'Investment in education futile if nation is ailing':
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
The moment a child enters the school gates the child is the concern
of the school authorities. Whether the school has begun or not, or staff
members are in or out, a proper mechanism should be put in place to
safeguard and protect children while they are within the perimeters of
the school, Dr.Ayesha Lokubalasooriya, who is in charge of the School
Health Unit of the Family Health Bureau in an interview with the Sunday
Observer said. She said schools cannot shirk that prime responsibility.
Excerpts of the interview
We must keep in mind that just as looking after the discipline of
students -their safety is equally important. Everyone takes pains to
ensure that children adhere to school disciplinary norms, prefects and
staff members check the hair (even those of the very young children),
dress code and finger nails, While this is commendable, safety of
children cannot be relegated to a back seat.
The child may have to live his entire life with a permanent
disability suffered during his young days in school. Schools must ensure
that students' safety is their number one priority and that this should
not be compromised under any circumstances.
Having said that, fatal or grievous accidents in our state schools
are common. We must congratulate the school authorities for maintaining
such standards. However, if the turf roller at Ananda College was
properly secured, the unfortunate death of the nine- year- old could
have been averted.
In playful mood
Now following such a tragic accident, chances are that parents and
teachers will prevent children from engaging in physical activity,
sometimes it maybe to protect them or to avoid being blamed. This is not
a good thing and will have repercussions. Children should be allowed at
least one hour's play activity during school time for sound physical and
mental development. The best time for that is before school and during
Being paranoid about safety will not help the child's well-being.
During our time, when there was a free period the class teacher or a
relief teacher let us play. This practice is long gone in an era where
academic activities has superseded every other aspect of school. It is
conveniently forgotten that play is a child's basic right. Restricting
young children to the four walls of the classroom is unacceptable. It
may be done with good intentions but children must be allowed to play at
home and in school under supervision.
Dangerous: Hanging onto a barbed wire fence!
an innate desire to play and should be permitted to do so under
Children learn about hazards and how to keep themselves safe only
through experience. One or two incidents of this nature should not block
them from learning such life skills. Experience enables them become
familiar with harmful objects and the need to keep away from them.
Another aspect is that children play with harmful objects since there
is no sports equipment available. Schools must ensure that the sports
room where children can get sports equipment to play and return. In
other countries this is the practice, chances of children playing with
hazardous equipment is minimal. School Development Societies can fund
such projects if state assistance is lacking.
One excuse trotted out by teachers for restricting children from play
are the over-size classes. In certain popular schools, the number of
students in a class exceeds 50. Teachers have to cope with generally 10
per cent of hyperactive children in a class. So 45 normal children and
five hyperactive ones, in a play ground managed by one teacher is no
easy task. This is an area education authorities must focus on.
While the syllabus needs to be reduced to give teachers more freedom
to accommodate play time, there has to be a way to reduce her burden of
looking after a big class single handedly.
Further, the school authorities must undertake an internal inspection
round once a week within and around the school to locate hazardous
places and equipment lying around. Public Health officials visit schools
to inspect buildings, wiring, and other dangers once a year but that
alone is not enough, schools must do it frequently.
Parents must make safety of children and creating a safe environment
in school, their responsibility as well. If there are items that can put
children's safety at risk such things must be immediately removed
without hesitation or someone must be entrusted with that task.
Large schools with over say about 6000 students must devise
indigenous plans for each sectional head to be responsible for their
environment, to keep their area child proof, for instance class rooms,
garden and play area. Principal, Deputy Principals and the sectional
heads must undertake inspection tours in the school environs everyday at
random. This is critical to protect children.
A school health club concept has been implemented in some schools.
One of the objectives of these clubs is to have a trained first aid
response team in the school. Our target is to have at least one student
with training in Cardio respiratory resuscitation, in each secondary
class but this is yet to be achieved.
Another disturbing issue is that since 2006, health has become a
basket subject. Sixty per cent of students choose health as their basket
subject but of late Information Technology has gained popularity
relegating it to 40 %. When IT facilities in schools being further
improved, we expect a lesser number of students to choose health as a
As a result health literacy of students will drop significantly and
the result will be disastrous.
I believe health is a critical subject that needs to be taught early
so that children will grow up with healthy habits. The effects of this
short- sighted decision will be felt in ten years. Already the rate of
non communicable diseases such as diabetes have reached epidemic
proportions and heart disease among young adults are increasing.
Investment in education will be futile if the nation is ailing. What
is the use of an engineer or chartered accountant if he is handicapped
"School Health Unit is one of the ten units under the purview of the
Family Health Bureau of the Health Ministry which is entrusted with
protecting Maternal and Child Health. The School Health Unit is
responsible for guiding schools to improve health in schools.
Ensure safety, says School Sports Director
In the aftermath of the grievous accidents that occurred in Panamura
Maha Vidyalaya, Embilipitiya and Ananda College, Colombo the Education
Ministry's Sports Unit Director has issued a circular last week with
guidelines to ensure the safety of students who take part in sports, by
standers or students merely playing in the school ground.
The Ministry Director in Charge of School Sports B.A.Abeyratne said
the circular will be issued to Zonal Directors and Provincial Education
Secretaries to convey its contents to all state schools under national
and provincial level.
"Due to such unfortunate accidents which could have been prevented,
parents fear sending children to take part in sports activities in
school. This is unfortunate given that sports activity and play lay
foundation of their childhood development." "In the light of this it is
vital that schools authorities strictly adhere to safety precautions
during sports meets," he said.
Mechanism to ensure child safety - NCPA Chairman
National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) Chairperson Anoma
Dissanayake said the NCPA will discuss with the education Ministry a
mechanism to delegate responsibility to ensure child safety during
Speaking about the unfortunate accidents which occurred recently in
two schools and, in the aftermath of the sudden accidental death of the
nine-year-old student of Ananda College two weeks ago, she said this
responsibility should be delegated from the school authorities right
down to staff members, prefects, older students and parents.
" Actually we are seeking serious measures to be taken by school
authorities to ensure the safety of children during school time," she
said emphasising that from the time a child walks into school until the
time he or she leaves the premises,schools will have to guarantee the