Friday, June 2, 2017

‘Teachers, students hit by tug-of-war’

Teachers and students were at the receiving end of a tug-of-war between the line and provincial ministries of education over the issue of number of days schools closed owing to the last week’s disasters, the Ceylon Teachers’ Union stated in a media release.

The release signed by General Secretary of the union, Joseph Stalin said the Ministry of Education had announced that the schools in Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Kegalle, Ratnapura and Hambantota districts would be closed till June 02 in view of the current disaster situation.

However, on May 31, the Secretary to the Western Provincial Ministry of Education announced through the media that schools in the Kalutara, Gampaha and Colombo districts of the Western Province would re-open from June 01. "On the same day the line min istry stated that the provincial ministry could not take such a decision and its own previous circular would be in effect and the schools of the aforementioned eight districts would be kept closed. These contradictory statements have been published in newspapers of June 01 too. Students and teachers of the Western province are in difficulty while the Provincial Education Secretary getting Zonal and Divisional Education directors to force principals of the schools in the province to open their schools. This tug of war between the line ministry and the provincial ministry shows that there is no proper procedure in those ministries on how to act during a national disaster situation.

The CSU called on President Maithripala Sirisena to intervene immediately in this situation to prevent the disaster hit students and teachers being further harassed by a tug of war between the line and provincial ministries of education, the release added.

Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, contacted for comment, said: "We as the line ministry make policy decisions. We decided to reopen schools on June 2nd due to several reasons. As for the Western province one could say that only several schools in Avissawella, Colombo and Kalutara have been affected by disaster and others could be opened. That is wrong. Many schools in Colombo are now being used as relief coordinating centres providing assistance to the disaster hit people.

"We cannot upset that process. In addition, I have taken action to send engineers to check buildings of all affected schools. Before making them open for children we have to assess whether they would be safe. Further, this is not a decision I took on my own. I consulted the President before making this decision and got his approval."