Grade One admission frauds | Sunday Observer

Grade One admission frauds

22 January, 2017
Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and Joseph Stalin

January, the month in which a new set of students enter the school education system of the country every year, is always a period full of conflicts for school principals, teachers, parents and education authorities.

This year too, Grade One admission to most of the popular schools in the country has caused a lot of controversy due to student admissions with fake addresses and schools claiming exorbitant sums from parents to get their children admitted to these popular schools.

Amid these controversies, investigations conducted by the Education Ministry on Grade One admission to Royal College, Colombo, concluded with the rejection of 31 students in the list approved for admission.

“The Education Ministry investigating into the Grade One admission process of Royal College found that 31 of the applicants had given fake addresses”, Education Media Secretary Kalpa Gayan Gunarathne said.

“Fraudulence on Grade One admissions has not only taken place at Royal College, but also, Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda, Ananda College Colombo, Nalanda College Colombo, Maliyadeva Boys’ and Girls’ schools in Kurunegala, Mahinda College Galle, Kandy Girls’ High School and Dharmaraja College, Kandy. Investigations are now being carried out by the Education Ministry on the complaints, as most of the parents have given forged and non-existing addresses”, he added.

Education Minister, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, addressing a recent press conference said, an inquiry was held on receiving several complaints about irregularities that have allegedly taken place in Grade One admissions to popular schools.

“We have investigated 147 addresses mentioned in the applications to the Royal College and detected 31 fraudulently prepared documents. The documents had addresses of several public places, security counters, religious places and business establishments. In one document, the address was the Northern Province Chief Minister’s residence. The CM was not even aware of it. The admissions of the 31 students were rejected and investigations on other schools still continue, ” he said.

Secretary, All Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin said, “We have received numerous complaints regarding Grade one admission frauds. We have also complained on the irregularities in admitting students to Royal College, Colombo, as we have received complaints in this regard. However, the Education Ministry claims they have suspended the admissions and that investigations are currently under way”, he added.

“The question is, what action is the Ministry going to take against those involved in this issue? It is a well-known fact that there is a group within Royal College, engaged in extorting money from potential students’ families in order to admit their children to the school,” he said, adding that this is not an isolated matter and not something that occurs at Royal College, only.

“It happens in Kurunegala, Kandy, Galle and many other Colombo schools as well. In order to include the children who are admitted through influence, they cannot add more classes, but they inevitably have to remove some of the eligible students on the list to accommodate them. It is a big problem in the country where children are admitted to schools through either a Minister’s mediation or some other influence. It has been the practice for a long time. This procedure has to change if there is to be a change in this corrupt system.” Stalin said.

He further explained, of the 10,022 schools island wide, there are 350 National schools and the competition to get children into popular schools exists only in around 36 of these schools.

“The government needs to provide a solution to this problem. The only option is to remove the Primary sections in these schools. If the Primary sections are removed, the clamouring to get children into these schools will end. Then what is needed is to formulate an entry criteria for students, at Grade six level. It is the only solution, and is something that even the Education Commission had recommended. If a solution is not found, the issue will not end, and even parents will continue to bribe officials to get their children into popular schools, no matter what laws and regulations are put in place,” he said.

“In 1943, C.W.W. Kannangara introduced free and equal education to the country but we have failed to treat all students equally. In President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100 day program, it was promised that a permanent solution will be given to problems related to Grade one admissions in schools but it is yet to come, as was promised”, he added.

Stalin said, ‘The Ministry of Education has failed to take an initiative to solve this problem. The Royal College issue is not something new, and has the support of politicians. The old boys of these popular schools are behind the scene. A circular issued in 2008 clearly says, the Old Boys’ Association (OBA) cannot collect money from students. They are violating the circular, and say they collect money for school development programs.”

Stalin further added, “In 2007, a similar issue came up with Grade one school admissions and the court issued an order to the Secretary of the President to formulate a clear policy. The Secretary of the President handed over the responsibility to the National Education Commission and directed them to formulate the policy. Prof A.V. Suraweera, the then Chairman of the National Institute of Education made a proposal and presented to the President. This proposal, to remove the primary sections of these schools should be implemented. We request the government to take a clear decision on this matter.”

Education Media Secretary Gunarathne said, “Due to the irregularities reported in the Grade One school admissions at Royal College, the Education Ministry has decided to launch an island-wide school board system by the end of this year. According to the proposed system, there is to be one board for each main school, and one board for several small schools, in the educational zones, island wide.”

The Education Ministry, while acknowledging the lack of an investigative mechanism to look into complaints of irregularities in school Grade One admissions, added that with the available resources they have commenced investigations into several popular schools island-wide.

Several attempts to contact the Royal College Principal, B. A. Abeyrathna regarding the issue failed.

Public views on Grade One admission frauds

* On various social media websites public were quick to express their disgust regarding the exposed Grade one admission frauds. Many among the general populace was of the opinion that the rejection of the 31 students to Royal College is an apt move which will warn other parents to refrain from attempting similar frauds in the future. Others also thought that offenders should be jailed.

* One member of the public recalled how in the past, some school authorities would unexpectedly drop in to the address declared in the admission form to check whether the parents and the child actually lived there, while it is said the late L.D.H Peiris, a former Principal of Royal College too would on some occasions accompany these officials, a far cry from Principals who have also been embroiled in admission frauds in recent times.

* However, some took a more sympathetic approach saying children should not be punished for fraud committed by parents. According to one, the halting of the admissions of the 31 students is too severe a punishment while another suggested that the government should set up a unit in the Education Ministry to manage enrolments of new students to all public schools.

* Many were of the opinion that students should be admitted to popular schools on the performance of the Scholarship examination, thereby preventing the powerful and the connected from admitting their children to schools in an unfair manner. They say, children should be taken on a credit basis, instead.