Government to ensure schools reopen on October 21


Plans are afoot by the Education Ministry and the Public Security Ministry to ensure that the long-awaited schools reopening on October 21 will not be disrupted by uncouth elements.

Education Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena said they were expecting teachers to report to work on the opening day, since the Government has offered the best option currently available to resolve their salary issues, notwithstanding the economic crisis faced by the Government due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some teacher trade unions have informed the Government that they will not join the JVP-led trade unions which seem to have turned the strike into a political carnival, Education Ministry sources said.

Despite the ongoing teachers and principals strike, 10 educational service associations including the Sri Lanka Public Education Services Association, the Sri Lanka Independent Pioneer Teachers’ Association and the Sri Lanka Independent Teachers’ Association are preparing to engage in teaching from October 21.

Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Public Education Services Association, Wasantha Handapangoda said that teachers who do not support the strike were preparing to start activities in schools from October 21 and that several graduate associations have also expressed support.

Primary classes of 3,000 schools with less than 200 students will be reopened on Thursday under the first phase of the schools reopening program of the Education Ministry.

UNICEF had also called upon the Government to resume classes in schools, adding that the children had suffered enormously, academically and in terms of their mental and social development, due to the prolonged closure of schools due to the pandemic.

Public Security Minister, Rear Admiral (Rtd.) Sarath Weerasekera said schools will have police protection for several days after the reopening and saboteurs will be dealt with by law.

He told the media on Friday that many teachers have said that they wanted to go back to school but were scared of threats by trade union leaders.

“Strict action will be taken against those who threaten the teachers who report to work on Thursday. The strike has dragged on for very long despite several offers of settlement by the Government to resolve the issue amicably,” he said.

He said the teacher trade unions were playing politics holding children to ransom.

A number of highly respected Theras also called upon the teachers to report to work for the sake of the children and preserve the dignity of their profession. Of them, the Anu Nayaka Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter, The Most Ven. Wendaruwe Upali Thera said that the teachers must accept the Government’s offer and end their strike immediately to help students catch up on the lost education.

SJB Parliamentarian MP Patali Champika Ranawaka urging teachers and principals to resume work after schools reopen said the teachers and the Government should ensure that innocent children do not become victims of the adults’ battles over salaries.

Mr. Ranawaka told a media briefing in Colombo on Friday, October 15, that parents hope that the two years of education lost to their children will be restored after schools are re-started on October 21 and maintained properly.

Today, children are away from school and only about 40 per cent attend online classes. He called upon the President and the Prime Minister to come up with a positive solution to the teachers’ issue by Monday, October 18 and to formulate a definite plan to implement the solutions in the upcoming Budget.