SRI LANKA: Five girls assaulted and ill-treated by teachers due to principal’s negligence


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-213-2008
ISSUES: Child rights, Inhuman & degrading treatment, Police negligence, Right to education,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that while five students were being assaulted and ill- treated by teachers, the principal failed to intervene in the situation. He asked the father of one of the students to forget the incident. As a result, the students are afraid to return to school, due to the degrading treatment received from their teachers. This will be a great detriment to their future lives and careers.


Sri Kanthulage Harsha Udayangani, Pallikondage Lakmini Chndrani Perera, Jayathungage Nimesha Dilki Chathurangi, Jayani Gamage, Sashi Praba Sandeepani are Grade 13 arts students (girls) of the Bandaragama National School.

On 9 September, 2008 during the morning hours of school, Rev. Polgahawela Somarathana, teacher, demanded to know from his class who had attended the tuition class conducted by one Sannasgala. He then shouted at the next class where teacher -Rev. Parasthota Lakkana was teaching, demanding that he too ask, if there were any students who had attended Sannasgala’s Sinhala tuition class.

At around 1pm another teacher Rev. Mukuruppe Somalankara demanded that those students who had attended Sannasgala’s tuition class step out. Accordingly 5 girls stepped out. Rev. Polgahawela Somarathana and Rev. Parasthota Lakkana were also present. Then, Rev. Polgahawela Somarathana scolded the 5 girls soundly using demeaning and degrading language for attending Sannasgala’s tuition class.  He threatened them and then demanded to know if they will attend Sanasgala’s tuition class in the future.  All but one student said that they would have to ask their parents first. An angry Rev. Polgahawela Somarathana then demanded that they bring their parents to school on the following day.

The girls were afraid to go to school on the next day but returned on September 11.  About 9.30,during the 3rd school,period Rev. Mukuruppe Somalankara asked the girls to bring their bags and come out of the classroom. Then he started to cane the girls on their hands asking why their parents had not come. He scolded the girls using the basest language and told them to leave the school. After that he told them to put their bags over their shoulders and kneel near the science laboratory, in the hot sun, until1:30pm. The girls did so, but could not stay the full 4 hours until 1.30 pm as they began feeling sick.  Rev.Somalankara was duly informed by the girls.

As a result of the caning Harsha Udayangani’s hands cracked and started to bleed. However, Rev. Mukuruppe Somalankara and other teachers who saw this laughed and joked about it.

The girls sent messages to their parents to come to school. When the father of Harsha Udayangani   who’s hand was bleeding met Rev. Mukuruppe Somalankara, the latter merely smiled and said sarcastically that he had only tapped the girls hands. Then, Harsha Udayangani’s father met the Principal Ranjith Premasiri who did not take the situation seriously merely stating that “think it was me who hit your daughter and forget the matter”. Because of the Principal’s statement, Harsha’s father did not lodge a complaint at the police station or take his daughter to the hospital.

On September 12, when the girls went back to school, they heard another female teacher loudly and maliciously asking Rev. Parasthota Lakkana why the girls were allowed to come back to school. This was said with the purpose of being overheard by the girls. After that the girls did not go back to school for fear of repercussions.

On September 18, the girls and their parents sent complaints to several relevant authorities together with a plea for justice.


No teacher or Principal of a school has the right to keep a student from attending school. In this case the incident was provoked because the girls attended a tuition class with another teacher.

The girls are studying in a Grade 13 exam class. They will be sitting for their Advanced Level’s, the highest school certificate examination in Sri Lanka. The exam for this class will be held in August 2009.  A breach in their studies at this juncture will be detrimental both to their school careers and their futures. It is very important that this situation is immediately looked into and sorted out.


Article 28 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which Sri Lanka is a state party says, 
“States Parties [should] recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity”.

Article 27(2) (h) of the Sri Lankan Constitution states an objective of the state is “the complete eradication of illiteracy and the assurance to all persons of the right to universal and equal access to education at all levels.” Article 27(5) also states, “the State shall strengthen national unity by promoting co-operation and mutual confidence among all sections of the People of Sri Lanka, including the racial, religious, linguistic and other groups, and shall, take effective steps in the fields of teaching, education and information in order to eliminate prejudice.”

In addition, there are other laws regarding corporal punishment.

Article 37(a) of the CRC says the child is protected from all forms of discrimination or punishment. It also says that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of status [Article 2(2)], and Sri Lanka as a state party should take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim [Article 39].

Furthermore, article 11 of the Sri Lankan Constitution also points out that everyone has the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Section 308 A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code (amendment) also states that cruelty against children causing hurt, grievous or simple as well as torture, is a criminal offence. Moreover, the Circular No. ED/01/12/01/04/24, issued by the Education Department on 11 May 2005 to all local schools, regulates corporal punishment and assault of school children in Sri Lanka.

Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and request them to take immediate and appropriate action to restore the right to education of these students. Please also urge them to investigate this case so that the practice of corporal punishment is prohibited as written in the law.

Please be informed that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of education calling for an investigation in this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________,

SRI LANKA: Five girls assaulted and ill treated by teachers due to principal’s negligence

Name of victims:
1. Sri Kanthulage Harsha Udayangani 
2. Pallikondage Lakmini Chndrani Perera 
3. Jayathungage Nimesha Dilki Chathurangi 
4. Jayani Gamage 
5. Sashi Praba Sandeepani 
(All are all Grade 13 Arts female students of the Bandaragama National School) 
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Rev. Mukuruppe Somalankara 
2. Rev. Polgahawela Somarathana
3. Rev. Parasthota Lakkana
4. Principal Ranjith Premasiri
(All are all teachers and the Principal of the Bandaragama National School)
Date of incident: September 9, 11 and 12, 2008
Place of incident: Bandaragama National School

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding corporal punishment and continued ill- treatment by teachers against five female students in the Bandaragama National School since September 9, 2008.

According to the information that I have received, three teachers caned the five female students causing one student’s hand to bleed. The reason for this punishment is that they attended a tuition class of their own choice. In front of the other school children they continued to be ill-treated by being scolded in a demeaning and degrading manner.

Even though the Principal of the school has a responsibility to stop such corporal punishment according to  Circular No. ED/01/12/01/04/24, he did not, he simply ignored it.  He even suggested to one of the students’ fathers that he forget it. He himself did not intervene in this incident and allowed other teachers to ill- treat the girls without any intervention on his part. Finally, the children were told to leave the school and they are now afraid to return.

I am aware that article 11 of the Sri Lankan Constitution says that everyone has the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and its Penal Code, Section 308 A clearly stipulates that cruelty against children causing hurt, grievous or simple as well as torture, is a criminal offence. Furthermore, based on the UN Convention on the rights of the child to which Sri Lankan is a state party, Sri Lanka shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of the child victim.

In light of the above, I urge you to investigate this case so that those responsible for corporal punishment and ill -treatment against the students are punished according to the law. I further urge that the right to an education by the students, who are in a crucial examination class, be protected and guaranteed. Anything detrimental to their school careers and future lives should be eliminated. I finally urge you to investigate the negligent lack of action on the part of the principal who allowed other teachers to ill-treat children under their care. This kind of practice should not reoccur in the school.

I believe that you will take proper action in this matter.

Yours sincerely,



1. Secretary
Education Department

2. Director Education
National Schools
Ministry of Education

3. Chairperson
National Child Protection Authority 
330, Thalawathgoda Road 
Fax: +94 11 2 778975
Tel: +94 11 2 778912/13/14 

4. Chairperson
OIC Women and Children’s Bureau
25, Yst Building Srimath Baronthilake Mawatha
Colombo 01

5. Secretary 
Human Rights Commission
No. 36, Kynsey Road 
Colombo 8 
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806 
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470 

6. Head of Child Protection
UNICEF Sri Lanka
P.O. Box 143, Colombo
Tel: +94 11 2 555 270 (6 lines)
Fax: +94 11 2 551 333

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-213-2008
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Child rights, Inhuman & degrading treatment, Police negligence, Right to education,