(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – The Minister of Education Prof. GL Peiris has said that it is unfair to call for an immediate solution to the teachers’ problem that has existed for 24 years at a time when not only Sri Lanka but the entire world is in a severe economic crisis.
The Minister said this addressing the media at the end of a discussion held at the Ministry of Education Tuesday with the representatives of the Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Unions.
During today’s discussion with the trade unions, the government pointed out the history of the issue to them. This problem persisted from government to government for about 24 years. It was not something that happened yesterday. It was a perennial issue. This can be pointed out as a problem growing for so long and bestowed on this government. Therefore, not attending school or not educating the children is not an appropriate solution at this time.
At a time when the entire world is in the midst of a severe economic crisis and some countries are even slashing salaries, the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has taken steps to pay the salaries of public servants, including teachers uninterruptedly, the government side pointed out.
It is not practical to make such a request in an environment where all major sources of revenue to the government, such as VAT, Customs, excise and foreign worker remittances, have been severely affected, the Minister said.
“In such a situation, it is not fair to declare at once after 24 years that teachers will not go to schools and will not teach.”
“The most affected by these actions are children from poor families. The education of children in privileged families continues. So this is an unfair course of action.”
Although allegations were made against the Secretary of Education in connection with the recently issued circular, it was by no means issued at the personal request of the Secretary, the Minister explained.
As of this morning, about 85% of the 241,000 teachers have been vaccinated. Steps should be taken to start schools gradually after vaccination. The teachers should go to the schools and create the environment in the schools to start schools. By no means, the circular intended to intimidate or threaten the teachers, the Minister said.
Addressing the gathering Minister Bandula Gunawardena said, the government is ready to identify this problem and find a solution to it, as stated in President’s Vision of Prosperity policy statement.
“It clearly states that steps will be taken to eliminate teacher salary anomalies and improve the quality of teachers. But at the moment the government is in the same economic crisis as the rest of the world. 86% of government tax revenue in 2020 is spent on salaries of teachers and public servants while the government spend a lot of money on free education and health. There is no way to tax people who are unable to pay their loan installments, their lease installments and whose income streams are blocked. While the salaries of the private sector are being slashed in other parts of the world, the salaries of public servants and pensions are being paid in our country. Vaccination is taking place all over the country. So it is not possible to do what they want at the moment. The way to increase it (salaries) is to set aside the necessary financial allocations for the budget in November. That is what the Cabinet unanimously decided. Please understand the reality for the 4.4 million innocent children,” Minister Gunawardena said.