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Scholarship winning underprivileged
athletes ordered to pay fees at Sports School

In a controversial move, the school athletes who have won scholarships to attend Weerakeppetipola MMV, Akuramboda, one of the sports schools in the country, have been ordered to pay a fee of Rs. 2000 as boarding fees by an acting vice principal of the school, leading several underprivileged athletes to leave the school in disappointment, ‘The Island’ reliably learns.

Weerakeppetipola MMV is one of the 22 sports schools in the country. It had over 60 athletes who had won sports scholarships to attend the school. Most of the athletes are from underprivileged families. According to a reliable source, an acting vice principal has ordered these athletes to pay a monthly fee of Rs. 2000 if they want to stay further.

"The acting vice principal ordered the scholarship winning athletes to pay a fee of Rs. 2000. He has insulted the athletes saying that they were like beggars. They (the students) are entitled to use the school boarding house and to be looked after through state funds. It is a gross violation of the rights of the school children. The order to pay the fee has discouraged many youngsters. It is a disastrous situation and we fear whether there is an underhand move to close down the sports school," a source close to the school told ‘The Island’.

According to Education Ministry sources, Weerakeppetipola MMV has not been provided with funds since February. That has left the school administration at the mercy of suppliers, most of whom have stopped supplying essentials on credit now.

A source close to the school’s management said that funds being delayed was not a ‘new story’ but things have gone from bad to worse after a certain acting vice principal tried to meddle with the school administration.

Another source said that since the appointment of the controversial acting vice principal, the sports section of the school had not received numerous invitations sent by organizers of sports events and that had prevented many promising athletes from taking part in all island competitions, a charge denied by the school.

The Weerakeppetipol MMV emerged Boys’ champions at the Galewela Zonal Athletics Championships and won the Shield in the Boys’ category when they took part in the Dharmaraja Marathon. But they have not been able to take part in many recognized championships as they have not received the invitation letters sent by organizers.

However, when contacted D. M. Y. Dissanayake, the principal of Weerakeppetipola MMV denied that the school authority had ordered the athletes to pay a monthly fee. "We requested the parents to pay the monthly fee for the month of June on a loan basis so that when we receive funds from the ministry we would be able to pay them back. We did it after discussing the matter with the parents," said Dissanayake.

She said that the reason for some students to leave the school was due to their ill health and other matters and that had no connection with the school’s request for the monthly fee.

She said that she has now got the support of the Education Ministry and has started receiving funds. She said that she was duty bound to safeguard the school and would not allow it to close down. "We have got the support of the Pallepola Cooperative Shop who are willing to issue food items on credit," she said.

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