GL never granted us an audience: Teachers TUs

  • Responds to Education Minister’s ‘taking revenge from children’ remark

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Despite the recent statement made by the Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris that it was not acceptable to cause inconveniences to students through strikes instead of resolving teachers’ issues through discussions, the teachers trade unions have claimed that they have not yet been given an opportunity to discuss their issues with Prof. Peiris.

The trade union action initiated by more than 15 teachers and principals trade unions continued for the fourth day yesterday (15).

Speaking to the media in Galle on 14 July, Prof. Peiris stated that taking revenge on children without resolving issues through negotiations was by no means an acceptable policy. “Teachers have some issues, but disrupting the children’s education instead of finding solutions for such issues through negotiations can never be justified,” he noted.

However, several teachers trade unions commented on the statement made by Prof. Peiris explaining that the trade unions had not been invited to any such discussion.

When contacted by The Morning, the Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) President Priyantha Fernando said that before launching the recent trade union action on 12 July, all the trade unions had informed the Education Minister of the impending strike in writing. “But at no time did he negotiate with the teachers unions. Not only on this matter, but from the day that Prof. Peiris became the Education Minister, he has not had any discussions with us,” he alleged.

Fernando also said that they are ready to discuss the issues with the Education Ministry and the other relevant authorities at any time after the release of the CTU Secretary Joseph Stalin and others who were recently arrested during protests in Colombo over the controversial General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill and other matters such as the non-payment of State Engineering Corporation workers salaries on time, and were then directed to quarantine despite being enlarged on bail.

Meanwhile, the Ceylon Teachers Services Union (CTSU) also noted that the Education Minister had not given the teachers unions an opportunity for any discussion.

CTSU Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe, when contacted by The Morning, claimed that Prof. Peiris is misleading the public by making false statements before the media. “It has been four days since the teachers’ trade unions decided to quit teaching online, but so far we have not been invited for any discussion. No matter how many issues there were in the education sector with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Education Minister has never held a discussion with us,” he reiterated.

Attempts to contact Prof. Peiris to inquire into the allegations levelled against him by the trade unions proved futile.

Teachers and principals trade unions had decided to withdraw from all online teaching activities from 12 July until further notice in protest over the arrest of a group of trade unionists and student activists including Stalin. In addition to online teaching activities, the teachers and principals had withdrawn from duties related to sending applications for examinations including the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level (A/L) examination, online. Teachers and principals had also withdrawn from teaching activities at regional learning centres which were recently established by the Education Ministry with the aim of facilitating students who find it difficult to pursue their education online. There are about 2,160 regional learning centres that employ nearly 30,000 teachers and principals and these teachers and principals have since withdrawn from those duties too.