News

Teachers continue wearing casuals with authorities conflicted

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Female teachers in several areas have continued to report to work in casual clothing instead of sarees and Kandyan sarees (osaris), while the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government and the Ministry of Education have expressed conflicting views on whether or not teachers will be allowed to report to work in such clothing.

Following teachers in several areas reporting to work in casual attire instead of sarees and osaris on Monday (21), Education Minister Dr. Susil Premajayantha had requested the Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Ministry to exclude teachers from a circular issued by the latter Ministry, which allows female public servants to work in any appropriate attire of their choice, instead of only the saree.

When contacted by The Morning yesterday, Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Ministry Secretary M.M.P.K. Mayadunne said that he had informed the Education Ministry Secretary M.N. Ranasinghe in writing on Tuesday (22) that the relevant circular is not applicable to teachers and principals. He said that the circular is only applicable to public servants who are reporting to work at “offices”.

When queried as to whether an amended circular will be issued, he said that he would seek direction from the Cabinet in that regard. However, he said that the Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry is unable to decide on the dress code of teachers and principals as they have been placed in a special services category coming under the purview of the Ministry of Education.

When The Morning contacted Ranasinghe and questioned whether the Ministry of Education has made a final decision regarding the teachers’ dress code, he said: “The Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Ministry will send a circular.” 

When queried regarding Mayadunne’s statement that the relevant notification was sent to him on Tuesday, he said: “I am waiting for it to reach me.”

Meanwhile, the Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) Vice President, which made the initial request from the Ministry of Education to allow teachers to report to work in casual clothing, Rasika Handapangoda told The Morning that the aforesaid ministries are creating a confusing situation regarding the matter, and are attempting to mislead and intimidate teachers. 

“When we ask the Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Ministry, they say that the Education Ministry will make a decision in this regard, but when we ask the Ministry of Education, they say vice versa. They are trying to mislead and intimidate teachers,” she added.

A number of school teachers had reported to work on Monday in casual attire instead of the traditional attire. Handapangoda explained at the time that since the circular refers to all public employees, the teachers reported to work dressed accordingly. She also stated that teachers from Colombo, Ratnapura, Kandy, Galle, Matara, and Gampaha had followed suit upon their own personal choice. She further claimed that teachers’ trade unions, including the CTU, representing over 50,000 teachers, are ready to defend anyone who is in fear of facing problems with regard to the dress code.

Meanwhile, Premajayantha said on Tuesday that he had requested the Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry to explicitly exclude teachers in the circular issued regarding the dress code of public servants. He explained that this circular was issued during the Covid-19 pandemic period so that public servants could report to work in comfortable, casual clothing, and that since the circular does not mention teachers and refers only to public servants as a whole, the teachers are justified in their actions, in terms of this legal loophole.