Degrading Grade Five
By Nirmala Kannangara
Grade Five students and their parents in Anuradhapura have urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to remove Education Minister and the Commissioner General of Examinations immediately for the continuous debacles in the education sector of the country.
Joining in a telegram campaign to the President, parents and students are insisting that the President must look into the Grade Five students’ grievances and to remove the officials who have neglected their duties to perform a responsible job, irrespective of their affiliation to the government and their status.
Although the parents are accusing the Education Minister and the Commissioner General of Examinations for the blunder, neither the Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena nor the Commissioner General of Examinations W. M. N. J. Pushpakumara were ready to take the responsibility but claimed that it was sabotage to bring disrepute the government.
Minister Gunawardena was not ready to give any answer to the questions posed to him but added that this had been referred to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the CID would soon find out as to how the scholarship paper was leaked the day before the exam was held.
It was the same with the Commissioner General of Examinations who too is waiting for the CID findings.
“This has now been referred to the CID and we should not make any comments which would not be helpful to the CID investigations,” he said.
However he refused to make any comment about the errors in most of the A/L papers and said, “I will talk about that later”.
“Our children studied hard from grade three to get through this exam to enter a good school with qualified teachers and better facilities. Not only our children that worked hard to achieve this goal, but also we as parents too had to encourage them all the time to obtain good results neglecting housework. These children did not have a proper childhood as they were ‘running a race’ – mornings to the school and evenings and weekends to private tuition classes,” they said.
“Some of these children attended two private classes to get a good knowledge but to no avail,” said Malkanthi Sumanasiri, a mother who joined the protest campaign against the scholarship fiasco at the Senanayake roundabout in Anuradhapura on Wednesday.
On Wednesday hundreds of Grade Five students and their parents in Anuradhapura protested near the Senanayake roundabout for one hour from 12 noon.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry on Tuesday decided to re-open all government schools including the schools that were selected for A/L paper evaluation on Monday for the third term.
“This is a government that has failed to protect the country’s education system. First it was the A/L Z-score and then the errors in most of the 2012 A/L question papers.
They later failed to safeguard the Grade Five scholarship exam papers. First they shut down the universities indefinitely because they could not solve the academic demands.
Then decided to open all schools on September 3 as the A/L paper evaluation too has been postponed indefinitely. What a shame this is.
Had this happened in another country, the Minister in charge of education would have tendered his resignation by now without waiting for agitations demanding his removal.
It is the same with the government in any other country in the world. They would have already removed the minister. But in Sri Lanka – the Wonder of Asia, the Head of State is more interested in taking part in political meetings and trotting all over the world with his henchmen.
He is not bothered about the future of our children. What are the actions the government take against a certain provincial council candidate in the North –Central Province for using loudspeakers at an election campaign disrupting the A/L exam?
What else can we expect from such rulers,” A. N. S. W. Perera, a retired educationist said.
Nethmi Anurangi is a student at Galnewa Primary School who had a lot of hopes to enter a Colombo school like his elder brother who in now studying at Nalanda Maha Vidyalaya in Colombo.
“Like my elder brother who got through the Grade Five scholarship exam in 2009 and entered a Colombo school, I also had a dream to get through this exam with a big margin and enter Devi Balika Vidyalaya which is closer to my brother’s school.
I know for certain that I did the exam to the best of my ability and would get through with good marks.
But my question is will that marks be enough for me to achieve my target as those who have got the exam paper the day before the exam will get more marks and will be eligible to enter all these good schools but not the village children like us,” she said. Anurangi, who sounded very disappointed said that she did not want to sit again for the exam but added that she and the rest of her schoolmates wanted justice.
“Enough is enough. We cannot be studying hard as we did over the past two years any longer. Let the President sack those who are responsible for this.” She said.
M. K. Senadheera (name changed on request) who is a teacher at Alawwa Central School said she was puzzled to see teachers she had never seen before entering the school when the first paper was in progress and was waiting for the students.
“No sooner the interval break was given at 10.15am, I saw ‘strange’ teachers conducting quick classes for groups of children under the trees.
It was too late when I understood that they had come with the second paper to teach their private students. Had I known this earlier, we would have caught them to question as to how they got the papers,” said Senadheera. According to her, most of the children had got the paper the day before the exam and witnessed a student, whose mother is in her staff, came running to the mother saying, “we got the same paper”.
“However realizing that I overhead their conversation, the mother felt embarrassed and took away her child immediately,” said Senadheera. Meanwhile Padmini Perera from Padukka said she was confused to hear another parent who was waiting at the school gate with the rest of the parents saying that she knew what the children would get for the essay in the second paper. “I saw this mother and a few other parents rallying round their children and teaching during the interval. However after the second paper started she told me very proudly that she knew what the children would get for the essay. She further said that there was a question about the value of our national flag.
I was surprised and asked her how she could say that as the exam was still in progress. She said that she gets information from ‘top’ educational officials.” said Padmini. Padmini said that she did not think that it was good to have yet another exam.
“My child is a studious girl and had a vision to get through the exam not only to go to a better school but also to get the scholarship money since she knew that we are finding it extremely difficult to spend on her.
My sister’s son too gets this scholarship money and that was why my daughter’s aim too was to get it which could help us even in a small way. With this blunder all her plans are shattered and she says that even if the exam is held once again she would not sit for it,” said Padmini.
“Our children wanted to spend time leisurely after the scholarship exam and they said that they would be free from August 26 afternoon.
But however they left the examination hall after the exam as if the entire world has collapsed in front of them.
These children had high hopes at this exam which is a hurdle in their life. This was the only chance our children had to enter a good school. Now that too has been obstructed by our so called ‘educated’ officials in the education sector specially the Education Minister and his Commissioner General of Examinations,” Vinitha Kariyawasam, a mother of a student at Junior School Bandaragama said. Meanwhile T. V. Munasinghe, whose daughter is studying at Kotalawala Maha Vidyalaya, Anuradhapura said that the children had been deprived of entering a better school.
“There are two segments who really want to get through the exam. One segment want to enter a good school while the others were targeting the scholarship money.
Although my daughter is a bright student, because of this blunder I am doubtful whether she will get through and get a better school. That was why all the parents went to meet the principal on Thursday and wanted her to intervene and address our grievances,” said Munasinghe.
Munasinghe further said as to how private tuition teachers have charged money from the children in Mahawa Educational Zone to teach the leaked question paper.
“They have charged more than Rs.1,000 from each student on Saturday and have taught the paper. Because of this blunder, the studious children will not get a chance to enter a better school but those who got the paper would be able,” said Munasinghe. The fiasco started with the release of the Z-score marks in July followed by the many errors found in 2012 A/L Chemistry, Physics, Agriculture, Logic, Esthetic and Biology papers.
“Not only the A/L students are now in troubled waters but also the Grade Five students.
Luckly there are no issues with the O/L examination but could expect it this December,” Vinitha Kariyawasam said.