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Teachers brand new learning centres a failure 

By Buddhika Samaraweera

 

Teachers Trade Unions have alleged that the regional learning centres set up by the Education Ministry for students who do not possess the necessary facilities to study online are a complete failure. 

The Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) Secretary Joseph Stalin said that the teachers have not been given any advice on how to conduct teaching in the relevant classrooms. He also said that the expected numbers of students were not arriving due to the inability of both teachers and students to travel to such study centres set up in certain Provinces. 

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris recently announced that a total of 2,096 regional learning centres were opened throughout the country from 5 July. These centres are aimed at resolving practical issues that have arisen in providing education to students through distance learning methods due to the closure of schools owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, when contacted by The Morning, Stalin claimed that according to the information that they had received thus far, the programme had failed. He alleged that the Education Ministry had not taken into consideration any of the issues that may arise in such a situation prior to setting up the relevant centres, adding that there was also no plan on how to carry out the teaching activities. 

The Ceylon Teachers Service Union (CTSU) Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe, speaking to The Morning, said that in a backdrop where the Covid-19 pandemic has not yet ended, a programme should be formulated to ensure the health safety of both teachers and students, noting that only then would these learning centres be successful. 

“No guidelines have been given on how to conduct teaching in these centres. Also, as per the instructions given by the Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera, the number of students that can be accommodated at each of these centres is 10. However in certain areas, a large number of individuals including teachers, students and parents had gathered at these centres. This situation may lead to another Covid-19 cluster; therefore, we request from the Education Ministry and the other relevant authorities that these centres should be operated in a manner where it does not cause a threat to the health safety of the teachers and students,” he added. 

He also highlighted shortcomings in terms of the technological and transportation infrastructure. 

“In addition, some schools do not have adequate signal facilities. Another major problem is the inability of teachers and students to travel to these centres. Several schools in a particular area are planned to be covered by one learning centre. In such a context, how can teachers and students who come from afar, as well as those who do not possess private vehicles, come to these centres? The Education Ministry has not yet carried out any study on these issues.” 

Attempts to contact Prof. Peiris and Prof. Perera inquired about the matter but were unsuccessful. 

The CTU claimed last month that a staggering 60% of Sri Lanka’s student population had not been able to access online education, and that the Government was not successful at providing students with the required equipment. However, earlier that same week, Prof. Peiris said that only 12% of students had no access to those programmes.