Since presently a discussion has come up regarding the recommencement of schools after a long time, to make it more meaningful and to assure equal rights in education, we present the following points for your kind attention and consideration.
Education is a basic human right. The following can be mentioned among the free education proposals made by honourable Mr. Kannangara:
- All children should be given a good education.
- Education should be free of charge.
But all of us know well that what is mentioned above is not found in the present reality of education in Srilanka.
It has been estimated that 63 school weeks have been closed from the time COVID-19 started up until September 2021. In these circumstances, as more emphasis was placed on online classes than on an alternative course of action, the education right of 60% of children has been violated and it even continues to happen everyday. Especially, we would like to remind you that there was a situation where the children with special needs were completely left out of online education. And the education of the other 40% was not “free” as the parents had to bear all the expenses.
When a 40% of children study, covering their own expenses and another 60% are left out completely, amidst this wide disparity, they are given the same exam paper for O/L and A/L. It is a great injustice done to the 60% of children and a sheer human right violation. The last O/L exam was held when there was a great disparity among the provinces regarding the number of days that schools were opened. Is it not a situation that should be challenged at the courts?
Education is not just pumping knowledge, but a comprehensive activity geared towards the development of the total character of the person. It is a human process of socialization that takes place between the children, the teachers, and the society at large. Besides, through the online education, the children do not and did not receive the knowledge and wisdom, that otherwise they receive both from co-curricular and extra-curricular activities of the usual school education.
The specialists have pointed out that the online education has triggered loneliness in children and many other physical and psychological conditions of sickness in them. Children becoming more mechanical in behaviour, getting addicted to internet, becoming victims of anti-social behaviours are only a few examples. Therefore, most countries, instead of promoting online education, explore and practise many alternative education methods based on education for all, considering it a national priority.
The online education does not fulfil the conditions of accessibility, adaptability and availability that are essential to safeguard the right to education of the poor rural children. While the state has not taken action to solve these problems, the taxes have raised the prices of those devices and instruments.
What strategies, the state has taken to solve the above-mentioned gaps and disparities created by the online education during the covid-19 pandemic? What is the framework of principles regarding the holding of exams? The state has not come up with any course of action that explains how children can cover up the already lost time. People have a right to know it and to be satisfied whether it fulfils the demands of justice or not.
And, the state, instead of solving the teachers’ problems which have a direct impact on children’s education, seems to repress the voice of protest of the teachers.
In this situation, we who sign here request,
1. to stop forcing the teachers to continue with the online education that brings many disparities and deprives 60% of children of their rite to education; to come up with a plan of action based on scientific knowledge to assure education for all.
2. that the state implements a therapeutic education plan that goes beyond giving exam papers and evening tuition classes to the children who were left out from education because of online education.
3. that a special plan of action should be implemented for the children with special needs who have been completely left out from education.
4. that a quality vaccine program should be implemented on the advice of medical specialists so that O/L and A/L students will be able to go to school all together.
5. that an as equal time as that was lost due to Covid-19 should be given to the A/L and O/L students.
6. that the state should speak with regional and school committees and teachers-principals labour unions who have some knowledge about the real situation and then act upon the proposals and suggestions they have already made.
7. that human resources should be trained in schools to take health care measures; that schools be provided with the necessary materials for health security; that schools should be turned into a system where physical and human resources are subjected to real management.
8. that the state should solve teachers’ problems and provide all facilities to resume schools without any obstructions; that the state should not use the immediate opening of schools as a tool to bring confusion to the teachers’ trade unions.
9. that physical and human resources should be provided to schools so that in an urgent situation in the future both teachers and children can smoothly switch on to online teaching and learning. To achieve this goal, the money spent on education in the budget should be raised.
10. that the state should arrange a special plan of action to go after and get the children who got thrown out of education due to pandemic situation.