By Harsha Amarasinghe
Hundreds and thousands of schools in Sri Lanka have opted to hire private coaches for their respective sport teams, which has brought about both positive as well as negative outcomes. However, the Ministry of Education are keen to stamp their authority on outsiders coaching in schools.
As per a leaked document from the Ministry of Education which has been addressed to all the Provincial Directors of Education, all schools have been advised to follow the ‘circular No. 20/2009 dated 30.06.2009 and reference No. Ed/1/15/2/3/5 of the Secretary of Education’ when recruiting coaches for their respective sport teams.
“It has been reported that certain principals have recruited external individuals as Coaches to different sports in their schools without paying attention to the matters appeared in the Circular No 20/ 2009 dated 30.06.2009 and reference No Ed/1/15/2/3/5 of the Secretary of Education. Accordingly, it is confirmed by the complaints received, that the recruitment of external sports coaches contrary to the provisions of the above-mentioned circular has caused several difficulties to the students, teachers as well as the principals. The letter forwarded in this regard with the signature of the Chairman of the Child Protection Authority, Prof Muditha Vidanapathirana dated 04.01.2021 also requested that attention should be paid to this matter as there is a risk of school children being subjected to sexual and physical and psychological abuse,” the letter translates.
The Ministry of Education has also instructed the Provincial Directors of Education to ensure that all the schools follow the abovementioned guidelines even when they recruit volunteer coaches.
“Thus, in recruiting external coaches, I kindly request you to recruit the external coaches following the provisions appeared in the Circular No 20/ 2009 dated 30.06.2009 and reference No Ed/1/15/2/3/5 of the Secretary of Education. This shall also be relevant to the voluntary coaches and coaches who are paid by the Alumni Associations of the schools. If recruitments have already been made contrary to the above circular, I would like to inform you to take necessary steps to rectify such recruitments and I would also appreciate it if all the Zonal Directors of Education and Principals are well informed in this regard,” the letter reveals.
What does the circular say?
Daily Mirror having obtained the said circular can confirm that as per the circular the schools must hold an interview before recruiting any outsider as a coach and the particular interview board shall consist the Principal, at least a Deputy Zonal Director of Sports and the Master in Charge of the sport of the school. The circular also demands the coaches to possess six different certificates including police reports and service letters from their previous employment.
Although the circular has been issued in 2009, whether these guidelines have been followed or not in the schools remains to be a doubt.
Reality of recruitments
The former President of Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) Ranjit Chandrasekara, who also served as the Principal of Kingswood College, Kandy shed some light on to the manner in which these recruitments are carried out in Sri Lanka.
“In my honest opinion, most of the schools do not follow this circular and there is a very good reason for that as well. The circular clearly states that these guidelines shall be followed in the case of school recruit coaches, so technically if the coaches are being paid through School Development Society, they indeed have to go through the given procedures. However, as we all know most of the coaches have been paid through the OBAs (Old Boys’ Association) and due to this reason most of the time coaches have not been recruited under the given guidelines in the circular because the payments are made by the OBA — which cannot be categorized as a society within the school. However, I believe that the OBAs are also very careful when they recruit people, but in simple terms, this is how most of the recruitments have been done,” Chandrasekara revealed.
Daily Mirror also contacted several coaches from different sports who claimed that mostly recruitments are carried out through personal contacts or invitation.
Daily Mirror also understands that the payments for cricket or rugby coaches are being fully paid by the OBAs on most of the occasions, but for certain other sports such as chess, badminton or swimming, the OBA only pays half of the wages. This has led to forming parents’ societies for such sports who appear to be paying the balance.
On the other hand, the recruitment of external coaches has also seen a massive rise in the number of imports (players joining more recognized schools) especially in relation to popular sports in Sri Lanka such as cricket and rugby.
The term ‘imports’ itself has been often used to embarrass, humiliate and even tarnish the names of certain schools in Colombo, but one cannot argue with the fact that the country has been hugely benefited from this as well. Had Sanath Martis not spotted Danushka Ranjan making waves for Piliyandala Central and brought him to St. Peter’s College, perhaps Sri Lanka would not have seen arguably the best player of the country for the last decade or so. Thisara Perera who had started his cricket at St. Anthony’s College, Wattala in a recent interview revealed that former St. Joseph’s head coach Harsha de Silva is the coach who changed his cricket for the better when he asked Perera to bat at number six which gradually led him to be one of the most devastating hitters in the lower middle order for Sri Lanka. This is a trend that goes back decades that even the great Ashantha de Mel crossed over to Royal College from Isipathana College.
These are the success stories, and there are many more. However, people rarely talk about the other side of the story. Obviously, there is a great deal of noise about humiliation and embarrassment of these powerful schools, but what about the homegrown students who have been playing for their school from the age of 10 or 11?
It is often said, they have to fight for their place. They have to compete against the imports, and that the better player would be selected to represent the school in the matches, but sadly this is nothing more than a big fat lie. In certain schools, the homegrown players may get a match or two to prove themselves and some never get a chance whatsoever, but why? It is because more often than not, the imports are the coach’s idea. This is where the coach’s dignity, arrogance and pride go beyond what’s best for the school.
Ranjans, Pereras and de Mels are great stories, but one should not forget there are 30, 40 and 50-year-old Samanthas, Mohamads and Sundarrajas sitting behind a keyboard wondering what they did wrong.
Nobody talks about their stories; nobody would ever talk about their stories because nobody knows the pain of their demolished dreams.