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by Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

This miserable and capricious coronavirus pandemic is going to be with us for a considerable time more, right into even the far and distant future. The world has had to change like never before, of course through sheer necessity. Buzz words like innovation, flexibility, collaborations, evolving situations, tackling security challenges, increasing productivity and growth of businesses, in addition to very many other newer terminologies, have suddenly sprung up as the operative nomenclature of many walks of life. Physical distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, masking and even double-masking, as well as hand-washing, are the public health mantras that have been promulgated to keep the blight at bay. All kinds of electronic portals are being used and not-in-person electronic pathways are tending to rule the roost. Schooling has been totally disrupted and online learning has been practically imposed on even very young school students. In fact, even university and higher education endeavours have shifted many a gear to go electronic. Scientific presentations, lectures, seminars and symposia are conducted, in many instances, from remote localities and even from many distant areas of the globe. The entire world has become a huge ‘village’ and to paraphrase something the great Bard William Shakespeare once wrote, ‘the world has become a performing stage with very many of us being actors in these dramatic scenarios’.

Now that the lines between schooling, universities, vocational training institutions, home and office are blurred like never before, it is perhaps getting harder to tell where your job ends and life begins. You spend the day toggling between tasks you are paid to do and other chores, especially family commitments, that you have to do. Your duties overlap from one minute to the next. You are often using the same phone, tablet, and the laptop, to do different kinds of work, whether that is a presentation for work, a new home-schooling programme you never could have ever even imagined just a year ago, or organizing your family’s most important documents.

In times of uncertainty, with many people juggling more responsibilities than ever, how do you keep the chaos at bay? More than anything, the electronic data have to be preserved, stored and made totally accessible from anywhere and at all times. Files have to be organised, filtered and stored in a kind of virtually fool-proof setting. You cannot totally trust your hard drives, in-built memory caches and even detachable storage devices. The safest is perhaps to store all data in an electronic cloud drive or drives through a digital home-base where you can organize, share, and access all your content in a safe, secure way. This is to ensure that you can feel on top of things, no matter which full-time job you are juggling.

Organise your files,
photos, and documents

Whether you are learning how to home-school your children, working from home, going international on some issues, managing the finances usefully through electronic portals or looking for a new job, now is a good time to take inventory of everything you will need to access in the coming months. You need to get intensely organised. When all your files, photos, videos, and documents are organized and usefully labelled in one place in the cloud, you never need to worry where they are. It is always most useful to organise different content types in . photos and traditional records, like Portable Document Format (PDF) files can live alongside cloud documents, like Google Docs, shortcuts to web pages, and much more. You could also break free from total dependence on your hard drives. With many cloud storage devices, you can download files locally when you want to use them, and return them to the cloud to save hard drive space when you are done with them. Undoubtedly, it is a superb way to save space on your hard drives, not clog them too much and even gain on the speed of access of data.

Many cloud storage devices allow the finding of files ever so quickly by keyword searches. Even in the case of images, one could save time getting to the images you need by JPG, JPEG, PNG, and GIF files. One could also save, organize, and share documents right from your phone. With some of the document scanner applications, one could quickly transform physical paper documents into digital files so that you could remove some clutter as well. It is also sometimes possible to access important data on the go, even when you do not have WiFi or a cell signal.

You need to stay

When you are even isolated at home for weeks on end, it gets harder to feel connected and in control. But with many of the cloud drives, you get to decide who can access your shared content, and then also view who has seen what and when. Whether you want to send long videos, share folders, or collaborate on a project, these make it ever so easy.

Parents can record video of home-schooling sessions with a tool like Zoom and save them to folders they can share with other parents. As the content grows, having one well-organized place to access shared videos makes it less work for everyone. One could share files, folders and documents, with reasonably secure links and disseminate them from your phone, tablet, or computer. Every file you save to your cloud drives can be shared quickly with a simple link and accessed across devices, whether you use an iPhone, Android, Mac or PC. With shared links, you maintain control over the files you share. The recipients will be able to view or download a copy of the file. With appropriate precautions, you do not have to worry about them being edited, changed or even deleted, unless of course you wish to delegate those functions to the person that you are sharing with. In some systems, you could even impose an expiration date on shared files.

Feel secure

As you might have read in , now that more people are at home and online for more hours every day, there could be an increase in phishing scams and attempted hacking attacks. But with best-in-class security, multiple layers of protection, and advanced rollback features, of quite a few of the cloud repositories, safety of content could be ensured. Many applications are regularly tested for security vulnerabilities, and hardened to enhance security and protect against attacks. Many systems use two-step verification for an extra layer of security.

Cloud storage is gradually replacing on-premise options. The benefits of cloud storage include:-

Access from multiple

Once the data is in the cloud, it can be accessed from anywhere.

Expand or contract as needed.

Cloud storage capacity can be increased or decreased depending on the needs of the customer, avoiding paying for unused storage.

Downtime protection. If one cloud server goes down, another can handle user requests. This avoids downtime.

Better performance.

Cloud storage enables distribution of user requests across multiple servers, which reduces the load on each server for faster response.

Saves money.

Managing storage in-house can require specialized hardware, software, and other resources. Cloud storage can be cheaper.

Using cloud storage, merchants can store images, videos, and user-generated content, as examples. Many cloud storage providers offer limited free plans. Cloud storage vendors can accommodate files and data, though not all do both. Many providers also offer Europe-based storage to help comply with .

The cloud storage service providers offer free limited space and larger for-payment facilities depending on the requirements for storage of data. The capacity ranges from Gigabytes (GB) to Terabytes (TB). The following is a short list of both free and for-pay Cloud Storage Sites that one could use:-


is one of the oldest cloud storage services. It maintains all customer files in one location, thereby enabling any device to access them anytime and from anywhere. It offers 2GB of free storage and paid plans of 1TB and 2TB of storage. At the last count, for around US$20 a month, it offers unlimited storage for businesses on a per-user payment basis.

Google Drive

offers centralized storage for any type of file. It offers 15GB of free storage for three Google products: Photos, Gmail, and Drive.

Paid plans include those for 100GB and 1TB of storage.

Google is upgrading the data service to a new product called . It will offer storage as well as access to Google experts.

Box enables secure access, sharing, and management of content from anywhere. It offers 10GB of free storage that can be increased to 100GB for an extra payment. The unlimited storage business plan costs around US$15 a month for three to ten users. `

Mega is a global cloud storage platform based in New Zealand. It offers 50GB of free storage. Paid accounts include 200GB, 1TB, 2TB and 8TB.

Microsoft OneDrive offers standard cloud storage features such as accessing files from any device, offline access by syncing files to a device, and backup and disaster recovery. It offers 5GB of storage for free and several other higher storage capacity facilities for payment.

Apple iCloud comes with every Apple device and offers 5GB of free storage. Paid plans start from 50GB to 200GB of storage.

 Nextcloud is an open-source, self-hosted file sharing platform. This enables users to start their own file sharing service by setting up a private cloud environment. Nextcloud offers multiple support plans starting at around 1900 Euros per year for 50 users.

SpiderOak offers file sharing and collaboration as part of its cloud storage platform. Its cloud backup service maintains versions of all files, even deleted files. The service comes with a free 21-day trial. Businesses with a minimum of 500 users can sign up for the enterprise backup service.

IDrive is a cloud backup provider that works across multiple devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones etc., to store files in one location. It offers a 5GB free plan and multiple paid plans for personal and business use, from 2TB to 5TB.

pCloud offers centralized cloud storage. Its lifetime storage plans require a one-time payment: 500GB for around US$175 one-time payment and 2TB for a higher payment.

 MediaFire stores photos, documents, videos, and other files in a single place to enable access from anywhere. MediaFire offers 10GB of free storage and has paid plans for 1TB to 100TB of storage capacity for monthly payments.

Tresorit offers enhanced security for storing files in the cloud. Plans include 200GB and going up to 1000GB for monthly payments.

Egnyte enables enterprise file storage and sharing. Its paid plans for up to three employees offers 1TB of storage and Business Plans for 5 to 25 employees for 5TB of storage capacity.

SugarSync enables automatic access and sharing of any kind of file. It offers only paid plans for a range of 100GB to 1TB.

Storegate is a cloud storage service based in Europe. It offers paid plans of capacity ranging from 100GB. The Business plans range from 500GB to 1000GB for monthly payments.

OpenDrive offers unlimited cloud storage, backup, and content management. The free plan includes 5GB of space. Paid Business Plans start from 500GB. OpenDrive’s unlimited plan, for monthly payments, is the lowest price per gigabyte across all vendors on this list.

Jungle Disk offers secure backup and storage. Only paid plans are available and monthly payments depend on the security features. JungleDisk’s questionnaire helps determine your security needs to find the right plan, with the right features.

Carbonite is an online cloud backup service. It offers plans based on the number of computers that require backup. Prices range from monthly charges for one computer to higher amounts for multiple computers and servers.

FlipDrive offers centralized cloud storage for all types of files. Its free plan includes 10GB of storage. Paid plans include 25GB to 250 GB of storage for monthly payments.

FilesAnywhere is a cloud storage provider that offers monthly payment plans and Business Plans ranging from 100GB to 2TB of storage capacity.

ElephantDrive is a cloud backup service for users requiring the backup of large volumes of data. Personal monthly payment plans start from 1000GB and Business Plans going up to 2000GB. They also offer a 2GB “free forever” plan.

ADrive is a cloud storage provider whose plans start at monthly payments for 100GB for individuals. Business plans start from 200GB.

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From a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ to a ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’



A meeting of BRICS leaders

As the world continues to reel from the ‘aftershocks’ as it were of the October 7th Gaza Strip-centred savagery, what it should guard against most is a mood of pessimism and hopelessness. Hopefully, the international community would pull itself together before long and give of its best to further the cause of a political solution in the Middle East.

It is plain to see that what needs to be done most urgently at present is the prolongation of the current ceasefire, besides facilitating a steady exchange of hostages but given the present state of hostilities between the warring sides this would not prove an easy challenge.

Considering that there are no iron-clad guarantees by either side that there would be a longstanding ceasefire followed by a cessation of hostilities, what we have at present in the Middle East is a highly fraught ‘breather’ from the fighting. There are no easy answers to the currently compounded Middle East conflict but the external backers of the warring sides could alleviate the present suffering of the peoples concerned to a degree by bringing steady pressure on the principal antagonists to drastically scale down their hostilities.

If they mean well by the communities concerned, these external backers, such as the US, as regards Israel, and those major Middle Eastern states backing Hamas and other militant groups, would set about creating a conducive climate for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

De-escalating the supply of lethal military hardware to the warring sides is a vital first step towards this end. External military backing is a key element in the prolongation of the war and a decrease in such support would go some distance in curtailing the agony of the peoples concerned. The onus is on these external parties to prove their good intentions, if they have any.

Meanwhile, major states of the South in increasing numbers are making their voices heard on the principal issues to the conflict. One such grouping is BRICS, which is now featuring among its prospective membership, countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran. That is, in the foreseeable future BRICS would emerge as a greatly expanded global grouping, which would come to be seen as principally representative of the South.

Since the majority of countries within the BRICS fold are emerging economies, the bloc could be expected to wield tremendous economic and military clout in the present world order. With China and Russia counting among the foremost powers in the grouping, BRICS would be in a position to project itself as an effective counterweight to the West and the G7 bloc.

However, the major challenge before the likes of BRICS is to prove that they will be a boon and not a bane to the poorer countries of the South. They would be challenged to earnestly champion the cause of a just and equitable world political and economic order. Would BRICS, for instance, be equal to such challenges? Hopefully, the commentator would be able to answer this question in the affirmative, going ahead.

The current issues in the Middle East pose a major challenge to BRICS. One of the foremost tasks for BRICS in relation to the Middle East is the formulation of a policy position that is equitable and fair to all the parties to the conflict. The wellbeing of both the Palestinians and the Israelis needs to be staunchly championed.

Thus, BRICS is challenged to be even-handed in its managing of Middle Eastern questions. If the grouping does not do this, it risks turning the Gaza bloodletting, for example, into yet another proxy war front between the East and West.

Nothing constructive would be achieved by BRICS, in that the wellbeing of the peoples concerned would not be served and proxy wars have unerringly been destructive rather constructive in any way. The South could do without any more of these proxy wars and BRICS would need to prove its skeptics wrong on this score.

Accordingly, formations, such as BRICS, that are genuine counterweights to the West are most welcome but their presence in the world system should prove to be of a positive rather than of a negative nature. They need to keep the West in check in the UN system, for example, but they should steer clear of committing the West’s excesses and irregularities.

More specifically, the expanding BRICS should be in a position to curtail the proliferation of identity politics in the present world order. The West has, thus far, failed to achieve this. The seismic convulsions in the Gaza re-establish the pervasive and pernicious presence of identity politics in the world’s war zones, so much so, one could say that US political scientist Samuel Huntingdon is being proved absolutely right in his theorization that world politics over the past 30 years has been essentially a ‘Clash of Civilizations’.

After all, current developments in the Middle East could be construed by the more simple-minded observer as a pitting of Islam against Judaism, although there are many more convoluted strands to the Middle East conflict than a violent clash of these religious identities. More so why the influence of identity politics needs to blunted and eliminated by the right-thinking.

One way in which this could be achieved is the through the steady espousal and practise of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’ theory. While the existence of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ cannot be denied on account of the pervasive presence of identity politics the world over, the negative effects of this brand of politics could be neutralized through the initiation and speeding-up of a robust dialogue among civilizations or identity groups.

Such an exchange of views or dialogue could prove instrumental in facilitating mutual understanding among cultural and civilizational groups. The consequence could be a reduction in tensions among mutually hostile social groups. Needless to say, the Middle East is rife with destructive politics of this kind.

Accordingly, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way cultural groups interact with each other. The commonalities among these groups could be enhanced through a constant dialogue process and the Middle East of today opens out these possibilities.

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Their love story in song…



The duo in the company of Dinesh Hemantha and Jananga

It’s certainly encouraging to see Sri Lankan artistes now trying to be creative…where songs are concerned.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen some interesting originals surfacing, with legendary singer/entertainer Sohan Weerasinghe’s ‘Sansare,’ taking the spotlight.

Rubeena Shabnam, Sri Lankan based in Qatar, and Yohan Dole, living in Australia, have teamed up to produce a song about their love life.

‘Adare Sulagin’ is the title of the song and it’s the couple’s very first duet.

Says Rubeena: “This song is all about our love story and is a symbol of our love. It feels like a dream singing with my fiancé.”

Elaborating further, especially as to how they fell in love, Rubeena went on to say that they met via social media, through a common friend of theirs.

The song and video was done in Sri Lanka.

Rubeena and Yohan with lyricist Jananga Vishawajith

“We both travelled to Sri Lanka, in August this year, where we recorded the song and did the video, as well.

‘Adare Sulagin’ was composed by Dinesh Hemantha (DH Wave Studio, in Galle), while the lyrics were penned by Jananga Vishwajith, and the video was handled by Pathmila Ravishan.

It is Dinesh Hemantha’s second composition for Rubeena – the first being ‘Surali.’

“It was an amazing project and it was done beautifully. Talking about the music video, we decided to keep it more simple, and natural, so we decided to capture it at the studio. It was a lot of fun working with them.”

‘Adare Sulagin,’ says Rubeena, is for social media only. “We have not given it for release to any radio or TV station in Sri Lanka.”

However, you could check it out on YouTube: Adare Sulagin – Rubeena Shabnam, ft. Yohan Dole.

Rubeena lives and works in Qatar and she has been in the music industry for almost five years. She has done a few originals but this one, with Yohan, is very special to her, she says.

Yohan Dole resides in Australia and is a guitarist and vocalist.

He has a band called Rhythmix, in Australia, where they play at various events.

He has been doing music for quite a while now but doing an original song was one of his dreams, he says

Rubeena and Yohan plan to get married, in December, and do more music together, in different genres.

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Mathematics examinations or mathematics curriculum?



Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams. 

by Anton Peiris

R. N.A. De Silva has, in a recent article, provided some useful tips to students as regards preparation for mathematics examinations. Trained teachers and graduates with professional qualifications are familiar with this topic.  All mathematics teachers have a duty to help the students with revision.

The more important task is to salvage the Sri Lankan O/Level mathematics students from the abyss that they have fallen into, viz. the implications and the retarding effect of the use of obsolete Log Tables. The Minister of Education, Senior Ministry Officials and the NIA are oblivious to the important and interesting things that have happened in Grades 10 and 11 mathematics in the UK, other parts of Europe, Japan, Canada, China and elsewhere. They have been like frogs in a well for almost half a century. Here are two important facts:

1. O/Level mathematics students in Sri Lanka are 46 years behind their counterparts in the UK and in other developed countries. Ordinary Scientific calculators were introduced to the O/Level mathematics classrooms in the UK way back in 1977. Prior to that those students used Slide Rules to facilitate their mathematical calculations. Ordinary scientific calculators give the values of Sine, Cos, Tan and their Inverses, Log, LN, exponential powers, square roots, squares, reciprocals, factorials, etc., at the press of a button, in addition to performing arithmetic functions. There is no memory to store mathematical formulae, etc. It is an invaluable tool for solving sophisticated and interesting mathematical problems and also problems in ordinary statistics. It has paved the way for achieving high standards in O/Level Mathematics in those countries.

Just compare the maths questions in the Cambridge IGCSE or the London O/Level Maths Exam with the questions in the Sri Lankan O/Level maths exam and you will see how far our students have fallen behind.

The Cambridge O/Level examination was replaced by the GCSE and the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) a few decades ago.

I am not referring to Programmable Calculators and Graphic Display Calculators (GDC), meaning devices with a small screen that can display graphs, perform statistical calculations like the Z- Score for large samples, show Matrix calculations, provide solutions to algebraic equations, etc., at the press of a few buttons. GDC is a compulsory item for A/Level mathematics students in the UK and in all developed countries.

Some teachers say that by using ordinary scientific calculators in Grades 10 and 11, students will not acquire the ability to carry out mental arithmetic calculations. This is not true because

(i). Calculators are introduced in Grade 10. Maths teachers have five years of Primary School and three years of Middle school (Grades 7, 8 and 9) i.e. a total of eight years to inculcate sufficient mental arithmetic skills in their students before the calculators are introduced in Grade 10!

(ii). In the IGCSE and in the London O/Level Mathematics Exams calculators are not allowed for Paper 1. Preparation for Paper 1 requires the acquisition of mental arithmetic skills, e.g., one lesson per week in class in Grades 10 and 11 in which calculators are not allowed. Sri Lanka could follow suit.

Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams.

An ordinary scientific calculator costs less than 10 % of the price of a smartphone.

Sri Lankan students in International Schools sit the IGCSE or the London O/Level mathematics exams where ordinary scientific calculators are allowed. These students have made big strides in learning mathematics by using the calculators. Only the rich can send their children to International Schools in Sri Lanka. Millions of poor Sri Lankan students do not have calculators.

Our Minister of Education has announced that the government was planning to transform the country’s education system by introducing ‘’STEAM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Maintaining high standards in O/Level Mathematics is the key to a successful implementation of STEAM programme. Unfortunately, the Education Minister and top education official are not aware of the fact that the only way to improve the standard of O/Level Mathematics is to do what the developed countries have done, i. e., revamping the O/Level mathematics syllabus and to introducing the ordinary scientific calculator in Grades 10 & 11. If they do it, it will be an important piece of curriculum development.

Bear in mind that the UK and other developed countries have taken another important step during the last 20 years; they have introduced the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) to the O/Level Mathematics class and by providing a Core Exam and an Extended Exam. In the Cambridge IGCSE Mathematics Exams, Papers 1, 3, and 5 constitute the Core Exam. Papers 2 ,4 and 6 constitute the Extended Exam. Calculators are not allowed in Papers 1 and 2.

The Core Exam is a boon to students who have very little or no mathematical ability. More on this in my next article.

By using Log Tables, our Sri Lankan O/Level students have to spend a lot of time to solve an IGCSE (Extended Syllabus) exam problem or a London O/Level mathematics exam problem because the use of Log Tables takes a long time  to work out the Squares, Square Roots, exponential powers, reciprocals , LN , factorials, etc., and that is tedious work while their counterparts in developed countries do that in a few seconds by pressing a couple of buttons in an ordinary scientific calculator.

The Calculator has given them more motivation to learn mathematics.

O/Level students in the UK have graduated from the ordinary scientific calculator to the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) thereby improving their ability to solve more sophisticated, more important and more interesting problems in mathematics, statistics and physics. Sri Lankan O/Level students are compelled to use obsolete Log Tables.

Hats off to that Minister of Education who introduced the ordinary scientific calculator to the Sri Lankan A/ Level Mathematics classroom and to the A/Level Mathematics Exam a few years ago. That was a small step in the right direction. Minister Susil Premjayantha, please revamp the O/Level mathematics syllabus and introduce the ordinary scientific calculator to Grades 10 and 11 now. That will ensure a big boost for your STEAM programme and yield benefits for the Sri Lankan economy.

(To be continued. Topic 2:  The necessity for introducing an O/Level Mathematics Core Exam and an Extended Exam. The writer has taught O/Level and A/Level Mathematics and Physics for 45 years in Asia, Africa and Europe and is an Emeritus Coordinator for International Baccalaureate, Geneva.)

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