Teachers withdraw from online teaching in protest
Demand release of activists at quarantine centres
Also withdraw from exam work
By Buddhika Samaraweera
Nearly 15 Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Unions have decided to withdraw from all online teaching activities from today (12) until further notice, in protest of the arrest and subsequent forced quarantine of a group of trade unions and student activists, including Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) Secretary Joseph Stalin, during a recent protest in Colombo.
When inquired about this, CTU President Priyantha Fernando told The Morning that in addition to online teaching activities, teachers and principals have decided to withdraw from duties related to sending applications online for examinations including the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level (A/L) examination.
“Currently, online teaching is being carried out at school, zonal, and provincial levels. We have decided to withdraw from all those activities,” he said.
According to him, online lessons for all grades, including primary classes, grades 6-11, and A/L classes, will not be conducted. He also said that in the current situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, principals and teachers are sending examination applications online, and it was decided to withdraw from those duties as well.
In addition, teachers and principals have decided to withdraw from teaching activities at regional learning centres recently established by the Ministry of Education 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. We have decided to withdraw from all those duties,” Fernando added.
Explaining the demands of the trade union action, he said: “Teachers’ and principals’ unions have decided to continue the withdrawal of duties until the release of the unions and student activists who were forcibly directed to quarantine after being arrested and released on bail during a recent peaceful protest.”
Meanwhile, the Ceylon Teachers’ Services Union (CTSU) is also supporting the trade union action, said CTSU Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe.
Speaking to The Morning, he said: “From today onwards, a number of trade unions would withdraw from all online teaching and online examination applications against the crackdown on peaceful protests staged by teachers’ union activists and student activists recently.”
Also, addressing a media briefing held recently, Ven. Ulapane Sumangala Thera of the Education Professionals Association (EPA) said that the withdrawal from online teaching was only the first trade union action that would be taken against the Government’s repressive programme.
“If the Government continues to use quarantine as a tool for repression, we will be openly violating quarantine laws,” he warned, and stressed that the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) should make a statement as to whether the quarantine is a measure to ensure health safety, or a tool to repress public opposition to the Government.
The Police had, on 8 July, arrested a total of 31 suspects for allegedly staging a protest at the Polduwa roundabout in Battaramulla, in violation of Covid-19 health regulations. The Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF), the CTU, and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) had organised the demonstration against the proposed General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill.
CTU Secretary Stalin, Rathkarawwe Jinarathana Thera, another Buddhist monk, and two women were among the arrestees. The arrestees were produced before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court under the provisions of the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance, and the suspects were released on a personal bail of Rs. 25,000 each by Colombo Additional Magistrate Kanchana Neranjala de Silva on the evening on 8 July.
A tense situation had also been reported in front of the Colombo Magistrate’s Court, as CTU Secretary Stalin and the 32 others released on bail refused to undergo quarantine, and the Police, however, had taken them to a quarantine centre in the Mullaitivu area.
Attempts to contact Minister of Education Prof. G.L. Peiris and Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera, to inquire as to how the Ministry would cope with the trade union action, were unsuccessful.