A 27-year-old teacher taking a few moments’ rest in a classroom after a busy day at school was suddenly confronted by a woman – the wife of a member of the North Western Provincial Council – waving a child’s uniform at her.
In a loud voice the intruder demanded, “Mokakda me karapu wade?”(What is this you have done?). The teacher, Priyani Susila Herath, knew straight away what the problem was. That morning (Friday, June 14), prefects of Nawagaththegama Navodya School had carried out a routine inspection – conducted every Tuesdays and Fridays before school meetings – and found a few students (male and female) with uniforms that were shorter than the school standard length.
Traumatised: Priyani Susila Herath. Pix by Hasitha Kulasekera
“Since I was one of the teachers in charge of discipline at the school, I asked the prefects to conduct the inspection and to unpick the hem stitching of the short uniforms to make them longer,” Ms Herath told the Sunday Times in Nawagaththegama.
The teacher – who is in charge of teaching Sinhala language for Grades Nine to Eleven – said this was what the school disciplinary bodies usually do. “First we give the students a warning and if they still fail to follow the rules and regulations of the school we take certain actions. If there are students with dirty footwear we make them clean their shoes. This is what was practised even before I joined the school,” she said.
Ms Herath has worked at the school for seven years and been in charge of student discipline all that time. But when the Provincial Council member’s wife demanded an explanation for what she had done, the rattled teacher didn’t know if she had acted in error and asked the fuming mother to direct her question at the deputy principal (the principal was away at a meeting).
With a shrug the councillor’s wife left the room saying, “Api balagamu meka!” (We’ll see about this!). “I was very scared by then because I know how rude and offensive the Provincial Council member’s wife can be. By this time I did not know what to do,” Ms Herath said.
Ten minutes later she heard the sound of a vehicle screeching to a stop: the Provincial Council member, Ananda Sarath Kumara, had come to the school looking for her. Ms Herath said the deputy principal, teachers and other staff had advised her to leave the school premises for her own safety.
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