Education a long ignored subject in the NCP
school in the North Central Province
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
The education sector in the country has been
riddled with many problems since the country
gained independence in 1948, but the latest
issue to impact on education is the conflict
that is weighing heavily on the threatened
villages in the North Central Province (NCP).
Issues related to threatened villages have
plagued the province since the war broke
out. Consisting of two poverty stricken
districts - Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa -
the NCP's education sector is suffering from
many problems that need urgent attention.
One of the immediate problems that need a
solution is the lack of teachers. A total
number of 12,356 teachers educate a student
population of 253,361 in the NCP.
It is learnt that in 2007, the NCP has only
made two new teaching appointments (one for
maths and the other for science) making the
shortage of teachers in the province an
obvious issue. Currently, the education
sector in the NCP is in need of about 2,100
Lack of teachers
The lack of teachers has even resulted in
the closure of several schools in the
Apart from the shortage of teachers,
students in the province also suffer due to
the non-issue of school textbooks. A teacher
from the Anuradhapura District said that 60%
to 70% of the schools in the province had
not received textbooks for this year even
after the lapse of seven months.
The NCP is divided into eight education
zones - Anuradhapura, Thambuthegama,
Kekirawa, Galenbindunuwewa, Kebethigollewa,
Polonnaruwa, Hingurakgoda and Dimbulagala.
The present security situation in the
country has had an adverse impact on the
functioning of schools in two zones, namely
Kebethigollewa and Dimbulagala.
Schools in the Dimbulagala zone however are
now returning to normalcy following the
liberation of the
According to the Dimbulagala zonal education
office, about 93 schools in the area
functioned earlier amidst fears of LTTE
Students in the Kebethigollewa zone have had
to bear the brunt of the escalating violence
when the prevailing security situation in
the country compelled the closure of eight
out of the 126 schools in the Kebethigollewa
According to statistics at the Provincial
Education Office of the NCP, over 2,129
students were affected by the closure of
schools in the zone.
It is also pertinent to note that most of
the schools that had to close down were
categorised as very difficult schools - Type
2 and 3.
Schools in the province have been
categorised as - Type 1A/B (schools with
Science, Arts and Commerce classes for
A/Levels), Type 1C (schools with only Arts
and Commerce classes for A/Levels), Type 2
(schools that have classes from Grade 1 to
8) and Type 3 (schools with only primary
classes). The total number of schools in the
province is 776.
During the past two years, six schools have
been permanently shut down in the
Kebethigollewa and Dimbulagala zones mainly
due to security threats.
Lack basic facilities
Most of the schools categorised as very
difficult schools located in the remotest
corners of the province lack even basic
facilities like electricity, water and
toilets. About 100 schools in the NCP lack
basic sanitary facilities and 80% of the
schools do not have proper drinking water.
In most of the difficult schools, classes
are conducted in cadjan sheds and in some
instances students are left to study
outdoors. The poor living conditions under
harsh circumstances have prevented teachers
from working in difficult schools located in
the rural areas of the province.
The woes of the NCP education sector have
been further compounded by the undue
interference of politicians in teacher
Provincial Secretary, Ceylon Teacher
Services Union, J.A. Weerakkody told The
Sunday Leader that the politicisation of the
education sector has resulted in the
appointment of many unsuitable persons as
teachers. He alleges it to be the reason for
the Anuradhapura District recording the
lowest O/Level results in 2007.
He pointed out that while there was an
excess of teachers in the two main cities -
Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa - there was a
massive shortage of teachers in the rural
schools in the province.
Double up as teachers
In some instances, especially in the case of
threatened villages, home guards have to
double up as teachers as well. "I know a
home guard who also teaches in a school in
Vilachchiya due to the shortage of
teachers," Weerakkody said.
He explained that the schools in the
Dimbulagala zone were in need of 193 science
teachers, but did not have even 50 teachers
at their disposal.
Weerakkody says that promotions that were to
be made according to the 2005/4 and 2005/12
circulars have not been made. Also, the
salaries that were to be paid according to
the 6/2006/4 circular have not been granted
to the teachers of the NCP.
"Political interference in the education
sector has increased to such an extent that
teachers are given the distress loans based
on their political affiliations," Weerakkody
However, the lack of political involvement
in uplifting the education sector in the NCP
has caused much distress among the students,
teachers and even the parents who amidst
many hardships struggle to provide a decent
education to their children.
Koswatte promises a "a better society"
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
A youth leader with a desire to bring about
a change in the present social structure,
Chameera Koswatte is the JVP's chief
ministerial candidate for the Sabaragamuwa
Province at the August 23 provincial council
November 27, 1974,
in Colombo, Koswatte is the eldest in the
family with one younger brother and two
sisters. Koswatte's mother is a retired
teacher and his late father was a depot
supervisor attached to the Sri Lanka
Transport Board. Chameera is married with
He received his education at Ananda College,
Colombo. After sitting for his Advanced
Level examination in 1993, Koswatte was
selected to the Kelaniya University to
follow a degree in Social Science in 1996.
However, he could not complete his degree
due to the many political responsibilities
that were assigned to him, which he had
carried out with great conviction.
Koswatte was in the A/Level class when he
joined the JVP, as soon as the party entered
mainstream politics in 1993. Although no one
in his family was involved in politics,
Koswatte's interest in politics came with
his belief in the JVP ideology and his
desire to 'do something good to society.'
His interest and belief in the JVP ideology
along with the knowledge he had accumulated
on the socialist movement made him take to
Between the period 1990 and 1994, the JVP
although not involved in active politics was
engaged in holding literary festivals and
promoting its ideology among the youth.
Koswatte, an avid reader of Russian history
and the revolution was interested in
learning about the political ideologies that
led to the socialist revolutions in the
During his school days, Koswatte had also
read Carl Marx and was interested in his
Also, Koswatte, at a very young age came
into contact with many members of the JVP
movement and he took up their cause. He felt
that those members were working for a cause
- to correct a flawed social structure and
create a better tomorrow for all.
"It was I who went in search of the JVP and
joined it," he says.
Koswatte's family however, could not
understand why he desired so much to join
the JVP, especially due to the risk it posed
to his life.
Making the right choice
No one could prevent Koswatte from joining
the JVP. According to Koswatte, his family
had trusted him and given him the freedom to
make his choice.
"My family after meeting several members of
the party and hearing their views understood
that I had made the right choice and is now
very supportive of my work," Koswatte says.
After joining the party while in school, he
entered active politics in 2001.
While at university, Koswatte was elected as
president of the Social Science Faculty
A firm believer that youth in the country
need a place in society as well as respect,
Koswatte feels that the potential of the
present day youth have not been used for the
country's development process.
"It is talent gone waste and the youth
cannot be blamed for it. They need to be
given a chance to be part of the country's
development process," he says.
He feels that instead of looking at the
present day youth with a narrow mind, they
should be given a broader space to harness
their talents to bring out the best in each
In 2000, he was elected convener of the
Inter University Students Federation, a post
he held even the following year in 2001.
With his appointment as convener of the
federation, Koswatte gave up his studies and
engaged himself in full time politics. The
conviction he had for bringing about change
in the present social structure overtook his
need to receive a university degree.
Due recognition was given to Koswatte for
his commitment in carrying out the work
allotted to him, and in 2002 he was
appointed national organiser of the
Socialist Students Union at its convention.
He was reappointed to the post on March 19,
On November 13, 2002, Koswatte was appointed
to the JVP's main decision-making body, the
Central Committee, at the party's national
convention. He became one of the youngest
members to be appointed to the central
committee at the time. At the party's
national convention held this year, Koswatte
was reappointed to the JVP's Central
He has worked in the party's international
division as well. He was named a national
list member of the JVP in 2004.
To create a better society
Being a youth leader with a vision to create
a better society that gives more
opportunities to the youth, Koswatte has
also represented Sri Lanka at the annual
international summit organised by the World
Federation of Democratic Youth based in
Budapest, Hungary since 2001.
The World Federation of Democratic Youth
works to uphold democracy, youth welfare and
In 2003, he was elected to the federations'
highest executive body and was reappointed
to the post in 2005. Koswatte was in-charge
of the Asia Pacific region.
He feels that he has done his maximum to
bring about a change in Sri Lankan society
and speaks of the need to give more
responsibilities to the youth in
Koswatte feels that he has carried out every
responsibility entrusted to him by the
party. It is this same sincerity that led
him to accept the party's decision to
nominate him as the JVP's chief ministerial
candidate for the Sabaragamuwa Provincial
Council election scheduled for August 23.
"It is now a very decisive moment for the
country and I will act according to the
responsibilities entrusted to me by the
party's central committee. No matter what
the responsibility is, I will carry it out
to the best of my ability," he says.
The need of the hour, according to Koswatte
is a change in the present social system and
to build a better society based upon it.
However, he feels that the present
provincial council system established under
the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is
not the answer to the ethnic problem.
Koswatte firmly stands by his party's stance
that they do not accept the present
provincial council system. However, since
the provincial council election has been
called, he says as a democratic party, the
JVP would contest the elections.
Koswatte says that the need to bring about a
change that would benefit the people and the
country would be given prominence in his
He feels that the JVP has led by example,
especially in the manner in which the party
has managed the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya
Sabha and the four ministries handled by JVP
in 2004 under the UPFA government.
"We have done our best whenever we have been
given the chance and this time too we would
do the same with the provincial councils,"
Koswatte says, adding that "this is the best
time to make a difference."
Violence and misuse of state property
By Arthur Wamaman
Incidents of election violence could be much
higher than what is reported by monitors as
some incidents go unreported, election
Election violence according to them dipped
last week. This according to the monitors is
not a downward trend but purely a case of
incidents going unrecorded.
Officials attached to People's Action for
Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) said that
many instances of pre-election violence were
not reported to the monitors. There have
been differences in statistics given by
different monitors since nominations were
PAFFREL had so far received only two
complaints of state property being misused
whereas the Campaign for Free and Fair
Elections (CAFFE) had recorded 28 by Friday.
CAFFE had also released photographs of state
vehicles used for election campaigning and
had complained in writing to the Elections
The Election Commissioner's Department when
contacted by The Sunday Leader stated that
the candidates contesting the provincial
council polls had been instructed not to use
state property for campaigning activities.
According to CAFFE Spokesperson Keerthi
Tennekoon, a total of 40 complaints were
recorded by Friday, a breakdown of which is
as follows: Anuradhapura (21), Polonnaruwa
(4), Kegalle (10) and Ratnapura (5). In
addition, there are 28 incidents of misuse
of state property.
According to PAFFREL, the majority of these
complaints have been reported from
Anuradhapura (14) followed by Kegalle (7),
Ratnapura (5) and Polonnaruwa (3).
Several opposition politicians contesting
the upcoming provincial council elections,
CAFFE claimed, have been threatened or
It was alleged that the police had also
threatened supporters and contestants in
Ratnapura last week, according to CAFFE with
Tennekoon alleging police inaction in
investigating complaints, removal of posters
and banners in the four districts.
But PAFFREL opted to defend the police
claiming they were doing their duty to the
maximum, though drawbacks existed.
There are nearly 1,600 contestants and it is
very difficult for the police to remove
banners and posters everywhere. But they
have done their job, PAFFREL said.
As for international monitors, PAFFREL
Chairman, Kingsley Rodrigo said that there
was no need to bring them down, as the
situation was not as complex as in the
eastern PC polls.
The presence of armed cadres and the fact
that the polls were conducted for the first
time since 1994 were the reasons to bring
down international monitors, he said.
Ratnapura needs disaster management plan
By Nirmala Kannangara
The City of
Gems - Ratnapura - now enjoys the dubious reputation of being
one of the most disaster prone districts in
the country with both natural and man-made
disasters plaguing the city.
According to the Geological Survey and Mines
Bureau and the Disaster Management Centre,
all possible steps have been taken to
minimise the man-made disasters although the
natural disasters are now rendering it
"We have taken appropriate measures to
reduce man-made disasters but are unable to
minimise natural disasters. However, there
is a programme to reduce the inconvenience
caused to the people in the Ratnapura
District," Ratnapura District Coordinator,
Disaster Management Centre, Col. Priyankara
Abeyratne told The Sunday Leader.
According to Abeyratne apart from land and
mudslides, floods, droughts and elephant
attacks too are common in the district and
plans have been drawn to reduce the
elephant-human conflict with the help of the
Department of Wildlife.
"One death was reported recently in Kalawana
due to an elephant attack and since Kalawana
is the border of the Sinharaja rain forest,
elephant threats to the border villages have
increased during the past few years," added
However according to Abeyratne the regular
drought conditions in Weligepola, Balangoda
and Imbulpe in the Ratnapura District have
compelled the Disaster Management Centre (DMC)
to provide a fuel subsidy to distribute
drinking water to the people.
"In 2007 alone the DMC provided Rs.300,000
as fuel subsidy to water supply bowsers and
Water Mission, an American NGO. This NGO
has donated a water purification project
worth Rs. 3 million to Kiriella. More than
30,000 litres of water could be purified per
day and this has helped us immensely in
providing purified drinking water to the
drought stricken areas," Abeyratne stated.
Water Mission is to provide five more water
purification plants to the Ratnapura
With regard to the land and mudslides,
Abeyratne said awareness programmes are
being held regularly and early warning
centres notify people of impending natural
"In Kolonne, landslides are very common.
These centres warn villagers to be vigilant
during the monsoons. If the rain fall is
over 80 ml, we warn them to evacuate the
high risk areas and to reach safer places."
According to Abeyratne more than Rs.2
million has been allocated to construct two
new safety bridges in the district and to
lay concrete on the by-roads to ensure a
quick and safe evacuation.
"The Ratnapura District DMC was set up one
and a half years ago and the regional
operations centre has deployed nine
assistant coordinators in all AGA divisions.
We have started awareness programmes for
school children as well as adults on
precautionary measures," he added.
According to the Ratnapura District DMC
statistics, Rs.7 million has been spent on
evacuation and providing relief to the
victims in 2007. An estimated Rs.14 million
has been allocated for 2008, which provides
for the construction of a better road
network in many high-risk areas.
However Scientist, National Building
Research Organisation (NBRO), Kumari
Weerasinghe noted political interference in
the Sabaragamuwa Province has contributed to
the increasing man-made disasters over the
Sand and gem mining
illegal sand removal and gem mining have
become a big issue. NBRO receives about five
complaints each week. Although we apprehend
culprits, politicians intervene to have them
released," she lamented.
The NBRO has provided all the District and
Divisional Secretariats the maps of
landslide prone areas to coordinate their
Among the many reasons for landslides are
the clearing of jungles and tea bushes and
improper land utilisation for construction.
"Although the NBRO has requested people to
consult their respective grama sevaka or
Divisional Secretaries before undertaking
any construction work, their failure to
abide by the regulations has resulted in
disasters," Weerasinghe added.
"A few months ago President Mahinda
Rajapakse as the Chairman, National Disaster
Management Council urged people to obtain
NBRO clearance regarding future
constructions in landslide prone areas in
the country. The government's failure to get
cabinet and parliamentary approval to
implement it is causing problems," added
SAARC - Much ado about nothing
After the haphazard road repairs
they were closed to the public
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
A visiting Indian journalist, standing
outside the BMICH waiting for his hotel car
to fetch him was heard commenting, "It looks
like a road show." meaning that the roads
were cleared as if there was to be a road
show. The Grand Prix, perhaps. After all,
Colombo for the past week was fly free, dog
free, poor free, in part.
The Rs.2,800 million plus plus non event or
the regional talk shop concludes today after
keeping a nation very tense, feeling
insecure, their movements restricted and
with the people down Glennie Street and
stray dogs, having had their rights
As the event concludes, people will probably
heave a collective sigh of relief as they
resume their normal life, and security
personnel, for managing to dispatch Indian
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh safely
back to Mother India.
Yet, whatever the logic in presenting a
perfect city picture, should baffle the mind
of any rational thinker. It is a given that
all SAARC countries are poor, though three
out of the eight nations do not share the
dubious record of Bangladesh, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka - of veering
towards failed state status.
Yet what reason is there to conceal signs of
poverty, but to address them? If the poor
are to be shunned, then the political
leadership should turn the search light
inwards and realise that the increasing
poverty is their own creation - it is poor
governing skills that cause mass migration
to cities and the stretching of resources
If the sight of poor people is such an eye
sore, then the Sri Lankan government should
have prioritised poverty at the discussion
level instead of driving thousands away from
Then, for some of us who covered the 14th
SAARC Summit at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi,
India, this summit is a virtual nightmare.
The local event honestly, has been a
monumental disaster albeit a massive
From the security checks to being escorted
to the venue, Indians were thorough. What
they did not do was try the media
personnel's patience. Once cleared they
trusted their system.
Here at the BMICH, suspicious looks were
cast towards security-cleared journalists
who did not wear the special 'SAARC ID.'
What's more, at the entrance, there is a
further bar code check on ID and entrance is
denied if the machine refuses to blink. What
are we to assume but a grand fear of failure
of the security system in place?
To begin with a comparison, the pre summit
discussions in India were of a much higher
level. The media briefings were much more
professional and well informed. Indian
bureaucrats and the politicians gave the
journalists their daily bread - stories by
the dozen. Here, the summit spokesman only
mumbled about declarations in the pipeline,
that too in bad English and gave no details.
On issues like climate change, a concern
amongst Maldivian and Bangladesh
journalists, he appeared nonplussed. Are we
to assume that our politicians spent their
time and money to dye their hair and
hurriedly purchase Armani suits?
The apparent truth was that not just the
media briefings but also the conference
itself was dismal. Of course there were
grandiose statements about a special
declaration on food security, energy and
water resources coupled with combating
regional terrorism to be adopted by the
member states. Our spokesperson could not
give a basic clue as to the ingredients of
the declaration. At least where the focus
It is only fair to demand as citizens that
the immense expenditure incurred and the
inconveniences suffered should justify the
conference. To be lavish is one thing but
this talk shop of
South Asia has refused to move from planning stage to implementation
stage for 15 long years.
For example, President Mahinda Rajapakse
made an impressive speech in Delhi last year
and mooted that the region should move
towards adopting a common currency. Given
the rate at which the Sri Lankan rupee
depreciates, he may have thought that it
would be the best way to contain the slide
but talk to any SAARC associated Sri Lankan
official; that idea just died where it
germinated. 'NATO' do we say? - No Action
Given the many grand schemes discussed, it
is not cynical but realistic to consider
these proposals not worth the paper they are
Then what happened to the proposed easy
movement across regional borders? The matter
is still 'under discussion' despite being
mooted years ago. Only Sri Lanka, Maldives
and Nepal show respect to their neighbours
by issuing on arrival visa. What has SAARC
collectively helped the member countries to
In the Dhaka Declaration in December 1985,
the heads of state happily conceded that
these countries of South Asia were faced
with formidable challenges due to abject
poverty, under-development, unemployment and
population booming. They felt that regional
cooperation provided a logical response to
Some 14 years down the line, SAARC added an
eighth member - Afghanistan. Geographically,
there are some questions about this
inclusion but poverty appears to be the
binding link. So Afghanistan is also added
but collectively, SAARC is far from
realising its goal. The summit now is like a
regional get together, an impressive photo
op at public expense.
What's more, more often than not, the
nations fail to reach a consensus on many
issues and most agreements are signed on a
bilateral basis. There is no denying the
undercurrents and diplomatically covered
hostility between India and Pakistan that
threatens SAARC's ability to become an
Reflection and soul searching
Fifteen years later, it really should be a
time for reflection and soul-searching.
As we do that, let us also not lose sight on
the local cost. The heartache down Glennie
Street to beautify the city despite all
SAARC nations carrying the burden of poverty
and the increasing poverty is a reflection
of the imprudence of the regional
leadership, and nothing else.
Let us not forget that the 15th SAARC also
meant loss of homes not just to people
but also to the canine kind. Can we make
Singapore and wish the war away?
Let us also not forget the losses to the
many business houses and the colossal loss
caused to seven
hotels amounting to over Rs.190 million.
When the balance sheet is done, there will
be more losses than gains and immense
hardships silently suffered by penalised
There were many laughs that Sri Lanka
inspired. Government ministers all spruced
up appeared before dozens of cameras every
evening with some like Nimal Siripala de
Silva boasting how safe the island is. He
was busy scoffing at the LTTE's unilateral
Does it mean that he and his government felt
so secure in their security measures that
there was no room for the Tigers to strike
at will? Then why the mounted Indian
gunships? Why the road closures that kept
people indoors for precious hours?
While the Colombo administration may not
want to trust the LTTE and its unilateral
ceasefire, why could it not at least accept
the fact that the Tigers, having
assassinated an Indian Prime Minister
understands the international requirement to
play it safe? Instead, our ministers
sounded like little children speaking
angrily when not having the upper hand.
There is no need to say as to who has the
upper hand when striking at will.
Comedy of errors
SAARC began with a comedy of errors -
dubiously famous Labour Minister Mervyn
Silva welcoming the seven nations to
Colombo's summit. Like Silva himself, his
hoarding too was a mistake as it welcomed
dignitaries for the "17th SAARC Summit."
Silva may be two years ahead of time, but
where would Sri Lanka be in two years having
ill afforded this mega bucks event to show
that milk and honey flowed here in the
And what would SAARC be in the years to
come, unless the heads of state at least
make an honest attempt to raise it to the
implementation level from the annual
gathering and a photo opportunity in which
Indian and Pakistani leaders don't even
appear close to each other?
People's SAARC demands more
While the mega bucks non event caused
heartache and incurred heavy expenditure, a
more people-focused civil rights
organisation, Peoples' SAARC has come out
with its Colombo 2008 Declaration which
contains many a regional need.
It calls for the building up of a South
Asian identify based on diversities and
common histories, free movement of people
within the region to create a visa free
South Asia, restoration and creation of
rail, road and sea links and the
operationalisation of food sovereignty.
On the rights issues, the declaration calls
for the fisher peoples' right to fish in
territorial waters, the right to mobility
and safety for migrant workers, ensuring
rights of all workers especially women and
Dalit people besides justice and equality
for all the people in the region. The
Peoples' SAARC Declaration calls for the
setting up of regional institutions and
mechanisms such as a South Asia Tribunal for
Justice, prosecution of those who committed
war crimes or crimes against humanity and to
protect prisoners of conscience and
Interestingly on the aspect of civil strife
and war, it calls for resolute opposition to
US intervention and war exercises both in
the region and elsewhere, South Asia to
commit to a no-war pact, declaration of the
region as nuclear-free, drastic reduction in
defence budgets and demilitarisation of the
region. Further it calls for the peaceful
and just resolution of all regional
conflicts including those on the border,
through political negotiations.
Besides, it calls for climate justice,
creation of alterative regional trade and
economic cooperation frameworks, recognition
of health, education, housing as basic human
rights, to uphold knowledge as common,
rather than monopolies of corporations and
importantly, SAARC to be made accountable to
the citizens of all SAARC nations.