Feature Article

Eastern schools seen shielding SLA camps

[TamilNet, Sunday, 14 December 1997, 23:59 GMT]
On his way to school Ram 12, was stopped by a group of Sri Lankan soldiers in front of his school. They asked him to open his bag and show them its contents. The books were thrown down. The bag was empty. There was nothing inside. He was then allowed to go.

Ram is an intelligent boy. He is keen to learn and studies hard although there is no electricity in his home. Ram (not his real name) use to love his school.

But now, things are different.

He now hates the very idea of going to school.

The Sri Lankan army has set up a camp next to his school. Since then he has been bullied by the soldiers many times.

Besides, he had heared many stories about the soldiers. At his tender age in his mind the soldiers were just a bunch of 'baddies', real baddies.

He is scared when they summon him often to fetch them water or buy cigarettes from the tea boutique near the school.

His performance in class has steadily declined says his teacher.

There are several Rams in Eastern Sri Lanka. And there are several army camps adjoining Tamil schools.

Despite public protests regarding the location of these camps, neither the security forces nor the Sri Lankan government have responded. The army continues to stay close to the schools.

"The students are eternally in a state of anxiety. They are psychologically always in a tense state which reduces their ability to concentrate on their studies" Murakoddanchenai Ramakrishna Mission School teacher Ms. Shanthy Maniam told the TamilNet correspondent who visited the place last week.

"We are always concerned about the dangers of such a set up. In case of a rebel attack on the adjoining camp what will happen to the school children?. What if a grenade is flung into the camp or an automatic rifle accidentally goes off?" she queried.

The children too were aware of these dangers, and perhaps that is why they are unable to concentrate on their studies properly, she said.

"It's happening. I see their performance deteriorating" laments Ms. Shanthi Maniyam.

Miss Vedanayakam Pirapaliny, another teacher from Cehettipalayam, said as all Tamil youth between 12-19 come under the 'suspect category' of the Sri Lankan security forces,even students of her school had been often checked and interrogated by the Sri Lankan soldiers before they enter the school premises.

"Because of the military camp the students cannot use the school playground either" She added.

The Sri Lankan Army is using these students as human shield accused Batticaloa District In service Training Coordinator of the Dept of Education, P. Ravishankar.

"Despite the fact that war ethics prevent setting up camps in the vicinity of places like hospitals, schools etc., the Govt. doesn't seem to be concerned", he said.


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