On January 8th we elected in an executive in hopes that corruption and nepotism will be rid from our governing figures. What we didn’t anticipate was the sheer stupidity that would follow. Though that may sound harsh, it isn’t my job to be politically correct. That is the executive’s job- and even if he can’t manage that, he and ministers should at least learn to be factually correct when they make decisions and make statements. The Minister of Education (MoE) has a very important task to carry out within his or her country. That is, to ensure that each and every child within his/her country is provided a platform to obtain their fundamental right to education.
Within Sri Lanka however, we have a MoE who felt that it was his duty to ensure that a child was restricted of that simple right, because he believed that a six year old child could spread the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) by journeying to his 1st grade class and learning how to add odd and even numbers together. A six year old boy residing in Kuliapitiya was refused admission to school because he was suspected of having contracted the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). His father had passed away from the virus. This was a direct order from Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, the MoE. The reasoning behind this order was, the parents of other students in his grade one class refused to send their students to school while the boy was at school, leaving the child isolated within his classroom. Further, if that wasn’t bad enough, Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had ordered provincial authorities including Zonal Education Director A. S. K Jayalath against finding an amicable solution to the problem.
Let’s break this down in bullets in hopes that those up top, who I hope will eventually read this, actually understand the contents of this article, these are the issues that I see with this situation;
(i) First and foremost, this is a simple violation of this child’s basic Human Rights. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. And now individuals may argue that a Human Right could be curtailed in the event of possible 3rd Party harm. Yes most definitely so, but that brings me to my next point
(ii) Now our President, who has served one year in office, used to be the Minister of Health within our country. So you would think, he would educate his Minister’s and his citizens to know how exactly Sexually Transmitted Diseases spread. HIV is not spread easily. Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV:
So to put this simply (I apologise if this is vulgar I’m trying to make this as simple as possible) unless any of the following happened;
(1)The mother and the child were having sexual intercourse
(2)The mother and the child were sharing syringes and injecting themselves with unhygienic needles
(3)The mother and the child shared fecal matter with each other (And even if this were the case, These body fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into your bloodstream (by a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth. So the feces would literally have to go from one rectum into another. )
(4)The child, at age 6 mind you, was still being breast fed. Now I will bet your bottom dollar that none of those 4 methods occurred between the mother and the child.
And further, even if the child DID have HIV (which has been confirmed to be false) there is no way this child could have spread it to the other school children unless he was going about having sexual intercourse with the other school children and sharing a needle of heroin during interval. (This is a 1st Grader Ladies and Gentlemen)
But even when medical reports were produced indicating he was not infected with the virus, he was not granted admission to the school. This is DISGUSTING!
(iii) So the first problem that lies with point (ii) is that the citizens of Kuliyapitiya are severely misinformed and this is a great oversight by a President who used to be the Minister of Health of the nation. I’m not going to delve too far into the cultural aspect because that is a monstrous issue on its own, however, because of the fact that the average school student isn’t receiving standard Sexual Education classes, this is the result.
The reasoning behind us not having proper sexual education in our school systems is because of the huge cultural and religious bias that goes into governing our country, but that’s an issue for a different article.But it isn’t just the people of Kuliyapitiya who are misinformed, or “HIV-phobic” as a writer of the Colombo Telegraph so rightfully put it, more than anyone, Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam is the most misinformed: “This is a tropical country and there are ways the child can contract it as he sleeps next to his mother. So we have requested the mother to hand over the child to probationary services, but if she doesn’t then we will get a court order and take him away,
So not only is he going to violate his fundamental Human Rights, but he is also going to threaten to take him away from his Mother, because Minister Kariyawasam bunked school when they were teaching about STDs- oh wait, schools in Sri Lanka don’t delve into safe sex teachings. This is atrocious, to threaten this woman the way the Minister did is absolutely disgusting and appalling.
The law has no grounds to take away this child from his Mother and the Executive should be absolutely ashamed for having individuals such as Minister Kariyawasam within his government. Just a side note, what jurisdiction does Minister Kariyawasam have to call for that sort of action! He is the MoE not the Minister of Health or even the Minister for Women’s and Children’s rights!
Coupled with this, the President has said: “The society doesn’t have an understanding about this issue, this is why such a situation has happened,”Now Mr. President, a direct question to you, if you aknowledge that society (and it isn’t society and the fundamental human rights activists that blew this situation out of proportion as claimed by your MoE, it was Kariyawasam himself. With his lack of knowledge and utterly atrocious method of handling a situation that did) is misinformed on this topic, then why on earth do you sit idle while still, even in the most prominent schools in Colombo, there is no proper SexEd in the country’s core curriculum.
It’s just sad Sir, especially seeing that you were the Minister of Health. (iv) The other issue with this situation is that now, this child will never be looked at or be treated the same way. He will now not be able to live a normal childhood and his mother will not be accepted as she should be in the community because of the actions of Minister Kariyawasam and the failure to act by President Sirisena.
He will be ragged in school, he may not be treated the same by teachers and he will be most certainly be mistreated within the community.This is something that no call from the President can fix unfortunately, though he may think so. These are the injustices that most commonly go unheard because they aren’t voiced. Because of the attention this family has received by the media, their life may never be the same.
I had recently heard that Trinity College, Kandy may be admitting the child to their school and if this is the case, I am absolutely elated and commend the school highly for their gesture. However, this boy was just a teardrop in this ocean of a mess that this country has become thanks to our governing leaders. When will atrocities such as these cease to exist? When will I be able to open the news app on my phone and read news of joyous occasions rather than Human Rights Violations going unchecked? It is a sad day in Sri Lanka, and the executive does not seem to care.
For further information regarding the story please review the sources below.
http://www.asianmirror.lk/news/item/15063-false-scare-on-child-with-hiv-aids-forces-closure-of-kuliyapitiya-school http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=2016/03/05/local/kuliyapitiya-child-be-admitted-trinity http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=2016/03/01/features/schoolboys-agony-claim-his-right-education http://lankanewsweb.net/news/item/2420-hiv-fear-abandons-kuliyapitiya-child