The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 6

For the children of Sierra
Leone, the threat of the Eb-
ola virus has brought fear,
boredom and alienation.
school has left most children
sitting at home with only
parents and siblings for com-
pany, as the deadly disease
spreads across much of West
Many families have been
teaching their children by
themselves to make sure they
do not fall too far behind in
their schooling.
But for 14-year-old Theresa,
who lives on the outskirts of
the capital, Freetown, near-
ly a whole school year has
gone by without seeing her
“Back then, before the Eb-
ola virus, we were enjoying
school times, but since school
has closed it is boring,” she
says. “Because we can’t touch
our friends. Even if we have
not seen them for a very long
time, we can’t touch them to
protect ourselves from Ebo-
Schools in Sierra Leone
had been due to open again
at the end of March - but
the government has now put
that off for a few more weeks
in the hope that Ebola cases
may dwindle.
Nearly 10 cases a day are
still being reported across
the country.
Up to 18 March, 10,194 peo-
ple had been reported as hav-
ing died from the disease in
six countries; Sierra Leone,
Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, the
US and Mali.
“The Ebola cases are high
now,” says Theresa. “So if
we open school we may touch
our friends. So I don’t think
school should re-open now.”
Theresa and her 12-year-
old schoolmate, Blessing, are
huddling round the speaker
of a borrowed mobile phone
in the offices of the British
Council in Freetown, trying
hard to try to explain to three
Jersey schoolgirls what life
has been like over the past
The girls on the Jersey end
of the link-up - Orla and Sun-
ny, both 13, and 12-year-old
Millie - are investigating the
effects of Ebola on children’s
lives for BBC School Report.
Les Quennevais School in
Jersey and Theresa’s school
Huntingdon Secondary in Al-
lentown, Sierra Leone, had
already established a link
before the Ebola outbreak
struck. They had just started
work on a joint project about
children’s rights.
Theresa and Blessing have
been studying at home, and
would love to be able to play
with their friends again.
But the fear and the reality
of Ebola is too strong to allow
schools to re-open yet. And
the girls are afraid too.
“It’s not safe,” says The-
resa. “Because I am scared I
will protect myself from Ebo-
la by avoiding body contact, I
won’t touch sick people.”
“I am afraid to go to school
because of Ebola,” echoes
Blessing. Theresa says par-
ents are not yet ready to agree
to send their children back to
school because they fear the
virus will spread quickly.
The girls from Jersey and
Sierra Leone are keen to
swap details of their every-
day lives, which are different
in so many ways.
Jersey is a relatively af-
fluent island and Orla, Mil-
lie and Sunny describe their
normal after-school activities
of dance classes and playing
computer games.
Though school food, school
uniform and some “naughty
boys” are common to both
sets of students on different
sides of the world.
But there is a silence on the
line from Jersey when There-
sa describes how one girl in
her class lost her much of her
family Ebola, forcing her to
live with her aunt.
Head teacher Sia M’Bayo
joins the conversation in
Freetown and tells the School
Report team in Jersey that in
her school of around 300 pu-
pils, six have lost both par-
There was shame
in store for Bihar as images
emerged of large-scale cheat-
ing by students in the state
board exams.
of taking strict action, the
state education minister PK
Shahi tried to shrug off gov-
ernment’s responsibility by
saying, “the government is
helpless to stop the dishonest
practices unless parents and
students cooperate for the
Tall claims of the Bihar
School Examination Board
of conducting free, fair and
peaceful examinations fell flat
as students were seen openly
cheating at various centres.
Shocking visuals of parents
and relatives scaling three to
four storey exam centres to
pass on chits to their wards
added to the shame.
At several centres, police
personnel failed to stop them
while at some they are seen
even helping in the cheating.
When asked about the un-
fair practices being used in
the examination on the side-
lines of Bihar legislative
council, Shahi questioned the
reporters in return, “Over 14
lakh students are taking the
examination. You tell us what
can the government do to stop
cheating id parents and rela-
tives are not ready to cooper-
ate? Should the government
give orders to shoot them?”
The education minister
went on record to say the
state government alone can-
not stop the unfair practices
is students and parents don’t
help. “The orders for conduct
of free and fair exams have
been given to district magis-
trates and police officials,” he
said but when it was pointed
out that even cops were seen
helping students, Shahi said,
“It may be that even their kin
are taking the exams so they
may be helping.” The minis-
ter expressed helplessness
in taking action even in the
remaining exams.
It may be mentioned that
over 14.26 lakh students are
appearing at the BSEB ma-
triculation examination be-
ing held at a little over 1,200
centres in the state. About
1,000 examinees have been
expelled from the examina-
tion in the first two days,
board officials said. The ex-
amination will conclude on
March 24.
(The Times of India)
Sunday, March 22, 2015
By Sandun Jayawardana
The British School in Co-
lombo, which is facing alle-
gations of unethical educa-
tional practices regarding the
International General Certifi-
cate of Secondary Education
(IGCSE) examination, has
chosen not to respond to an
article that appeared in The
Nation. However, the school
has issued a letter to parents
giving its side of the story.
The letter, dated March 9 and
signed by its Principal, Dr.
John Scarth, claims that The
Nation’s article is ‘erroneous,
misleading and ill-informed’.
The Nation
made several
attempts to reach Dr. Scarth
to see if the school intended
to respond to this newspaper
article. However, The Nation
was made to understand that
he was unreachable due to
meetings. As such, excerpts
of the letter to parents of the
school are published below:
“For IGCSE exams, a
“pass” grade is regarded as
grade C or better and to gain
entry into the 6th Form to
study for A levels, a student
is required to secure at least
5 subjects with grade C or
better, with B grades in the
subjects to be studied at A
This year, several students
achieved a U grade in differ-
ent subjects in their Mock
examinations. A U grade in-
dicates that it is highly un-
likely that the student will
be able to achieve a Grade C
in their actual examination.
In these cases, parents have
requested from the school
that the student drops that
subject so that they can con-
centrate on their other sub-
jects. Equally, sometimes
the school has advised par-
ents that it is advisable for
a student to drop a subject,
or subjects, so that they can
concentrate on the subjects
in which they have a much
better chance of success.
In every case, Mr Har-
wood, Deputy Principal, and
Ms Ferguson, Deputy Head
(Academic) met with the par-
ents and the student to fully
explain the school’s policy
and to ensure that parents
and student are in full agree-
ment with the proposed ac-
The article implies that
there are many students
who have been declined en-
try to IGCSE exams. This is
simply not true. The matters
discussed in the letter in
relate to one student
who failed all but one of his
mock examinations. Clearly,
this is a very unusual and
extreme case. It is always
difficult to discuss pupil
matters in public because it
is not fair to the individual
student or their parents.
What I can state unequivo-
cally is that Mr Harwood
and Ms Ferguson have been
involved with this family for
a long time, having meetings
on a regular basis to monitor
the student’s progress and
to offer support. After the
mock exams, further meet-
ings were held to discuss
the best way forward for the
student. Given the nature of
the mock exam results, Mr
Harwood and Ms Ferguson
believed the best solution
would be to delay entry for
IGCSE exams until next year
when the student would have
a better chance of gaining
pass grades. The parent dis-
agreed and preferred to have
their child entered for exams
this year as a private candi-
date, which is what has hap-
The newspaper and the
anonymous author claims
there are many other stu-
dents from the “special needs
department” entering as pri-
vate candidates for all their
subjects. This is simply not
the case. All other students
are being entered as candi-
dates through the school.
In some cases, students are
being entered privately for
a few examinations but this
is in addition to the school’s
entry for that child.”
Reporter’s note
The letter issued by the
school confirms the school
had ‘advised’ parents of
some students who scored
low marks at the mock exam-
inations that their children
drop certain subjects. It fur-
ther states that the parent of
one student who had failed
all but one subject had been
advised to delay their child’s
entry for IGCSE exams un-
til next year whereupon the
parent had chosen to enter
the student as a private can-
didate. It also goes onto con-
firm that students are in fact
being entered privately for ‘a
few examinations’. As such,
to call the article ‘erroneous,
misleading and ill-informed’
is factually incorrect.
The Nation
also has sever-
al questions to school admin-
istrators in respect to their
educational policies:
Are students al-
lowed to ignore this ‘advice’
to drop certain subjects?
How many students
have scored U grades in re-
cent years? Does this indi-
cate a drop in teaching stan-
Why are some chil-
dren being entered privately
for certain exams?
We hope the school would
use the opportunity to
British School in
Colombo ducks
The Nation
Letter to parents claims article
‘erroneous, misleading and ill-informed’
Comments by
The Na-
readers regarding
the article are published
below. See more at
Janitha Peris
Dear Parent,
This would not be the
first time such decisions
have been taken by Inter-
national Schools so that
they are able to announce
the100% pass mark at an
examination. By asking
weaker students to sit for
the exam privately, they
are able to make such
claims. I am a mother of a
student who was asked by
the school to sit the exam
privately and I also am a
teacher and educator. It is
a pity that schools resort
to such low tactics to safe-
guard their reputation for
100 per cent pass rate. By
asking weaker students
to sit privately the school
is no longer responsible
to the student education
but they show no qualms
in charging school fees.
The school and all educa-
tors of any reputation are
ethically bound to help
the weaker students, not
discard them. If you ask
the schools, what they do
to help such students, the
answer would be ‘NOTH-
ING’. The profit margins
of the school, do not al-
low for remedial classes
or any extra training for
staff so that they can help
weaker students.
Lankan citizen
Now, since this is a
school and, I surmise (al-
though I am not entirely
sure given this incident)
that its administrative
arm comprises of at least
a few educators, that they
are willing to learn some-
thing. If they are reading
this, they need to know a)
the law and b) the spirit
of running educational
institutions for children
regardless of whether
they are for profit or sans
On the matter of the
law, this is an extract
from the Constitution of
Sri Lanka. The relevant
articles I shall highlight
are as follows:
Article 12.1: No citizen
shall be discriminated
against on the grounds of
race, religion, language,
caste, sex, political opin-
ion, place of birth or any
one of such grounds and
Article 12.4: Nothing in
this Article shall prevent
special provision being
made, by law, subordinate
legislation or executive
action, for the advance-
ment of women, children
or disabled persons.
2 of the UN Convention
of the Rights of a Child
(CRC) to which Sri Lanka
is a signatory (although
going by this expose, it
seems that Britain is not),
states the following:
“The Convention ap-
plies to all children, what-
ever their race, religion
or abilities; whatever
they think or say, what-
ever type of family they
come from. It doesn’t mat-
ter where children live,
what language they speak,
what their parents do,
whether they are boys or
girls, what their culture
is, whether they have a
disability or whether they
are rich or poor. No child
should be treated unfairly
on any basis”.
Therefore, it is clear
that this school has vio-
lated in spirit and in pur-
pose the constitutional
guarantees available to
all Sri Lankan citizens
with the physical, mental
or learning related chal-
lenges and it has directly
violated the rights of a
child as declared by the
UN convention. If this is
a school that is registered
as a business venture in
Sri Lanka it should ad-
here to the constitution
and the laws of the land
and if it is “international”
then I would imagine they
mandate adherence to in-
ternational conventions.
They have failed in both.
Blue universe star
Why are the students
receiving poor results?
Because they are not be-
ing taught properly. From
what I know, the quali-
fied teachers are leaving
school. For that reason,
the Physics teacher is
teaching General Science.
In addition, the Mathe-
matics teacher is teaching
the students the theory
in the wrong method. In
this context, I request the
Honorable principal of
The British School in Co-
lombo to appoint qualified
and sufficient teachers
who are to maintain the
reputation of the school.
Orla, Sunny and Millie talking to Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Ebola virus means
‘school is not safe’
Open cheating
Parents ‘help’ wards
in Bihar board exams
Readers’ comments
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