|Childish handling of
Last week, a schoolgirl in a
leading private Buddhist school in Colombo committed suicide by
hanging herself in the school toilet, after being reprimanded by
school authorities for possessing a mobile phone. The incident
received wide publicity and was the talking point in city
households for good reasons.
A few days thereafter, the Ministry of Education announced
that mobile phones would be banned in all schools. While
sympathising with the parents of the schoolgirl who passed away,
we propose to discuss the issue for one simple reason: This type
of incident needs to be prevented in the future and we believe
the authorities - both in the school and in the government -
have gone about dealing with it the wrong way.
The student did what she did as she feared she would be
punished and embarrassed both at school and at home. That poses
the question as to whether the degree of humiliation students
are subjected to in schools are within reasonable limits.
Clearly, from all accounts of what transpired at the school,
school authorities, including teachers and prefects of the
school, have mishandled the issue in a spectacular way, and an
innocent child has had to pay with her young life for their
We do not hesitate to say so because this is not the first
such incident to occur in this particular school in recent
times. Similar incidents have occurred before, and the school
authorities have done little to change its policies. What they
have done instead, is to employ the services of individuals with
questionable credentials to deal with problems on an ad hoc
Schools in the days gone by were places where children
enjoyed life - not concentration camps run on the whims and
fancies of school prefects or teachers; nor should they be
little empires where draconian policies and dreadful punishments
are dished out. As this incident showed, too much is at stake
here, and lives may be lost as a result.
It is relevant to question what right a school has to impose
such drastic measures with such dire consequences. Indeed, in
most countries, this type of incident would have triggered a
lawsuit against the school seeking compensation, even if that
would not replace the young life that was lost.
Then, after all this, what does our enlightened Ministry of
Education do? Its solution is simple: Ban mobile phones in all
schools, including private schools. The brilliant educationists
at Isurupaya, ironically, don’t seem to have realised that in
the particular school where this tragedy occurred, mobile phones
were already banned, and that this was what led to the incident
in the first instance!!
This is the twenty-first century, and technology is advancing
at breakneck speed. Mankind always found new technology to be a
double edged sword. Put to its right uses, it can work wonders.
Abused, it can wreak havoc. Blessed with an intelligence that no
other animal possesses, it is up to humans to utilise technology
wisely, so that maximum benefits are reaped, while at the same
time, minimising the potential for harm.
The same holds true on the issue of using mobile phones in
schools which, in this day and age, is hardly a luxury or a
state-of-the-art technological marvel. For today’s young
generation, it is merely yet another everyday implement as
common as the toothbrush or the ballpoint pen, a mere tool used
for a specific task.
The need of the hour is to educate the younger generation of
today, of the pros and cons of using mobile phones, the endless
possibilities for abuse and how they could use it with care,
protecting themselves against nefarious activities.
Surely, banning mobile phones at school wouldn’t prevent school
children from using it elsewhere and thus, the possibilities for
abuse will still remain, as will the possibility of dreadful
consequences similar to what we witnessed last week.
In fact, a mobile phone when put to correct use, can be utilised
to protect children instead of harming them. The device can be
used without unnecessary accessories such as camera phones, and
restricted to function with only a few selected phone numbers.
If used in this manner, it can be used by parents to keep tabs
on their children, thereby ensuring their safety.
But, for the pea-brained educationists who occupy the upper
echelons at Isurupaya, the remedy is simpler. They have banned
mobile phones, therefore, it is no longer their responsibility,
so who cares about educating the children of today, of the uses
and abuses of mobile phones and using them with care? But then,
what more can you expect from a bunch of busybodies who cannot
do something as simple as printing and distributing end of term
question papers for schools, without raising a big stink?
Of course, God forbid, if we were to use this strange logic, we
should ban cars because they can cause accidents, and refrain
from crossing the road because there is a chance of getting run
over by a vehicle!
So, if this is what we can expect from the authorities,
either in government or in schools, about the safety of our
children, we might as well paraphrase a former President and
say, ‘it is up to every parent to protect their own child’!