ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has decided to reopen some 5,000 schools with a maximum of 200 students each over the next two to three weeks, a senior minister said, although teachers and school principals have yet to called off a two-month strike.
A political decision in this regard was taken at a meeting held at the health ministry with the national COVID-19 task force, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters on Thursday.
The government also plans to reopen kindergartens and primary schools (grades 1 to 6) in the near future, he added.
However, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) general secretary Joseph Stalin said teachers will not return to work until long-standing pay anomalies in their service are resolved.
Teachers ‘and school principals’ unions have been on strike since July 11 and withdrew from online teaching and the publication of the results of the GCE regular level exam held earlier this year on the question.
Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that despite the financial difficulties, a special allowance of 5,000 rupees will be given to teachers and principals who travel to work in September and October, the months in which the government plans to organize GCE Advanced Level and Grade 5 scholarship exams.
“The secretary of the Ministry of Education reportedly said that if principals did not submit exam applications, they would look for alternatives. I want to ask him if this is a threat, ”Stalin said.
“This can only be resolved through discussion,” he added.
The strike of teachers and principals continues for the 67th day today (17).
On August 31, Minister Gunawardena declared the services of teachers and principals to be a “closed service”.
The services of teachers and school directors are part of the public service. But declaring them a closed service will allow the government to treat teachers and principals separately from the rest of the civil service when resolving their demands for wage anomalies, wages, transfers and other benefits.
It also means that teachers and principals’ staff cannot be transferred to other public services.
“The implementation of the national decision to shut down the teachers’ service will be implemented in the coming months,” Gunawardena said at the time, adding that the cabinet decided to publish a gazette by November 20 declaring the services closed.
“All of these decisions are made to provide solutions to existing problems and decisions are made with consideration of the 4.3 million children in the country and their teachers who will pave the way for their future.
The move from the closed department is in line with the recommendation of a four-member cabinet subcommittee that examined salary anomalies for teachers and principals.
The minister also said that the implementation of the salary reviews will be phased as part of a 2022 budget proposal. Full implementation will take place over the next four years.
A decision was taken on August 30 to implement these measures in part before the next four years to find a permanent solution.
The teachers, however, rejected the offer.
“But we don’t accept the 5,000 rupee allowance. We want our salary anomalies to be corrected as part of the previous Subodhini committee report. We do not accept these increases or allowances, otherwise we will continue our strikes if this does not happen, ”Stalin said.
However, a union affiliated with Sri Lanka’s ruling party Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the SLPP Education Services Association, said that Basil Rajapaksa taking the post of finance minister, he believes a better solution will be provided. .
“We call on teachers and principals to resume their duties with regard to the students who are due to take exams this year,” Sisira Kumara Rathnayaka, organizer of the SLPP Education Services Association, told reporters.
“It is not supporting the government, but rather doing our duty as responsible teachers,” he added. (Colombo / Sep 16, 2021)