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Can a punishment teach?



by Goolbai Gunasekera

This seems a silly question since all punishments are supposed to ‘teach’ or to teach discipline at any rate. But does a school child always understand all this? Do present day punishments ensure that the student does not repeat the same little misdeed again?

They do not. I speak from experience when I say this. Let me explain. All schools have rules governing poor behaviour. But given the many areas of `sinning’ these days, modern schools are unable to foresee all the varied sins that students commit. Fifty years ago, falls from grace were minor affairs and did not have the undertones of real crime that is unfortunately found in schools nowadays.

School children 50 years ago had nothing of great value to steal. Perhaps a wristwatch. Perhaps a pen. But no one thought of stealing our shoes because they were all from shops like `Batas’,’ Majestic Boot Works’ and other local shoe shops. Ballet slippers were all from Union Boot Works. You can see what I mean. Rarely, if ever, did children have anything too special. No one was envious of the “haves.”

But now! Mobiles phones range from Rs. 4000/ to Rs. 100, 000/ and I am told such expensive items are the norm rather than the exception among Colombo’s students. Nike, Adidas and other Sport’s attire likewise. Nobody bothers about plain old wristwatches these days. Very few International School kids wear Bata. And nobody yearns for a Parker pen as I did all my school life.

I eventually got my first Parker pen from my Dearly Beloved at a time when he was still a hopeful Dearly Beloved. My parents had no intention of supplying me with expensive paraphernalia. My tennis racquet was a hand me down from my Mom’s University days and I managed to comfortably win the occasional match with it.

Today no serious tennis player would be seen dead with just one racquet. All hopeful champions have name brands in duplicate or triplicate which they twirl with panache and style. Parents go overboard with equipment.

Jealousy is natural. Now all good students, good sportsmen or good student performers seem to afford the earth. Those who cannot may resort to theft. In schools kids change their shoes for basketball games, for PE classes, for ballet lessons etc. Expensive equipment and gear are left lying all over the place.

One child lost two pairs of Nike Sports shoes within a fortnight. In spite of immediate searches, they were never found. Their cost? Rs. 25,000/ each pair. I asked the angry mother why she was teaching her son the wrong values by sending him to school with such expensive equipment. Her answer is worth repeating. You and I do not have the same values Mrs. G. I can afford such things and I see no reason not to buy them.”

Such skewed thinking only adds to the rate of theft. Young kids give in to feelings of envy and steal. Of course, if caught they face grave punishments. Suspension – or even expulsion for repeated offences.

An unfortunate problem now raises its ugly head. How do parents take the punishment of their light-fingered child? They take it in the most appalling fashion.

Far from correcting their child they blame the school for over-reacting. They whisk the young miscreant off to another school. The punishment has not taught anyone in that family anything. In fact, I have watched disbelievingly while one mother comforted her sobbing son (who continued to deny a proven fact) saying “Never mind Putha. Don’t cry. You don’t have to come back to this school”.

“Mrs. Bhanu,” I tried to reason. “Don’t take that attitude. Help him to realize he has done something disgraceful. Take him away if you wish but at least YOU must punish him in some way,” Of course nothing was done and the young `criminal’ will certainly steal again, albeit, elsewhere. The suspension was never felt by the arrogant young man as his parents refused to accept he had done anything wrong. So I cast around in my mind and recalled this story which proves that worthwhile correction can be given to junior wrongdoers.

A group of cousins were playing cricket on one of those spacious lawns commonly seen in Colombo 60- years ago. They were told to stop play by six pm. My friend, Rohini, the only girl in the group, was a real tomboy and her parents openly despaired of turning her into a lady. It was just her bad luck that one day the group continued playing till well after six pm and while making a run, Rohini tripped and hurt her ankle. She was immobilized for a week. Parents of the two youngsters took counsel, how best could they punish both children for breaking the rules and I still applaud their creativity in meting out punishment.

Rohini’s cousin, Nihal, had to give up every evening’s play that week and sit by Rohini’s bed and read to her for an hour. The books were of his father’s choosing. Both Rohini and Nihal benefitted from the chastisement in that the reading was interesting and actually taught them something. The cricket never carried on till after six again.

Now THERE is the sort punishment I wish I could use. Obviously, theft of shoes will not be cured by enforced reading. But I wonder. Cannot such civilized punishments somehow work in today’s atmosphere of junior violence? Perhaps we should seriously give it some thought.

(From Gunasekara’s recently published book The ‘Principal’ Factor. It was first published some years ago in Lanka Monthly Digest).

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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine



Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours



Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today



by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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