The Daily Mirror, in its Editorial on Monday focused attention on the Government’s move to set up foreign university campuses here amid opposition criticism that it may be a back-door plan to deal a potentially fatal stab in the back to the policy of free education for all. We pointed out that this policy of Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara, known and admired as the father of free education, was widely regarded as the main reason why Sri Lanka received the distinction of having the highest literacy rate in South Asia.
Today we wish to make our readers and the people of the country aware of another subtle threat not only to higher education, but also to thousands of secondary schools, mainly in rural areas.
With the Education Ministry broken into three, not so much to provide a better education but more portfolios and a multitude of luxury perks and privileges to politicians and officials, it seems that one ministry does not know or has no connection or control over what the others are doing.
Last week the Ministry of Education Services signed an agreement with a trans-national milk corporation to include a nutrition for good health programme worked out by this TNC in the curriculum of some 7500 secondary public schools throughout the country.
The company claims this healthy children programme is part of its global initiative to raise awareness of the importance of good nutrition and an active lifestyle among school-age children around the world. The company says this is in line with its creating shared value strategy and its objective to be the trusted leader in nutrition, health and wellness.
While appreciating the lofty aims and claims to educate about one million mainly rural Sri Lankan schoolchildren, we would like to ask Education Services Minister Duminda Dissanayake whether he is aware of what happened in Sri Lanka after 1977. Until then – when Sri Lanka swallowed wholesale the globalised capitalist market economic system – the country had a thriving fresh milk industry. We seldom or never saw packets of imported powdered milk, while most people obtained fresh milk from the once-popular milk man, and the National Milk Board sold bottles of fresh milk at milk bars set up in almost every junction. Most people-friendly nutritionists have told us time and again that fresh milk is at least twice as nutritious as any imported powdered milk. Tragically trans-national milk companies worked in a subtle way to undermine, sideline and virtually destroy the Sri Lankan fresh milk industry to the extent that the country is now squandering about Rs. 50,000 million in foreign exchange annually for the import of powdered milk.
"Most people-friendly nutritionists have told us time and again that fresh milk is at least twice as nutritious as any imported powdered milk"
We wonder whether Minister Dissanayake is aware of the TNCs which milked Sri Lanka’s dairy industry dry, and if so why he is allowing them to teach one million schoolchildren about nutrition and good health.
For thousands of years Sri Lanka had native physicians and nutritionists who taught us how to obtain the vitamins, proteins and minerals we need from rice, gram, greengram and cowpea, vegetables like murunga and Kathurumurunga, fruits like alligator pears (avocado) and a multitude of other locally grown or produced food items. Our people have been quite healthy before the enforcement of the globalised capitalist market economic system and we see no reason why the rich values of our hallowed civilisation should be sacrificed at the altar of TNCs with profit-making and neo-colonial economic agendas.
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