Sri Lanka
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I will not allow the education of children to be taken hostage, will make education an essential service – President

Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the education of children cannot be allowed to be taken hostage and if teachers do not make themselves available for A/L exam paper marking by next week, he would not hesitate to make education an essential service under emergency law and initiate legal action against teachers flouting their responsibility.

He said all the teachers responsible for marking exam papers last year must be available for paper marking this year, failing which, he will prosecute them. “You can’t stop the education of the children. What nonsense is this? By next week I must tell the AG to be ready with the emergency regulations.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe mentioned this while joining the discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday morning (April 19) to review the progress of the special budget proposals implemented in the year 2023 by the Ministries of Education and Higher Education, Labor and Foreign Employment.

He also noted that the matter would be put to parliament for a vote where MPs would be asked to vote by name. “Let’s see which MP is going to vote against it. I will ask for a vote by name.”

He told the Education Ministry authorities that he will not allow the education of children to be taken hostage by anyone and demanded that the teachers come back to paper marking immediately.

“Tell them if they don’t want to come back and they want a confrontation, we are willing to come for a confrontation. No one is going to hold the education of children as hostage. That can’t be allowed. You’ll must come up with a solution by the end of this week. If you don’t have one I will take it up in Cabinet and then we will decide what to do. Speak to the minister and we will have a meeting by Friday,” the President told the Education Ministry officials.

During the meeting, the President advised officials to create a program that would enable at least four students per year, based on their exceptional performance in the G.C.E. Advanced Level Examination, to pursue graduate courses in foreign universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard.

The President also stressed the importance of annually increasing the number of students who could benefit from such an opportunity. Additionally, the President emphasized the significance of providing equal opportunities to students from public and private universities and encouraging more students to pursue technical subjects.

He also noted that a decision would have to be made regarding the University in the East established by Mr. Hizbullah and was told by the education authorities that a sub-committee had been appointed headed by State Minister Mrs. Seetha Arambepola to look into that matter.

Furthermore, the President instructed the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) to prepare a plan to provide internet facilities to schools with Advanced Level within two years, followed by all schools with educational facilities up to the O/L.

The President has directed the creation of a joint program between public and private universities to produce 10,000 engineering and technology graduates and 5,000 medical graduates annually. In order to carry out this initiative, the President has called for the formation of a suitable committee to prepare and submit a report on the matter.

Moreover, the President has stressed the importance of integrating over 350 government-run technical and vocational training institutes and implementing training programs.

Recognizing the complexity of existing labour laws, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has emphasized the need to consolidate them into a single, unified labour law. The Ministry of Labor and Foreign Employment has been tasked with preparing the necessary bill for its enforcement by May.

The meeting was attended by various government officials, including the Presidential Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayake, President’s Secretary Mr Saman Ekanayake, President’s Adviser on Economic Affairs Dr. R.H.S. Samarathunga, Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Mr. Mahinda Siriwardena, Secretary of the Ministry of Education Mr. M.N. Ranasinghe, Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment Secretary Mr. R.P.A. Wimalaweera, and Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe, among others.

(President’s Media)