A group of residents living within the Galle Municipal Council (GMC) limits are struggling to get their children admitted to a National School (NS) in the area, alleging they are being deprived of the opportunity due to regulations applied against them. These residents claim that, though they were given assessment numbers by the GMC 3 decades ago, they are deprived of their right for admission to a leading school because they own only a small plot of land. The Southlands NS is not open to girls l iving at Galwala Watta and Cheenakotuwa in Galle. Their parents are camped in protest, in a makeshift shelter near the entrance to the school. Their main obstacle is a circular issued by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2018, which states that, "... if a child, living on land given by the Government, applies for admission to a school, the owner of the land, if deceased, should have bequeathed its ownership to the spouse or another", which should be proved through authentic documents.
The Government land deeds are different to Swarnabodhi and Jaya Bhoomi, as such deeds could be bequeathed to children by the owner. These dwellers have been given 44 plots of land, each of 3 perches in extent, on May 21, 1987, on letters signed by the Mayor and the GMC Commissioner, which are not proper deeds, on the condition that, ownership of these lands could not be disposed of by selling, leasing, handing over, after the demise of the owner. Except a member of the family, nobody else can claim the property. Though it further states it is valid till a deed is given in due course, still no deed has been issued, while the related utility bills have been paid for the respective dwellings. Three families from Galawala Watta and one family from Cheenakotuwa, Mahagalwala, are facing this problem now. They say the school authorities have rejected their applications for Grade 1, as they have no deeds or any documents to prove their ownership. V.A. Nadeesha Sandamali, 35, a resident of Galwala, says, "My father was given the plot of land in 1987.
We have only one child. My husband is also living in Galwala. We have sent an application to the Southlands NS, but the principal says she can't take our child as we have no deed. Even the Grama Sevaka certifies we have been residing in this place for 30 years. We have even used our votes as residents of this place." Isanka Surangani, 36, of Galwala Watta, says, "I have been residing here since my birth. I am a past pupil of Southlands NS. I too, went to school from this house. My daughter was also born in this house, but now she can't get admitted to this school. The principal says she can't take my child, as we don’t have such documents. It is no fault of ours. We demanded deeds several times." "How unfair it is that our children are deprived of education, just because we don’t have land. Both my parents are alive. While they are alive we are not given ownership. When they have imposed such laws how can we produce our land deeds?" she asks.
Parami Pumila Athuraliya, 36, says, "I am living in a house in Cheenakotuwa, Mahagalwala, given to my father. My father gave me ownership of this land by a letter attested by a JP. The GMC never gives us the land deeds. My elder daughter is studying at Southlands now. We produced only a letter of approval for the ownership of the land, when she was admitted. We are given less marks as we don’t have land deeds." Divisional Secretariat-Kadawath Sathara Galle Himali Rathnaweera said, "These people are living in an abandoned quarry. The Geological & Mines Dept has informed that this place is not suitable for human settlement. We are going to accommodate them in another place. So we cant give them deeds. For this we should build a housing complex." Southlands National School Principal Sandhya Pathirawasam said, "We treat all the children applying for admission to this school, equally, without any discrimination.
When we conduct interviews, we have to be guided by circulars issued by the Government. There should be legal documents to prove their residence. All these families have no documents to establish ownership of their land. They didn’t even produce the bills paid by their parents. I am guided by the directives issued by the MoE." "At Richmond College, when admitting children to school, apart from land deeds, other documents such as National identity cards and school leaving certificates too were given marks. Other schools too gave marks for other documents. Here parents have not been given an opportunity to be present at the interview," a parent said.