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GL underscores need for educational reforms to suit current, future needs



Private sector led initiative to enhance English proficiency among student community

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris says the government wants to enhance opportunities available to the student community to learn English. Prof. Peiris explained the pivotal importance of government-private sector partnership in a large scale countrywide project geared to help the student community.

The former External Affairs Minister told The Island after inspecting an ongoing smart classroom project at Susamayawardhana Maha Vidyalaya in Colombo late last week. W.A. Kapila Weerasuriya, principal of the school was also present.

Launched in early November 2019 in the wake of the failed 2018 constitutional coup, the project was meant to boost the English education to assist the student community at an early stage. Prof. Peiris said that the project would provide an equal opportunity to the student community.

Addressing the gathering at the Susamayawardhana Maha Vidyalaya, Prof. Peiris pointed out the failure on the part of the current education system to produce young Sri Lankans capable of meeting current and growing requirements in the job market. Appreciating the role played by the Brandix Lanka Limited in the implementation of the ‘Right To Read Sri Lanka’ project, Prof. Peiris emphasized the importance of consulting the private sector in the preparation of various courses of study, updating curricula as well as amendments to current and future requirements.

Both the government and the people were really grateful to the private sector for backing the project meant to reach one million students by 2021/22, the minister said.

Brandix Director Ajit Johnpillai, Senthil Eswaran (Brandix, Director, East), Assad Omar (Manager Projects) and Lawrence Vincent (Senior Executive, Projects) accompanied the Minister.

During his brief speech the minister acknowledged that it would be a very costly project.

The Island

asked Assad Omar how Brandix intended to fund the project as a single SmartBoard had been estimated to cost approximately around USD 1,000, the private sector official said that they were having negotiations with the supplier Singer PLC in a bid to lower the price. Responding to another query, Omar said that they commenced preliminary work a couple of months before the Nov, 2018 launch of the project.

Funds made available by donors would be exclusively used to procure SmartBoards; the Brandix spokesperson said adding that the company and the Omar family were to meet other expenses, including administration, logistics, teacher training, maintenance and installation.

Described as a community driven non-profit organization, the project is implemented with the Education Ministry and ‘EnglishHelper Global’, Brandix official said that it was carried out in eight countries having initiated in India in 2013. The countries accommodated in the project, in addition to India and Sri Lanka, are Vietnam, Bangladesh, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Both the Education Ministry and Brandix acknowledged that the success of the project would depend on close cooperation among all stakeholders, including Provincial Ministries of Education.

Prof. Peiris said that his ministry and the government would provide all possible assistance to ensure the countrywide implementation of the project. The ‘RightToRead SriLanka’ project could make a big difference, if implemented, diligently, Prof. Peiris said, highlighting the importance of the project against the backdrop of the subject’s poor performance at the GCE Ordinary Level examination. According to the latest data available, 38 % failed the subject at the CCE OL, the minister pointed out in a brief interview with The Island, adding that the failure rate at the last year’s examination was three times higher than Sinhala and Tamil. The minister said that assisting the student community to learn English was part of the overall thinking of the incumbent government to prepare the younger generation for future challenges.

The minister expressed confidence that the private sector and other well-wishers could throw their weight behind the ambitious project intended to make a genuine difference.

Sri Lanka schooling system comprised 353 national and 9.841 provincial schools with a combined student population of 4.2 mn.’RightToRead SriLanka’ project has been so far implemented in the Northern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on a number of occasions, discussed urgent need for educational reforms to meet current and future challenges. President Rajapaksa is on record as having said that the education system did not produce employees with qualifications to meet current requirements.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released



… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine



Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL



By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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