Kevin (8) and Rowan Willathgamuwa (9) of St. Ives Prep
were expelled after playing in the World Youth in Brazil.
There have been countless studies on the role chess has played in helping in the development of cognitive abilities and analytical skills. Thus, the wave of popularity has spread “Chess in Schools” throughout the chess world. It is with a great sense of irony that two Australian schoolboys were expelled for competing in the recently-ended World Youth Championships held in Brazil. This incident is now facing the condemnation of the worldwide chess community.
Rowan Willathgamuwa, 9, and his eight-year old brother Kevin, are two of Australia’s best junior players and trekked to Brazil to compete in the under-10 and under-8 groups, respectively. Rowan scored 4.5/9 while Kevin got 6/9. GM Ian Rogers accompanied the boys to Brazil and weighed in on the situation.
“It’s incredible someone should be punished for missing two weeks of year two for representing Australia. It was very important for him to go to the world youth championships. It’s not just the tournament but it’s important for him to see what other kids have achieved at the same age.”
The purpose of these extracurricular activities goes far beyond chess offering opportunities to broaden horizons through travel and to meet other players from around the world. Such excursions are invaluable and play an important role in social development. Apparently the school obliquely mentioned to the boys’ father Dr. Ignatius Willathgamuwa that they were not supportive of the trip. “We would be sorry to see them leave and hope that you will accept our decision,” was the statement given.
St. Ives Preparatory
The article states that Sydney’s St. Ives Prep School had strict attendance rules. However, to represent the country at an international event seems to be grounds for an exception. Are all sports and events held to the same restriction? The school denied the boys a chance to participate in the same World Youth last year in Greece, but the two participated because the school approved a family vacation to Greece. Strange.
The father summed the matter up poignantly,
“We are very frustrated at this. It is like the boys are being punished for their excellence. If taking them to the world championships is going to make them leave the school, then we have no regrets because a school with this approach to their development can be quite detrimental for them in the future.”
Mrs. Rowena Lee, principal of the school, also did not allow the boys to compete in the Australian Schools Teams Championships and stated that it was unfair to other students who were poised to replace them after missing the first day. The whole affair sounds very unreasonable. This matter requires an investigation. Mrs. Lee did not return calls to the local news when called.
Link: Sydney Morning Herald