Vision impaired child is tortured by a teacher



Being a child with a disability Lahiru was subjected to torture and ill treatment. Though his parents have made several complaints and he has had to undergo harassment no justice has been received. 
Amuwaththe Mudiyanselage Lahiru Ruwan Chamara (13) a school child and the son of Mrs. Rathnayaka Mudiyanselage Daya Manike of No: 21, Sandunthannagama, Karagasthalawa, Belihul Oya is a student of R/Galagama Vidyalaya in Belihul Oya in the Rathnapura District.

Manike and her husband are also teachers attached to the same school. Lahiru has been suffering with vision disability since 2006 . His parents brought the child to the Badulla Teaching Hospital for treatment. The doctors at the hospital informed them that as the child had suffered for a long time without proper treatment his condition was now chronic. But the doctors started medications and the parents had to take him to the hospital's clinic on several occasions. As the medication was not having any effect the doctors at Badulla Teaching Hospital made the transfer documents and asked the parents to take the child to the Lady Ridgway Children Teaching Hospital at Colombo.

At the end of February 2009 the doctors at Lady Ridgeway Hospital in turn directed the parents to take Lahiru to the Eye Hospital of the National Hospital of Colombo. There Lahiru was diagnosed with keratoconus and admitted for further treatments. Then the Consultant Eye Surgeon, Dr. Manel Pasqual later advised the parents that Lahiru had to undergo surgery as the situation had worsened. Subsequently Lahiru underwent lens transplant surgery. When the child was released into his parent's care they were advised to pay extraordinary care and attention to the child. They further advised them to protect his eyes from dust and not to allow child to lift the heavy loads.

Lahiru was unable to attend his studies for a long period. As his parents were also teachers they finally they decided to take the child to school. When Lahiru went to the school all the teachers and the students at his class were well aware of his medical condition.

On 10 July 2009, Lahiru went to the school and in 5th period of the day was Practical Technology and the teacher Ms. Kanthi Pathirana asked the students to go and clean the garden and plant the some trees. Lahiru also had to go but after sometime he complained of a severe headache. Then in the 7th period Ms. Kanthi Pathirana came to the class room and beat with Lahiru with a stick. Other students were also beaten for not completing their work.

At the end of school Lahiri told his mother what happened to him. Then Lahiru's parents had gone to make a complaint to the principle of the school. As she was not present another teacher, Ms. Amara Aththanayaka, was standing in and they made a complaint to her. She promised to look after the matter.

Lahiru and his parents had to go to Colombo to attend the eye clinic the next day. But just after Lahiru returned home he fell asleep without removing his clothes and taking lunch. When his mother examined his back she saw two tramline contusions. (Tramline contusions are commonly found after the victim is beaten with a stick or cane). Meanwhile Lahiru complained that he was feeling faint.

They took Lahiru first to the Pambahinna Government Hospital. There the doctors advised them to first go and make a complaint at the Samanalawewa Police Station and admit the child to the Balangoda Hospital. The parents were able to make a written complaint at the police station and when they reached hospital the doctors at hospital advised them to admit the child for the treatment. Lahiru was treated in Balangoda Hospital for one day and discharged on 11 July 2009.

Then as the principle nor any of her representatives took any action in the matter the parents went and complained to the director at the Zonal Education Office. The personnel at that zonal office recorded a statement from the parents on the incident.

Further the parents made a complaint to the Zonal Educational Office of Rathnapura, Provincial Educational Director Rathnapura, Minister of Education Central Government, Chief Minister of Sabaragamuwa Province and to the Women and Child Care Bureau of the Sri Lanka Police.

Since then Lahiru and his parents have had to face continuous harassment at the school by the fellow teachers, principle and some relatives of the teacher, Ms. Kanthi Pathirana. The privileged people and the influence of political authorities in the area are believed to be behind this harassment.

Lahiru's parents continuously seek justice from the authorities at the Education Department but nothing has been done so far. According to the disciplinary code of Establishment Code all the state officers are subject to disciplinary inquiries on committing the offence indicated in the second schedule of the Establishment Code. Torturing a child has been criminalize in Sri Lankan law and the it has been considered as grave misconduct which can lead to the dismissal of state officers from his or her service. Although Ms Kanthi Pathirana being a teacher has committed a crime and offence under the both these laws of the country and state service still the victim child Lahiru and his family members have to face all this harassment.

Finally parents decided to complain to the Human Rights Commission on the violation of Lahiru's fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution of the country. on two occasions case was called and the parents noticed that the inquiry officer of the case not impartially hearing the case. They further noticed that they cannot get the justice they seek from the HRCSL. Then they went and complained to the legal officer at the HRC on the situation. Though the legal officer accepted the complaint still nothing has happened.

Samanalawewa Police initially called the principal, acting principle and the all the teachers of the school for a inquiry. In front of all, the teacher in question accepted that she had punished Lahiru but she said she did not beat him but instead only patted his back. Then the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the station insisted that the parents settle the matter which they refused as it was a case of torture with even the court cannot mediate. Then the case was referred to the Mediation Board.

Later the parent learned that the police have filed case in the Magistrate Court of Balangoda in a criminal case base on the complaint. Then it was informed that the case has been laid down to seek the advice of the Attorney General. Lahiru's family waited for but still is seems that nothing will happen.

Being a child with a disability Lahiru was subjected to torture and ill treatment. Though his parents have made several complaints and he has had to undergo harassment no justice has been received.

Presently Lahiru is refusing to go to school. Lahiru complained that many of his fellow students are not associating with him now. Further he complained that many teachers are discriminating against him.

A few months ago there was a news paper report published in Lankadeepa on the incident. After that other teachers of the school turned against the parent stating that the case defamed the school. Meanwhile the principle called a School Development Association meeting and discussed the matter and finally they also accepted that punishing the student was legal which did not clearly mention that physical and mental torture is illegal. This discussion implicitly recommended the physical and mental torture. P

Further the Lahiru and his parents are being threatened to leave the school which is obviously a violation of all of the rights to work and receive an education.

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