Parliament | Daily News


No one can interfere with Free Education System - Dinesh

The Government will not allow anyone to interfere with the Free Education System in the country, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday (01).

Minister Gunawardena made this observation in response to MP Rauff Hakeem who suggested that the Free Education System is not properly secured as most Governments including the previous and the present one failed to allocate 6% from the Appropriation Bills. He was speaking during the Committee Stage debate on the expenditure head of the Education ministry.

MP Hakeem also said that the Government’s hasty attempt to introduce the KDU bill and the newly proposed educational reforms also put the Free Education System at risk.

Minister Gunawardena in reply observed that there is no such interference allowed in free education and requested MPs not to make such irresponsible statements. “I do not want to go for a debate on this matter as the time is limited. I would like to ask these MPs not to make grave, misleading statements such as these in an irresponsible manner. I request the Opposition to stand with the Government to improve the education sector in our country for the future of our coming generations. Just because certain news circulates in the media, nobody should entertain any fear. If there is a national education program launched in the country, it first goes through the Education Ministry and then through this House. I give you that assurance and nothing will be rushed,” Minister Gunawardena noted.

The Government has allotted a huge amount of money in the Provincial Council Expenditure Head for education and many of those who level allegations saying that we have not made enough allocations for education seem to have forgotten these allocations. Then we know that we had to face a pandemic that no one was ready for.All over the world, even the most developed countries, the richest countries, came to a standstill due to the pandemic. In order to save the country from that situation we had to close the country at various times, especially to save the lives of school children, young people and undergraduates. So certain delays are inevitable.”

Minister Gunawardena noted, “Schools officially started on the 21st. We’ve been raising our heads through the COVID-19 crisis.

I would especially like to mention that our country needs to think nationally with an understanding of the global pandemic situation. Also, there are 10155 schools in our country. There are only 373 National Schools, which are actively guided directly by the Ministry. The Ministry also actively guides all other Provincial Councils in education as well during this difficult time.”

Minister Gunawardena also said that he is grateful to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for protecting rural education in the country.

“The Minister of Finance has provided us with the financial assistance we need to protect our rural schools. We have provided the necessary teachers, teacher training, principals and funding for school development. Out of 9,782 provincial schools there are 1,439 schools with less than 50 students.

There are 2962 schools with less than one percent of the students. Over the past 20 years, many schools have been systematically closed. I, as the Minister of Education, especially want to tell the Opposition that I do not agree with closing down schools. Also, Government owned lands in closed schools should be converted into building facilities,” Minister Gunawardena noted.


Pay special attention to early childhood education - Dullas

Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma joining the Committee Stage of the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday said that extraordinary youngsters such as Nethmi Rajapaksa from Rathmale Saddharmaraja Vidyalaya and Brian Kingston from the School for the Visually Impaired in Ratmalana who have achieved excellence despite their disabilities have opened the eyes of everyone in this country and have made us aware of our shortcomings. “They have given us a boost to evolve as better human beings and emerge as a cultured society.”

He said that as a society everyone must be sensitive to the issues faced by these differently-abled children in the education sphere. “A visually impaired child has no other option but to seek education at the school for the visually impaired. They have no means of pursuing their higher studies. Is this the message we want to give? The most fundamental right in this modern age is every child’s right to education. But, in their case are we depriving them of this basic right? Hence, I believe that Minister Dinesh Gunawardena will focus his attention regarding the plight of these children.”

Minister Alahapperuma noted that the main reason is the disparity in educational access. Therefore, he called on all MPs, irrespective of party politics, to join hands in this issue, adding that if not, none of them would be forgiven by the children of the 21st century.

Referring to a quote, ‘Catch them while they are young’, the Minister said that early childhood education is the most vital segment that determines a child’s future both educationally and builds character. Therefore, he said that special attention should be focused on quality early childhood education in order to obtain a better secondary level education.

However, he also said that in order to provide better education, proper training should be given to teachers. Hence, he called on the Government to transform all 19 teaching academies into universities in order to reach the target of making all teachers graduate. This, he said, is an investment for the future.

Minister Alahapperuma also noted that during the recent Cabinet meeting Rs. 600 million was approved to provide Broadband Internet facilities to all schools. “This is a very important step. Online education is the future trend. As a country, we need to make the best of it. Therefore, by providing Internet facilities to all schools, we could incorporate the online education facilities to every classroom, which will eliminate the disparity that exists in terms of students’ access to the internet enabling all children to have such facilities without any discrimination.”

The Minister also thanked the business community for coming forward to provide Internet facilities to students who would otherwise have been left behind due to the lack of internet facilities.

Minister Alahapperuma also made a request from the Government to continue with the programme that was launched during the lockdown period inviting children to collectively read or write.

“In a situation where there were many complaints that the present generation does not read or write, 42,000 children gathered during this initiative to collectively write books disproving the notion that children don’t want to read. If we continue this drive, we would be able to create a younger generation who are addicted to reading and this will lead to creating a future generation of youngsters rich in knowledge, culture and moral conduct.”

He made a request to target World Reading Day in April and continue this drive to encourage children to develop their habit of reading.


Over 7% allocated from Budget 2022 for development of education - Dinesh

The Government, reaching a historic milestone in free education, has allocated more than 7% for the development of education through the Budget 2022, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday (01).

The Teacher Principal Salary anomaly was a major problem we had to tackle, some twenty five years after the great victory in the field of education achieved by late Education Minister Richard Pathirana in 1994. Implementing the recommendations given by that subcommittee to resolve this problem is indeed followed by financial difficulty. However, these matters should be addressed despite the financial crisis we are facing. Thus the Government has taken a historic step to solve this salary anomaly issue by allocating an additional Rs.32 billion as per the recommendation of the principals and teachers. Funds have been allocated for that in the budget. We will come to an agreement next year to implement it. Not only in Sri Lanka, even in advanced countries like the Netherlands, there have been such strikes.”

Gunawardena noted, “The 244,000 teachers we have in the country can now read for a degree. It is a great achievement for education. After this, the Education Service has been transformed so that one can have a degree in education or move towards a degree. The future of our children is based on a knowledge based education. We are thus going to introduce new additions to the curriculum and the higher education system that varies from faculty to faculty. Also in the budget we have allocated additional allocation of Rs. 5300 million for the development of national schools. Now National Schools are a key element of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s vision of prosperity. The establishment of these major national schools will protect all the small schools around it. This will enable the children to come to a closer school without much pressure, to study the subjects and to make the necessary progress in education.”

Minister Gunawardena also said that the Government is going to monitor and regulate all private education institutes soon.

“There are a number of private universities. There are also many private schools. They are not properly regulated. So we are going to do this monitoring via an Act. The relevant bill will be presented to parliament.”


Measures to stop charging of facilities and service fees in schools

Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena stated in Parliament yesterday (01) that he will consider taking necessary steps to stop the charging of facilities and service fees in schools.

The Education Minister was responding to a question raised by the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa regarding the said fee. Gunawardena extended his gratitude to the Leader of the Opposition for pointing this out.


Required quantities of bio-liquid fertilizer provided for farmers - Shasheendra

The Government has received a number of complaints on bio-liquid fertilizer traders who are not registered with the Fertilizer Secretariat, State Minister Shasheendra Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday (01).

“Thus the State Ministry has already directed the Fertilizer Secretariat to carry out investigations on such dealers in the market,” he added.

“A Special Committee headed by each Divisional Secretary is monitoring such complaints made and if anyone is aware of such dealers, they should provide the information to this Committee,” State Minister Rajapaksa also said.Such traders are selling bio-liquid fertilizers that are not checked for their quality, at prices they fancy, State Minister Shasheendra Rajapaksa also said.

The State Minister made these observations in reply to a question raised by Polonnaruwa District Samagi Jana Balawegaya MP Kins Nelson concerning the difficulties faced by farmers in the market, having to buy fertilizers at different price ranges.”The Government will provide all the required quantities of bio-liquid fertilizer to farmers in the Ampara, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura regions by next week,” Rajapaksa also noted.


Audit Reports on SLIIT completely false - SB

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Nuwara Eliya District MP S.B.Dissanayake stated in Parliament yesterday (1) that the COPE Report as well as the Audit Report on the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) in Malabe are completely false.

He said this during the Budget Committee debate on the Expenditure Heads of several Ministries including the Ministry of Education.

The then Minister of Trade took great pains to develop this institution from the very beginning and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga also assisted in this task, he said.He said that this is a good private institution and today it has the second largest number of students in Sri Lanka. The MP said that there are 600 foreign students studying here and it had never been under the Government at any point, but a certain contribution was made from the Mahapola Fund.

He said that the money had been paid back to the Government and that the rent for the Mahapola land was still being paid.He also requested the Government not to touch this institution, adding that foreign exchange could be brought to the country through higher education.

He said that the Government must take greater initiatives in attracting foreign students to our universities citing the efforts of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Deng Xiaoping.

He also urged the Government to bring in the Kotelawala Act without fear of Opposition or criticism. He said that there are around 200 foreign students studying at the KDU and urged the Government to use these higher education institutions to earn dollars for the country.

Dissanayake further stated that he would bring this matter to the attention of the Minister of Education and the Minister of State for Education.


Vocational training makes vital contribution to economy - State Minister Arambepola

Today the world has realised the value of the contribution made to a country’s economy by not only professionals but also those with vocational training, said State Minister of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovation Dr.Seetha Arambepola.

Joining the Committee Stage Debate of Budget 2022 in Parliament yesterday, she said that while the contribution of professionals is vital for the development of a country, that alone is not enough and those with vocational training and skills development also play a large role.

“Hence, at a time when society has understood the importance of vocational training and skills development, we have planned many activities for the upcoming year. Over the years although many Governments have done a fair amount of work in this field, a notable complaint is that the children following these vocational training courses do not gain the skills required for their particular fields as per the demand. Another complaint is that teachers are not updated with new technologies,” she noted.

The State Minister also noted that a scholarship programme that grants Rs.4,500 to students following vocational training courses had been initiated under her directives.

“We also arranged for these students to obtain concessionary loans from banks to obtain computers and uniforms etc required for their courses. We also provided them with free uniforms and safety equipment. We have also taken the initiative to develop the technical colleges commencing from the Technical College in Maradana.”

Arambepola also noted that another issue the students had was that they were not receiving their certificates on time and have had to wait for years for it. Therefore, she said that this delay had been rectified and over 10,000 such certificates had been awarded to those who had completed their vocational training courses.

She also stated that over 1,000 laboratories had been established at schools around the country in order to encourage new inventions.

Minister Arambepola also said that a mechanism was also launched to enable students to follow NVQ courses over specified TV channels and later obtain their certificates.

State Minister Arambepola also urged all politicians to ensure that they give sewing machines and other equipment to persons who have been trained in that field which will encourage others to obtain skills training which will, in turn, contribute to the country’s economy and create more entrepreneurs.


Sri Lanka records alarming drop in Global Gender Gap Report - Sajith

Sri Lanka has recorded an alarming drop in its commitment to secure gender equality according to the country ranking done by the Global Gender Gap report 2021,Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told the House yesterday (01).

Premadasa, quoting the report, pointed out that when the Global Gender Gap Report was initiated in 2006, Sri Lanka was ranked at 13th position, however, by 2021, it has dropped by 89 slots to end up at 102nd position.

Premadasa pointed out, “At the time of these rankings in 2006, Singapore was at 65th position, France was at 70 in ranking, Ethiopia was at 100th position, but by 2020, Singapore had moved up to 54th place. Ethiopia has also made progress, ranking at 82nd position. France has also made progress. While all this happens, we are down eighty-nine notches and are at 102nd rank out of 153 countries.”

The Opposition Leader criticized the Government for not having a Cabinet Minister portfolio on women’s and child affairs.Premadasa further said, “What are the factors on which this grading is based? Among such factors are, economic participation, educational participation, educational success, health and survival, political empowerment in particular. We see that women’s participation in school education, tertiary and vocational training is declining. We need to launch schemes to encourage women for technical training programmes and skills development. We need to challenge the stereotypes about gender in the school curriculum and incorporate the concepts of gender equality. We need to create learning opportunities for foreign language and IT with the necessary funding for females to secure jobs in the local and global job market.”

“There is a need to develop a system for acquiring technical skills for self-employed women. They should be able to learn about development and knowledge of market relations from their own home. Although our economy was ahead of other South Asian countries in terms of economic indicators, women’s participation was very low. Women in our country do not get high quality jobs also. Premadasa proposed that a permanent Commission on women be appointed.

“I would like to take this opportunity to suggest to this House that it is appropriate to set up a separate Commission on Women and to empower the Commission to safeguard the political, economic, socio-cultural, religious and religious rights of women through that Commission.”


Be stakeholders in investing for future of children - State Minister

Special attention was paid to the rights of children and women in Parliament yesterday. MP Rohini Kaviratne and several other Members of the Opposition expressed their views in this regard in Parliament. State Minister Piyal Nishantha also spoke in this regard.

He emphasized that the law would be enforced against anyone involved in sexual harassment. “There is no greater investment than the investment made for children,” he said, inviting all MPs to be stakeholders in investing for the future of children. He also noted that while 70% of the population of this country is made up of women and children, the Government is committed to implementing a broad programme to benefit women and children. Meanwhile, Minister of State Piyal Nishantha also spoke about the ‘Strictly Men Only’ program organized by his Ministry to explain the need to protect the dignity of women.

“We know how the illegitimate partners of certain Parliamentarians on the opposite camp set themselves on fire and how even Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s Civic Rights were taken away. Therefore, we have implemented a programme at district level to ensure that men realise the value of women and treat them with respect and at the same time women too should realise and appreciate the value of men and treat them with respect too.”


Provide mechanism for Parliamentarians to gain Law College entrance - Kiriella

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday (01) that a mechanism should be introduced to allow Parliamentarians to gain entrance to Law College or any other University of their choice to continue their higher education.

MP Kiriella pointed out that there had been such a system in the 1970s and some MPs gained entrance to Law College without facing an entrance examination.

MP Kiriella also noted that there have been some discussions over the educational qualifications of Parliamentarians among the public.

“There is a major discussion in the society that MPs’ education levels are very low. We need to come up with a way for them to improve their education. There are talented young MPs in the Government and the Opposition. They have been elected to Parliament as they have good skills and intelligence. They gain considerable knowledge from being in Parliament also. Not everyone can make it into the House. For that, anyone needs special skills. Winning an election is no easy task,” he said.



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