Stop Child Cruelty Trust (SCC) together with the Child Protection Alliance (CPA) are thrilled to celebrate their indefatigable efforts towards sustainable, progressive changes in ending violence against children with the launch of the National ‘Happier and Safer Education – Secure Schools Program’, which received approval from Education authorities, National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and UNICEF.
Since SCC spearheaded the formation of CPA two years ago, they have achieved several groundbreaking milestones, including the launch of the #NOguti campaign to end corporal punishment in schools which was launched in February 2022. Advancing the cause of child protection in Sri Lanka and in celebration of Universal Children’s Day, on November 20th, they have established the ‘Secure Schools Program’ to 39 schools in Southern Province. Sri Sumangala College, Hikkaduwa will engage in the full one-and-a-half-year program as the beacon school of Southern Province.
At the Media Conference titled ‘Child Abuse – Nation’s Unbearable Burden’ held on 20 November at Sri Lanka Press Institute, Colombo, Dr Tush Wickramanayaka, Founder Chairperson of SCC and Co-convener of CPA shared her enthusiasm for the journey: “This year has been transformative for us. We’ve not only set benchmarks but also achieved several ‘firsts’ in the realm of child protection. We believe in the potential of Sri Lanka’s children and are committed to ensuring that their rights and safety are upheld. With the launch of the ‘Secure Schools Program,’ we intend to provide national-level training to strengthen teacher-student relationships, improve psycho-social wellbeing and non-violent conflict resolution via positive discipline strategies to end physical, mental and verbal punishments within schools in Sri Lanka.”
She added, “Educators and psychologists contend that teachers can effectively manage classrooms and nurture their students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities without resorting to physical punishment. The unique feature is that the program is focused on working cohesively with students, parents and teachers to establish ‘no-hit zones’ by following the UN-recognized INSPIRE module to end violence, conduct workshops to educate parents on improving communication with children and empowering students on sexuality education and on-line safety, child rights and global citizenship and prevention of substance abuse.”
Saranga Disasekara, Actor and Brand Ambassador of #NOguti explained, “At a time when Sri Lanka is crippled in many aspects of society, it is imperative that parents improve communication with their children and ensure their children can come to them without fear if their is any concern relating to their well-being; child protection is a collective social responsibility.”
Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association, an experienced physician and social worker confirmed, “During the current economic crisis there is an unprecedented strain on health services. All efforts should be focused on preventing the occurrence of the alarming rise of physical and sexual abuse of children by empowering teachers on positive discipline techniques and providing compulsory sexual health education to children.”
Radika Gunratne, Attorney-at-law and Human Rights Activist was deeply concerned of the backlog of over 40,000 complaints of child abuse revealed by a recent report by the Auditor General. “Justice delayed is justice denied. The system requires a fast forward re-set button to ensure that all relevant institutions responsible for child protection work cohesively to expedite the cases and provide relief to victims, some of whom have been suffering for years.”
Rtd DIG Priyantha Jayakody, a respected figure in law enforcement, reiterated, “Child abuse is now one of the top grave crimes in Sri Lanka. The Police must act more vigorously to ensure the evidence is submitted to courts without delays to avoid the burden on the law and order and judiciary services. He suggested introducing electronic tagging of those on bail to expedite cases.”
Key highlights from SCC’s and CPA’s eventful year of child protection advocacy include:
- Unprecedented Focus on Child Safety: Sri Lanka has sadly seen the death of 16 innocent children resulting from physical/sexual abuse within 24 months. The two organisations acknowledged this crisis and have intensified their efforts to protect the nation’s children, emphasising the urgency of child safety.
- First-Ever Child Protection Tour – Lama Surakum Yathra: On October 1, 2022, they launched the ‘Lama Surakum Yathra,’ which marks the first child protection tour in the country’s history. The tour commenced in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Anuradhapura, Kandy and Galle, aiming to address the immediate needs of vulnerable children by addressing the urgency of ending corporal punishment in schools with the #NoGuti campaign and by distributing stationary packs, and sanitary pads, and implementing children’s empowerment programs and community kitchens.
- Parliament Petition and Supreme Court Directive: they are determined to ensure the full implementation of the Supreme Court’s directive of February 2021, banning corporal punishment in all schools. In pursuit of this mission, they presented a petition to Parliament, urging legislators to enforce this vital ruling.
- National Debate Competition – Parapuraka Abiyachanaya: To encourage discussions about child protection and rights, SCC and the CPA, in collaboration with students of Law College, organized a national inter-school debate competition called ‘Parapuraka Abiyachanaya/A Generation’s Appeal.’ This competition engaged young minds in a meaningful dialogue about the future of child rights in Sri Lanka.
The two organisations have set the stage for groundbreaking advancements in child protection, with numerous ‘firsts’ to its name. This is the third consecutive year of the ‘Child Protection Mega Month’ another remarkable first from SCC, dedicating not just one day but two solid months from 1st October to 30th November towards sustainable progress on child welfare.
The campaign will continue in 2024 with a historic book launch, ‘Chronicles of Melancholy’, a collection of real-life stories of survivors of child abuse written in Sinhala, Tamil and English and an Art Competition for the cover of the book. The book gives a voice to the voiceless and empowers many in similar painful circumstances. CPA has received nearly 1000 art entries and the winners will be announced soon. Negotiations are underway for the book to be translated into one/two UN-recognized regional languages making it a world’s first.
For further information, media inquiries, or to get involved with the Stop Child Cruelty Trust, please contact www.stopchildcruelty.com or 077-1656867.