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COVID-19 exacerbates inequalities in education

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By Saman Indrajith

COVID-19 had exacerbated inequalities in education because for many low-income students online courses were a poor substitute for in-person learning, Parliament was told yesterday.

Galle District SJB MP Gayantha Karunathilake said that not all students had access to online education that had being introduced by the government as a solution to disruptions to education caused by the pandemic control measures. “During the times of our government we tried to give every student a tablet computer, but that did not happen due to political problems. Now, some students do not have access to online education. Some have no Internet; some have no devices; some have no data and some have no mobile phone connections.

“In families where there are two or three children, how could their parents buy a phone each for them? This is not practically possible. At this rate, online education will be the final nail on the coffin of free education. This clearly creates a widening gulf between the rich and the poor. We appreciate the efforts of teachers engaged in virtual teaching. But will the government put in place mechanism to enable all student to benefit from online education? Despite these disparities, all children will have to sit the same examinations. We call upon the government to solve this problem.”

State Minister of Education Piyal Nishantha de Silva admitted that there were some issues pertaining to the closure of schools and introducing online education which is still new to this country. “We have already identified these issues. Discussions have been held. Even now at this moment Education Minister Prof GL Peiris is at the Presidential Secretariat attending a meeting to decide when to reopen schools. In this regard, The matters are being addressed and we hope we can find a solution.”



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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