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Expert questions govt handling of teachers’ issue

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After 16 months of school closure, with more than 50% of students not having had any form of continuous education, it was not advisable or morally correct to hold exams, Dr. Sujata N. Gamage, Senior Research Fellow, LIRNEasia and Co-Coordinator, Education Forum Sri Lanka told The Island yesterday.

She said that each examination should be assessed for its purpose and criticality. Whilst they endorsed the striking teachers claim for higher wages, what they wanted to highlight was the lack of trust and respect shown towards teachers by authorities.

“The latest is a news item which said that the Ministry has established a programme which calls on teachers and principals to issue weekly reports after evaluating students and appoints education instructors to supervise teacher performance on a regular basis. This kind of scrutiny on teachers is totally unnecessary and unacceptable. Teachers have been reaching out to students on their own since March 2020 without being recognized, rewarded or guided by the authorities,” the Senior Research Fellow said.

Dr. Gamage said that the education Forum was pleased to note that the vaccination of teachers was in progress, teachers need to be appreciated and motivated if they were to bring the children up to the required standard after a long break in their education.

“We urge that the Ministry to take the following action without delay to rectify the situation: recognise teachers for their initiatives during the past 16 months, compensate them immediately for additional costs borne by them during the last 18 months in carrying out distance education and paid a monthly allowance for future costs and trust the teachers to do their job.”

The government provided teachers with curricula including expected learning outcomes and teaching guides and 50% of teachers were trained at National Colleges of Education and the others were graduates.

Dr Gamage said Ministry should not dictate how they should teach and they should be judged on the performance of their students.

“The stated purpose of the Grade 5 Scholarship examination is to select students to award scholarships, but the exam has expanded since 1995 as an assessment of learning by all students. It is time to get the exam back to its original intention and mode. Grades 6-9 is a time for activity-based learning without pressure to remember facts for examination. Covid is an opportunity to do away with any form of examination for this age group. The GCE O/L examination is not as critical for Grades 10-11, except for moving onto a popular school. The exam should be postponed to 2022 and travelling long distance for schooling at this time should be discouraged. The GCE A/L examination is the most critical examination for students in Grades 12-13. Every effort should be made to give students adequate time and equal opportunity for preparation,” she said. (RK)



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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