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Indian school teacher wins $1-million Global Teacher Prize for promoting girls’ education

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bY S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI. A primary school teacher from India was on Thursday named the winner of the $1-million annual Global Teacher Prize 2020 in recognition of his efforts to promote girls’ education and trigger a quick-response (QR) coded textbook revolution in India. 

Ranjitsinh Disale, 32, from Paritewadi village in Maharashtra state’s Solapur district, emerged the winner from 10 finalists from across the world for the annual prize founded by the Varkey Foundation in 2014 to recognise an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

Disale, who believes that teachers are the world’s real change-makers, announced that he will be sharing 50% of his prize money with his fellow finalists to support their incredible work.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed education and the communities it serves in a multitude of ways. But in this hard time, teachers are giving their best to make sure every student has access to their birth right of a good education, said Disale.

 

“Teachers are the real change-makers who are changing the lives of their students with a mixture of chalk and challenges. They always believe in giving and sharing. And, therefore, I am very pleased to announce that I will share 50% of the prize money equally among my fellow top 10 finalists to support their incredible work. I believe, together, we can change this world because sharing is growing,” he said.

 His generous gesture means the other nine finalists will receive just over $55,000 each as he made history as the first winner to share his prize money. By sharing the prize money, you teach the world the importance of giving, said Indian education philanthropist Sunny Varkey, the founder of the prize.

“I now encourage you to use this platform to give all teachers a voice. There is not a moment to lose as it will fall on young people to find solutions to problems that their parents and grandparents have lacked the will to solve, including climate change, conflict and global pandemics,” he said.

In another first, the Global Teacher Prize 2020 winner’s announcement was made at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London by British actor-broadcaster Stephen Fry. 

“Teachers like Ranjitsinh will stop climate change and build more peaceful and just societies. Teachers like Ranjitsinh will eliminate inequalities and drive forward economic growth. Teachers like Ranjitsinh will save our future,” said Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), a partner of the initiative.

When Disale arrived at the Zilla Parishad Primary School at Paritewadi in Solapur in 2009, it was a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle-shed and a storeroom.

He took on the task of turning things around and ensuring the textbooks were available in the local language for the pupils and not only translated the class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue Marathi, but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments.

The impact of his interventions has been that there are now no reported teenage marriages in the village and 100% attendance of girls at the school.

Disale’s school went on to become the first in the State of Maharashtra to introduce QR codes and after submitting a proposal and successful pilot scheme, the State Ministry announced in 2017 that they would introduce QR coded textbooks across the State for all grades.

In 2018, the Human Resources Development Ministry announced that all the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks would have embedded QR codes.

Disale is equally passionate about building peace between young people across conflict zones and through a “Let’s Cross the Borders” project, he connects young people from India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq and Iran, and the United States and North Korea.

Over a six-week programme, students are matched with a peace buddy from other countries with whom they closely interact. So far, Disale has initiated an incredible 19,000 students from eight countries into this programme.

Besides, with the use of the Microsoft Educator Community platform, the enterprising teacher spends his weekends taking students from schools around the world with depleted resources on virtual field trips. He is well-known for demonstrating scientific experiments from the science lab he has built in his home.

Disale was selected in the final 10 from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries, alongside Olasunkanmi Opeifa from Nigeria, Jamie Frost from the UK, Carlo Mazzone from Italy, Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba from South Africa, Leah Juelke from the US, Yun Jeong-hyun from South Korea, Samuel Isaiah from Malaysia, Doani Emanuela Bertan from Brazil and one from Vietnam.

The Global Teacher Prize is paid out in equal instalments over 10 years, with the Varkey Foundation providing winners with financial counselling and support through an ambassadorial role for the profession.



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LIOC seeks to expand operations

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by Ifham Nizam

Power and Energey Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday revealed that Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) had asked for permission to set up 50 new filling stations in the country and take over a certain number of petrol sheds currenlty under the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). The government had asked the LIOC to increases the supply of fuel, in case Sri Lanka agreed to the Indian proposal,Wijesekera added.

Sri Lanka was facing daunting challenges as regards fuel distribution and it might not be able to get rid of fuel queues anytime soon, Minister Wijesekera said.Speaking to journalists yesterday, in Colombo, Wijesekera said that plans were underway to introduce a token system for fuel dispensation.He said the new scheme could come into effect from today (27) and the Police, and the armed forces will help implement it.

He also said that four separate groups from the Ministry were working on petrol, diesel, crude / furnace oil, and jet fuel imports. “We asked Lanka IOC to increase fuel supply and CEYPETCO to purchase diesel from them. But they asked for a price revision before that according to the pricing formula. That’s why we revised the price in a situation where there was no fuel in the country.”

The moves came as the government increased fuel prices with effect from the wee hours of Sunday wee hours. Petrol (Octane 92) now sells at Rs 470 per litre and Octane 95 at Rs. 550 per litre. Auto Diesel sells at Rs 460 per litre and Super Diesel at Rs 520 per litre.The Minister said they were working on 130-plus proposals for fuel delivery to Sri Lanka.

“USD 500 million is something that Sri Lanka cannot afford at this juncture. Therefore, consumption will have to be slashed, and fuel for public transport prioritized. Two ministers will fly to Russia today for discussions on fuel and related matters,” he said.The Minister said that bunker suppliers had been granted permission to deliver fuel for industries that deal in US currency.

He also said that overseas fuel companies based in countries that produce fuel, would be invited to set up business in Sri Lanka, as the CPC alone could not import fuel.

He said the CPC would become a more service-provider-based institution to facilitate fuel imports, and it had 9000 MT of diesel and the IOC 10,000 MT while the CPC had about 6000 MT of Petrol and the IOC about 8000 MT, of petrol.He said the IOC was issuing about 300 MT a day and their next shipment was due only after 10 July.

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Economic crisis: Govt. MPs slam Cabinet, Finance Ministry

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‘How come SLPA paid to Treasury just a faction of massive revenue earned in six years?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

T wo SLPP MPs, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Madura Vithanage have, at different forums, lashed out at the government for the rapidly deteriorating status of the public sector finance. Godahewa has warned that economic recovery will not be possible unless the government restructured nearly 400 loss making public sector enterprises or at least take tangible measures to cut down on recurring losses.The former Media Minister, who represents the Gampaha District, said so addressing a group of Gampaha-based professionals and entrepreneurs recently.

Alleging that the failure, on the part of the government to establish an all-party government, contributed to the further deterioration of the situation, Dr. Godahewa emphasized the urgent need to curb, what he called, unbridled corruption as part of the efforts to revive the economy.The Gampaha District MP asked whether the current dispensation has addressed the issues at hand with a sense of responsibility.The MP questioned the composition of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, especially the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier, in spite of his party having just one seat in Parliament, against the backdrop of even the government parliamentary group not being properly represented.

Dr. Godahewa warned that SriLankan Airlines, the Ceylon Electricity Board, and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would deny the country an opportunity to recover as they remained a massive burden on taxpayers. The One-time top level private sector executive said that the Cabinet-of-Ministers lacked the strength to take crucial decisions. But, the situation would have been different if the Cabinet-of-Ministers included representatives of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and other political parties. Dr. Godahewa declared that the government couldn’t take decisions on sensitive matters as long as it didn’t command political power.

Meanwhile, Colombo District MP Vithanage has questioned the responsibility, on the part of the Finance Ministry, in the overall deterioration of public sector finance with the focus on the handling of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The lawmaker alleged that the Finance Ministry had conveniently failed to make required intervention on behalf of the government, thereby deprived the opportunity to utilize SLPA profits.

Prof. Charitha Herath chaired the meeting. Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne attended the meeting whereas Ports and Shipping Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra led the SLPA team.Both MP Vithanage and Prof. Herath asserted that the Finance Ministry should have intervened on behalf of the people. The COPE examined how the SLPA continuously refrained from paying the Treasury at least the minimum amounts in spite of receiving massive profits over the years.  The Director General Public Enterprises, who has received that position recently, struggled to explain their failure to take up the non-transfer of SLPA profits to the Treasury. The COPE was told of Rs 69,686 mn revenue earned from 2016 to 2021, only 600 mn had been transferred to the Treasury.

Lawmaker Vithanage yesterday told The Island that the recent examinations of various enterprises and the Central Bank, by the COPE, as well as other watchdog committees, disclosed how the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and the Monetary Board contributed to the developing crisis. MP Vithanage pointed out even after the Covid-19 eruption devastated the economy, the SLPA had been able to withhold funds required by the Treasury for want of Finance Ministry intervention.Responding to queries, MP Vithanage said that the Parliament should act without further delay to ensure the Finance Ministry and the Monetary Board acted responsibly.

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Ceylon Chamber distributes dry rations

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The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Diwiyata Diriyak’ social initiative provided emergency relief, in the form of 10,000 essential dry ration packs, to vulnerable families in the Kegalle and Colombo districts.

A press release from the Chamber said: Mobilising the Chamber’s Membership to assist low-income families that are struggling to survive the current crisis, the initial distribution, which took place at the Kegalle District Secretariat, was the first phase of Diwiyata Diriyak, which aims to provide 5,000 relief packs.

Containing essential items such as rice, lentils, sugar, wheat flour, canned fish, etc., costing Rs. 5,000 each, vulnerable families, identified by the respective District Secretaries in the Warakapola, Galigamuwa, Mawanella and Rambukkana DS divisions, were among the initial beneficiaries.

CEO and Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber Manjula de Silva said that the Chamber was committed to supporting the public during this immensely challenging time, and would always strive to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Home Garden Starter Packs, sponsored by the CIC Group, were also distributed among the families, in order to assist and encourage home garden cultivation as a viable option to address the rapidly rising costs and predicted shortage of food items, the release said.

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