Following our recent expose on how the Government’s procurement guidelines were brought to question by the Ministry of Education when selecting the bidder to supply computer tabs for the teachers and students associated with the Advanced Level classes, it had now come to light how the higher officials have been unable to utilize the budgetary allocation to provide infrastructure facilities to schools.
The Ministry of Education (MoE), as per the treasury reports, has failed to utilize the 2017 budgetary allocations to provide the basic facilities to schools. Most Government academic institutions lack the facilities required to provide the proper education to the children with there being a shortage of teachers and other infrastructure facilities.
According to MoE statistics, much of the 2017 budgetary allocation has not been utilized as of September 30.
As of September 30, 2017, Rs.54.9 billion had been allocated for recurrent expenditure out of which only Rs.32.4 billion (59.2%) had been used while out of the Rs.52.5 billion allocation on capital expenditure, only Rs.38.1billion (72.6%) had been utilized.
“Under capital expenditure, Rs.12.4 billion had been allocated for school buildings, Rs.9 billion for procurement, Rs.5 billion each for the purchase of Computer Tabs, to hire Computers and to purchase Tables/Chairs. However, other than using Rs.1.5 billion from the allocations on procurements, other allocations have not been utilized. Although the treasury had allocated funds to supply necessary chairs and tables for schools, it is questionable as to why the budgetary allocations are retained in coffers without being utilized?,” higher officials at the MoE said on condition of anonymity.
According to sources, officials take more time to grant approval to letters highlighting urgent needs. Most of the times these letters are misplaced. “The files that are sent to these officials sometimes return to us without approval being granted. In order to satisfy the subject minister they are concentrating more on organizing functions and attending meetings, but not on the paper work,” sources alleged.
President Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin accused the Education Minister and ministry officials of paying attention only to attend functions rather than formulate and implement proper policies to benefit the country’s education system.
“Education is a devolved subject as per the 13th Amendment, yet, given the existence of concurrent lists, there are 353 national schools where the operations and administration of these schools are carried out by the MoE. The higher officials are mostly involved in attending functions in these national schools. It is quite costly to organize school events which are attended by higher officials. The distribution and appointments at these events can be done without much fanfare. The solving of issues pertaining to school admissions, with regard to the national schools, also involve much time of the Ministry officials. These activities demand the time of nearly ninety percent of the higher officials’. This doesn’t allow these officials the time to focus on formulation and implementing policies to benefit the students. If the MoE can vest powers in the Provincial Councils to manage these 353 national schools the way they manage 9, 600 provincial schools in the country, the Minister and his officials will get more time to focus on Policy Research and Formulation, Monitoring and Evaluation of Educational Delivery, Teacher Education and Teacher Professional Development, Curriculum Development, Examinations and Assessments,” Stalin said.
Stalin further said how necessary it is to have a strong structure and coordination between policies and implementation of the respective ministries in order to ensure coherence and provide the required linkages towards a systematic progress in education from childhood to adulthood.
According to Stalin, the Ministry of Education, will be able to build good leaders at each level, concentrate on issues appropriate to their main functions of policy development and planning, focus on new processes and structures, in order to bring about an enhanced culture of performance. The Provincial and District Administrations must be strengthened, so that they can focus on the day-to-day administration of the school. The work at the Ministry can be rationalized with more personnel focusing on more consistent and effective policy implementation, identification of gaps and remedial measures in a timely manner. When they concentrate on these important aspects, they can also focus more on Teacher Education, their continuous professional development and appropriate teacher deployments, particularly in the core subjects of Maths, IT, English and Sciences. The schools in the periphery are devoid of receiving this kind of attention. These huge disparities in the country’s education systems need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Meanwhile, Starlin further pointed out how the Presidential Investigation Unit had found three high ranking officials to be at fault in printing the Year 7 Geography text book in synthetic paper which had cost the country Rs.128.9 million. This exercise was six times costlier compared to printing it on normal paper.
“Had these books been printed using normal paper, it would have cost the country a little more than Rs.21.3 million. Over five hundred thousand copies of the book printed in Sinhala, Tamil and English languages had been printed on synthetic paper. It is reported that the approval for this printing had been obtained by misleading the cabinet of ministers. On whose advice was this printing order given? Now the Presidential Investigation Unit has completed the investigation and had found fault with three officials, but no action has been taken against these officials to date,” Stalin underscored.
When contacted Director Presidential Investigation Unit, Ruban Wickremarachchi, it was confirmed that the investigation had been concluded and the report had been submitted to the President.
“I cannot tell the media what our findings are, but those who have been found guilty are now threatening us that they are going to courts. We have done the investigation based on what we have unearthed. Anyone has the freedom to go to courts, but the truth will prevail,” Wickremarachchi said.
Internet and tabs
Meanwhile Stalin further queried as to how the schools that don’t have internet facilities could operate the computer tabs?
“Before giving the tabs, the Ministry should provide internet connections to the schools and necessary teachers who have the knowledge to teach the children how to operate these devices. Out of the 10, 222 schools in the country, internet facilities are provided only to 2000 schools,” Stalin said.
Director (IT) MoE, P.N. Ilapperuma when contacted said that internet facilities would be provided to all schools that conduct A/L classes before the computer tabs are purchased.
“There are 1016 schools that conduct A/L classes in all three streams while 1805 schools have only arts and commerce streams. The schools that have not been provided with internet facilities will get them given soon,” Ilapperuma said.
Stalin further alleged that the MoE has plans to grant Rs.800,000 each to 5,000 students to obtain an education degree from a private university, and linked this plan with a powerful official in the Government. “Once these students complete the degree and serve in Government schools for three consecutive years, this loan will be waived off. The Government is spending Rs.4000 million on these students who have failed to enter a state university. This concept was the brainchild of this powerful official as it benefits his son-in-law. If the Government has money to spend, why cannot they enhance facilities in state universities and enroll more students which would be viable?,” Stalin queried.
Meanwhile, a school principal from the Central Province, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Daily Mirror how the MoE, during the past six months, had failed to reimburse the money they had spent to construct toilets and refurbish the old school buildings under the ‘best school is the nearest school’ concept.
According to this Principal, former Director (Construction), MoE had wanted all the principals to obtain the assistance of their respective school development societies and get the toilets constructed. He also wanted the old buildings refurbished and promised to reimburse the money once the bills are produced.
“Initially we were paid an advance of two hundred thousand rupees and one hundred and fifty thousand rupees respectively to refurbish the old school buildings and to construct toilets. When we informed the MoE that we were unable to get involved in these constructions, the former Director (Construction) wanted us to give up our jobs if we were not willing to support their concept. We bought all the construction materials from hardware shops in the locality, but so far the money we spent has not been reimbursed. The MoE has to pay Rs.172 million for the schools in the Central Province. Whenever we make a representation to the Ministry in this regard we are told that they do not have the necessary funds. At a time the ministry has not utilized their budgetary allocations, why can’t they reimburse the money,” the sources asked.
All attempts taken to reach Secretary Education Ministry Sunil Hettiarachchi through phone calls proved futile.
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