The story of a Sri Lankan school principal who was convicted by the High Court for corporal punishment

– Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

Student X studied in grade 11 of Navodya Maha Vidyalaya, Dodangoda. On the occasion of the Poson festival that year, the Dodangoda police organized a lantern competition and this photograph shows the lantern rotating inside a bottle presented by the student.

Vesak lantern rotating in a bottleThe design won the first prize in the competition and he received the prize for it on stage, when the name of the school was announced. The principal of the school, Sarojini Nirmala Kothalawala was angry that the student got on the stage and received the prize. Just below the stage, she immediately she snatched prize amount of Rs. 15,000 and later assaulted the student.

A report published in those days describes the incident as follows:

A Poson lantern competition was held in Dodangoda. Dodangoda police station gave me an application form and I submitted it through the principal. I created a rotating lantern in a bottle for the competition. The lantern from our school won the first place in the competition.

When the prizes were awarded I received the prize money from the Minister of Transport Mr. Kumara Welgama. When I came down from the stage, the principal took the money from my hand. She asked why I had taken the prize money that she was supposed to get on the stage.

I went to school on the 26th. At the school’s morning assembly, Muthu Kumara Sir said, “Why did you take the prize money? After the meeting is over, meet madam.” After the meeting, madam slapped me and hit me around 20 times with a cane. I was in pain. I was scared at school.

At night, my father and mother saw the injuries, took me to the Dodangoda police and filed a complaint. The police officers who examined the injuries gave me a letter to admit me to the hospital. I was admitted to the hospital on the night of the 26th.

The father of the child said: The prize amount is Rs. 15,000. The son said that the principal took the money. On the 26th, when my wife and I came home from work, my son was not at home.

He had written a letter as follows. “Yesterday, the principal beat me in front of the assembly hall because of the lantern. I can’t go to school now because of shame. I’m leaving home. I will not come back. Don’t look for me again.” 

I, my wife and the neighbours started looking for my son at night. We found the son hiding in a forest. We went to Dodangoda police and filed a complaint. The police officers who examined the son gave a letter to hospitalize him due to the injuries on his back.

Another daughter of mine is studying at Dodangoda Navodya School. My daughter can’t go to school because of this. Requesting an inquiry into the brutal beating of my son.

Child beaten by a principalKalutara High Court Judge Mr. Pradeep N. Abeyratne ordered the principal to pay compensation of one million rupees to the student after the principal pleaded guilty to the charges of assaulting, manhandling, torturing and neglecting a 15-year-old minor child. The case was resolved after ten years on December 14, 2023.

In addition to this, the judge also ordered to pay Rs. 1500 rupees as government fees and if the amount is not paid, she will be sentenced to three months imprisonment with light labour and if the compensation amount is not paid, she will be sentenced to 24 months imprisonment with hard labour. The principal paid the amount in front of the judge yesterday (14).

When giving such a lenient sentence to this principal, the judge had taken into consideration that she was the best principal in Kalutara Education Zone in 2018.

The student who was beaten in this way by the principal is now a 25-year-old young man. His education was interrupted due to this incident. But, I am happy to note that he is currently working as a small-scale entrepreneur after receiving vocational training as a technician.

Our studies also revealed that this principal was a 43-year-old woman with a bright future at the time of this incident and that she is going to lose her job with this sentence from the High Court for a criminal offence. It was learned that she is also a mother of two children.

From this case, the principals and teachers of Sri Lanka, who are receiving salaries from the government and insulting and beating the children who are the property of the government should learn a lesson. Also, the criteria for awarding such principals should be changed immediately. The entire education system in Sri Lanka needs to be changed. For that, like the parents of this child, you and we have to change our attitude. It should first be understood that there is no education in Sri Lanka at present. It should be changed from there.

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