NCPA, Education Ministry to probe participation of school children in longest saree stunt

Saturday, 23 September 2017 00:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

by Chathuri Dissanayake

A team of National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) officials have been assigned to investigate the use of school children in an attempt to make a Guinness World Record for the longest saree by a Kandy based beautician. The Ministry of Education has launched its own investigation into the same matter. 

Following a public backlash on the alleged use of 250 primary school students of the Alwathugoda Sarath Ekanayake Primary School to carry the three mile long sari along the Gannoruwa–Kandy Road in the hot sun, NCPA Chairperson Marini De Livera yesterday assigned a team of investigators including police officials attached to the organisation to carry out an investigation into the incident. 

“The team of officials who have been dispatched includes both undercover and police officers. They have been instructed to carry out a full investigation and report on the matter. We will take action once the full investigation is over,” she told Daily FT. 

The NCPA also received a complaint on the matter highlighting the exercise amounted to mass child labour and child abuse. 

A complaint was made to NCPA by activist Kusal Perara highlighting that the incident “amounts to child abuse, torture both physically and mentally, exploitation, harassment and irresponsibility on the part of the school administration and connivance on the part of the Chief Minister of the Central Province who is the Minister of Education for Central Province.

Urging the authorities to take immediate action, Perera highlights that failing to do so would create a precedent in using school children for publicity stunts of individuals with political power and connections, violating the rights of children at will.

According to interviews given by the Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayake, the children were asked to come to the venue at 2 a.m. on the day of the event. Some children were recruited to the bridal retinue as flower girls.  The team of investigators will also be questioning education officials to uncover details, she said. 

The Education Ministry too has launched its own investigation, after the incident was highlighted in both mainstream and social media. 

The principal of the school was seen actively participating in the event, giving instructions to teachers and children involved.