out - station schools. "They should be made aware of whose services they could use for the competition thus making it fair by all the schools," he said.

A crew member of a school who was in the finals felt the competition has become extremely money-oriented. The prices of tickets have been increased but nothing has been done to help the participants, he said. "It was extremely difficult to bring the props to the BMICH for most lorries did not have the permits to enter the premises. We had to go through a lot of inconvenience to get the props in. For the semi-finals we had to leave our props on the pavement outside the Wendt." A leading school in Kandy was indignant that they were not allowed to take their placings on stage or Dramaleave their props backstage. Further the rules of the competition are not specifically defined, for in the finals while one school was denied the opportunity of using extra lights other than what was available at the BMICH, another school was given the green light to use them, so long as they obtained prior permission from the other schools who were in the finals.

Being a part of the Shakespeare cast as an actor or crew member is a wonderful feeling as the young participants attest. The wealth of knowledge, the experience and the memories are endless. The sheer hard work that is put into the competition results in strong bonds of friendship being forged among the cast. Yet as every school enters the contest with the thought of winning, competition is inevitably intense. Does this dishearten the young players?. "The competitive spirit is fabulous," says Mohamed Adamally, "but also results in bitterness though there is no personal rivalry outside the competition." As a result Indu most strongly believes that the competitive edge should be done away with and instead there should be a Shakespeare festival where all the schools get together and practise and learn from each others' strengths and weaknesses. This concept was practised by both Indu and Jerome when they directed more than one school in the past.

The common grouse, however, is that Colombo schools have an edge over their out-station counterparts, as they have more access to people in the drama circle to direct them, they know the Wendt stage well etc.

One hopes that in the future we will see either the semi-finals or the finals of the competition being held in Kandy or another out-station venue.

Something unique

The semi-final of the Inter-School Shakespeare Drama Competition was held on June 8 and 9. Thirty schools from Colombo and the out-stations took part. The audience on both days was treated to very high quality performances.

What was remarkable was the fact that every extract performed had something unique. Not only was it different from similar extracts performed this year but from the similar extracts performed in the previous years.

The judges felt that more attention had been paid to understanding the text which resulted in an improvement in the standard of drama. This year with new directors emerging on the scene there were new ideas and a fresh outlook which was very refreshing.

The number of out- station school entries had increased compared to previous years and this time they gave the Colombo schools a good run. Mahamaya Girls' School, Kandy who did an excerpt from "A Winter's Tale" and Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya who did "Much Ado about Nothing" were chosen for the finals from the girls' schools category and from the boys' category, it was a battle of the Saints between St. Peter's College with their "Midsummer Night's Dream" and St Joseph's College "Macbeth" going through to the finals.

Mahamaya Girls School bagged the best actress for out-station girl schools and best actress overall award which was shared by three of their actresses-Heshani Samarasinghe(Leontes), Michelle Goonesekera (Paulina) and Nilukshi Palliyaguru (Hermione) for a heart wrenching performance. Best actor for out-station boys schools was shared by Ashan Dias of Maris Stella College Negombo who played the part of "Romeo" to near perfection and Sidath Samarakoon of Trinity College for his valiant performance as "Macbeth". The all island best actor award was won by Brandon Ingram of Wesley College for a superb performance as "Portia " He captured the subtleties and nuances of a female role with great success.

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