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Sunday, 16 January 2011

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Irregularities at orphanage come to light:

Nobody’s children

Several orphanages in the Anuradhapura district have come under the scrutiny of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) following complaints made by the public against the Awathiwedhi orphanage at Anuradhapura. The allegations levelled against the institution is with regard to malnutrition, harassment and cruelty meted out to innocent under privileged girls languishing at the orphanage. Most girls found there were underage girls, sources told the “Sunday Observer.”

Following investigations the (NCPA) questioned a matron and several other officials responsible for administering the Avathiwedhi children’s home.

The warden and the Sub warden were taken into custody by the NCPA for cruelty and for displaying callous attitude and disregard of the well being of children. The suspects were produced before the Anuradhapura Magistrate who remanded them until investigations were completed.

Several allegations levelled against the Avanthiwedhi child’s orphanage was investigated by the NCPA. They found glaring lapses at the Children’s orphanage. They learnt the orphanage was administered by a volunteer organisation in the area. The orphanage also came under the purview of the Probation Department at Anuradhapura.

Plight

What shocked the NCPA sleuths was about the plight of malnourished underage girls at the orphanage. The girls were clad in filthy rags and gave the appearance that their clothes had not being laundered for weeks. The girls looked traumatised and neglected as if they have not bathed for days. When they were politely questioned by the NCPA sleuths, the girls looked too scared to speak out anything against the orphanage or against its guardians. The girls were between the ages of 4 - 19 years. They had become destitute due to unfortunate turn of events in life beyond their control.

Some girls have been abandoned and left in the lurch by their parents when they were infants while others have been tortured by their parents for various reasons. In several instances their parents have separated and the girls have been subject to cruel inhuman treatment by their guardians. Some even have been sexually exploited and even burnt by their kith and kin for minor lapses. There have also been instances where children have been subject to incest while their mothers have gone to the Middle East in search of greener pastures. There were 39 girls including several under aged girls when NCPA officials visited the Awanthiwedhi orphanage. Of this number 19 girls had been sent there on the recommendation of the Probation Department through court orders for their own protection and for their own well being, to continue education and lead happy lives there after.

The reason to probe into affairs of the orphanage by the NCPA was due to complaints that the girls were subject to sexual harassment by officials who administered the orphanage.

There were also complaints that the girls were on the brink of starvation. They had not been properly fed. NCPA had several issues to investigate at the orphanage.

They learnt that the girls who attended the K. B. Ratnayake school at Anuradhapura went to school in the morning starving.

The orphanage did not provide breakfast and the girls fell asleep at school due to weakness. Meanwhile girls from other five orphanages in Anuradhapura who attended the same school were provided with breakfast by the respective orphanages. The sleuths visited the K. B. Ratnayake School and met its Principle and discussed the plight of the children. The principal directed them to a school teacher and instructed him to show the children who came from the Avathiwedi orphanage. When NCPA sleuths visited the classroom they found the girls below the age of 13 clad in filthy unwashed uniforms. They had come to school that day bare footed and some had sores on their feet and hands.

Disoriented

The children looked thoroughly disoriented and neglected and uncared for. When questioned the children replied that they haven’t had food for breakfast and looked at each other puzzled.

Although the children were hesitant to speak to the sleuths at first they overcame their inhibitions and spoke to them candidly about the sordid conditions prevailing at the orphanage. The revelations shocked the NCPA officials. They realised how difficult it was for children as young as five, six, seven years to bear the pangs of hunger unlike adults who can withstand such traumas.

The sleuths knew that the children were devoid of love, compassion and care at the Orphanage.

They were deprived of breakfast and made to trudge all the way to school barefooted. NCPA noted that the basic facilities at the Awathiwedhi orphanage were far from satisfactory. The toilet were putrid and so were the dormitories where children slept on dirty linen and torn bug infested mattresses. NCPA officials said such conditions break down the morale of children.

NCPA said the most intriguing fact was that children from other orphanages attending the K.B. Ratnayake Vidyalaya had food parcels delivered to them. But children from the Awathiwedhi orphanages hadn’t anything to eat at all. They were left starving when other children ate the food joyfully.

Later when sleuths visited the Awanthiwedhi orphanage around 11.30.a.m they found the other children at the orphanage also being deprived of the breakfast. They even found the mid-day meal for the children had not been cooked by that time. After recording statements of the battered children and the officials, the sleuths came to know a girl was unmercifully beaten up by the woman warden recently.

They investigated the matter and learnt the reason for the beating was due to a personal matter. The girl in question had told other girls about a clandestine love affair between a couple in the management. When sleuths questioned regarding the assault they were told that it was over a private matter.

Escorted

However the matter is being further investigated by the NCPA to ascertain the truth. According to observations the orphanage was a hell hole for children, NCPA said.

Meanwhile 19 girl inmates of the Awathiwedhi orphanage were escorted by a female officer of the NCPA and produced before a doctor at a state hospital nearby for treatment.

Another nine girl inmates were later produced before the JMO Anuradhapura for examination and report.

The woman warden and the Sub woman warden were taken into custody and was produced before the Anuradhapura Magistrate who remanded them until investigations are completed.

The NCPA officials told court the children at the Awathiwedi orphanage to be brought under the care of the Assistant Commissioner of the Probation Department at Anuradhapura. Accordingly the court ordered the board of management of the Awanthiwedi orphanage to be changed forthwith. Subsequently the Assistant Commissioner of Probation and Child Care took charge of the children at the orphanage and much relief has been provided to the inmates of the orphanage.

 

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