Life Learning

Saturday 18 November 2017

'I was bullied something rotten at one of my schools'

Cllassroom Confidential: Dil Wickremasinghe

Dil Wickremasinghe
Dil Wickremasinghe

John Costello

The school days of broadcaster and mental health activist Dil Wickremasinghe were far from idyllic. But rather than letting them overwhelm her, she is using her experience to help others.

So, what was the most exotic thing about your school years?

I was born in Rome and lived in Italy until the age of 12. I went to a Catholic primary school run by nuns, which was very close to the Vatican.

Did you enjoy school?

I knew I was the only non-Italian child in the school and the only child of colour as my parents are from Sri Lanka.

And how did the teachers treat you?

I remember being marched up to the top of the class and being asked to tell everyone what Sri Lanka was. I hated that because I just wanted to blend in.

What impact did it have on you?

My mother found me scrubbing my skin with soap and water, because I wanted to look like the other children in my class.

Where did you go to school after your time in Rome?

When my parents separated, I was then shipped off to Sri Lanka to live with my grandparents.

How different was it from Italy?

I was the only Sri Lankan kid in the school when I lived in Rome. And then I was the only Sri Lankan kid in my school in Sri Lanka because it was a school for the children of diplomats and foreigners. I was bullied something rotten there.

Did things get better?

When I was 14 I was sent to maths grinds with a teacher who turned out to be a sexual predator. I was practically getting straight As in other subjects but failing maths. When I failed maths in my Junior Cert, I got expelled from school, because it was an elitist international school. When that happened, my parents gave up on me academically.

Given your experience what would you change in schools?

I do a lot of training in schools, and I believe teacher training should not only be about learning the curriculum but actually about gaining a good sense of who you are as a teacher.

DIL IS TRAINING DIRECTOR OF INSIGHT MATTERS (WWW.INSIGHTMATTERS.IE), OFFERING PSYCHOTHERAPY, COUNSELLING AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. YOU CAN ALSO LISTEN TO DIL ON NEWSTALK'S GLOBAL VILLAGE SATURDAYS AT 19:00.

Irish Independent

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