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Classes for OL students in WP commence today; exam in March



Covid-19: Re-opening of schools to be taken at district-level

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The District Development Committees (DDC) have been asked to decide on re-opening of schools and related matters following consultations with the relevant authorities as the decisions taken by the Education Ministry seemed impractical due to the varying impact of the rampaging pandemic across the country.

The Education Ministry, in a statement issued yesterday (24) said that the decision to entrust the DDCs with the authority to decide on re-opening of schools had been taken at a meeting chaired by Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris a few days before the Minister had to self-isolate after he was categorized as a possible Covid-19 contact. Prof. Peiris was cleared on Saturday (23) following a RT-PCR test.

The Education Ministry has requested that the DDCs, in consultations with Divisional Secretaries and other relevant authorities, take a decision before Feb. 3. The DDCs would have to inform the Education Ministry of their decisions, accordingly.

The statement quoted Prof. Peiris as having said that schools in the Western Province, except those situated in areas isolated due to Covid-19 would be re-opened today (25).

However, the classes would be restricted to those sitting the GCE (Ordinary Level) examination in March 2021, the Minister said.

The examination is scheduled to be held from March 1 to 11.

Prof. Peiris said that the Education Ministry decided on the partial re-opening of schools in the Western Province comprising Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts for the benefit of those sitting the GCE (O/L) examination.

According to Prof. Peiris approximately 79,000 are scheduled to sit the examination.

The Minister said that in spite of some difficulties schools functioned in all districts outside the Western Province.

Prof. Peiris said that of 1,576 schools about 900 could be re-opened by Feb 15 and the other students, too, allowed to attend classes, gradually.

Prof. Peiris told The Island that schools couldn’t be closed indefinitely though the Covid-19 posed quite a challenge not only to the education sector but the entire economy. The academic urged interested parties not to play politics with their efforts to resume schooling. Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris recollected the trying conditions the Year 5 Scholarship Examination as well as the GCE (Advanced Level) Examination had been conducted late last year amidst the second Covid-19 eruption while interested parties propagated scare stories. “A couple of hundred courageous students sat the AL examination in spite of them being quarantined,” Prof. Peiris said, emphasizing the importance of resuming schools under strict health guidelines.

The minister said that setbacks couldn’t be allowed to derail government efforts to get the economic activities back on track.

State Minister of Women and Child Development, Pre-School & Primary Education, School Infrastructure & Education Services Piyal Nishantha tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for



By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time



State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.



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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30



The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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