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‘Hathe Ape Potha’ was product of much effort and research, says author

The Sectoral Oversight Committee on Education and Human Resources Development yesterday met in parliament to discuss the ‘Hathe Ape Potha’, a supplementary textbook on reproductive health which caused much controversy in the recent past.

The meeting saw the participation of Dr Gamini Samarawickrama and consultant community physician Dr Asanthi Fernando, who contributed to writing the book in collaboration with many other health and education sector experts.

Recently several parties raised objections against the book claiming that its content was ‘inappropriate’ for twelve-year-old readers.

In an emotionally charged response to the condemnation against ‘Hathe Ape Potha,’ Dr Samarawickrama told the Committee that the book was a result of months of hard work. In the research phase of the book, he said, experts had visited schools across the country seeking stakeholder input.

“Our only intention in writing this book was to brighten the future of our children. Yes, we serve the health sector, but we are also parents. When the book was published, we didn’t expect such a response. We visited several schools in the country where we held discussions with students and teachers and considered their opinion,” he said.

“It is not something that came out of nowhere. We consulted many resource persons who are not only experts but also parents. We wrote the book according to the school curriculum after studying WHO, UNPFA and UNICEF reports,” Samarawickrama said.

He pointed out that though the authors were highly criticised for including references to masturbation in the book, the subject matter has been in the school curriculum since the year 2005.

“In this book, we teach children how to be productive during that age. We have also shown them the importance of teamwork and how to avoid conflict.

“We see news reports of children being sexually abused and having their lives destroyed. We wrote this book with a vision to eradicating that. We chose the language style because we were addressing children. As doctors and health sector professionals we can’t turn a blind eye to what is happening in our country. There are many helpless children who suffer. That is why we wrote this book together with the Education Ministry,” said Samarawickrama.

Edited by Himal Kotelawala