Virtual education further stalled as talks fail between teachers and PM

By Imesh Ranasinghe

COLOMBO – School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka will continue an ongoing strike as discussions between trade unions and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa concluded unsuccessfully Tuesday (27), a union leader said.

Ceylon Teachers’ Union general secretary Joseph Stalin said the discussion on teachers’ salary anomalies failed and the strike will continue. It will deprive tens of thousands of students of virtual education.

Stalin said the trade unions collective could not accept proposals made by the Cabinet sub-committee appointed to look into the matter.

Education Minister Prof G. L. Pieris has told the trade unions that he will submit another cabinet paper next week in order to arrive at an amicable solution, the union leader said.

The teachers’ and principal’s unions launched the strike on July 12 demanding a solution to longstanding salary anomalies and other issues pertaining to online education.

With the closure of schools in Sri Lanka owing to COVID-19, most students have had to resort to learning online, and questions remain on equitable access to technology and internet coverage.

Co-Cabinet Spokesman Ramesh Pathirana told the weekly cabinet briefing on Tuesday the government has identified the need to resolve the salary anomalies affecting teachers and principals

“But a decision on what kind of salary scale should be set has yet to be taken,” he said.

In any case, he said, the government is currently not in a position to make immediate changes due to the country’s financial constraints

“But the Finance Minister has agreed to remove the salary anomalies in a future budget bill,” he said.

While requesting the teachers to call off their strike and resume teaching students online, Pathirana said international schools and many popular schools in urban areas were continuing their online classes without interruptions.

“It is the students of schools in semi-urban and rural areas who are being inconvenienced,” he said.


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