Teachers-principals strike continues

Stating that discussions with the respective authorities have failed to provide substantial solutions to their issues including the teacher-principal salary anomalies, trade unions have decided to continue their ongoing strike, The Sunday Morning learnt.

With teachers withdrawing from online teaching on 12 July, the strike enters its 21st day today (1). Since then, the education sector processes appear to be at a standstill, as schools remain closed for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and students, despite having only limited facilities to access online learning, and therefore being reliant on online education, being unable to study online, given the present crisis.

Speaking with The Sunday Morning, Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin said: “The discussions we had with the authorities proved futile, and on 27 July, the Prime Minister, along with the Cabinet of Ministers, decided that they would appoint a subcommittee to look into the issue in order to come up with lasting solutions. However, we are against it, as a subcommittee would only prolong the issue. The subcommittee too has failed to give us a substantial solution, and therefore, regardless of what happens, our struggle will continue.”

He further added: “The authorities have informed us that they would be coming up with a new cabinet paper tomorrow (2) in order to address the issues the teachers and principals are facing, but we are yet to receive a satisfactory answer in this regard.”

The trade unions demand a permanent solution to the perennial salary anomaly issue, along with the demand to withdraw the controversial Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill. Moreover, the trade unions also demand that at least 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) be allocated to education, amongst several other demands.

Several attempts made by The Sunday Morning to contact Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera for more insight in this regard, proved futile.

However, on 27 July, Cabinet Co-Spokesman Ramesh Pathirana noted that the Government does not have the financial stability to bring about immediate solutions to the matter, but that it would be considered in the next budget.

Meanwhile, a meeting to be held last week between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions has been rescheduled for this week