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Plea for Education Minister’s Consideration

12 July 2017 01:31 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lanka no doubt is going through a rough patch in its contemporary history. The recent drought that practically made many sources of water dry for some time was followed by devastating flash floods sending many areas under water. Heavy rains and the deluge that followed resulted in destructive landslides claiming many innocent lives at a time most unexpected. Moreover, the monstrous mountain of man-made garbage created havoc by collapsing on adjoining houses in Meethotamulla burying scores in one of the worst tragedies to hit the nation on the eve of the National New Year. Sri Lanka has been hit by multiplicity of calamities occurring in a quick succession in monstrous proportions demonstrating the wrath of nature. 

The GCE Advanced Level examination practically determines which route a child has to take in his future

Devastating floods which saw many villages getting submerged in gushing waters resulted in loss of lives and colossal damage to property with scores of families losing all earthly belongings in a flash rendering them destitute. Many have lost the houses they have lived in throughout their lives and found themselves being rendered homeless and left with only the clothes they were wearing. It has been heartrending to witness many helpless school going little ones crying their hearts out in agony having lost all their cherished belongings including text books, and other study material. Losses suffered by children can hardly be recompensed even if they are provided with new books and stationery as the mental trauma, rude shock and horrors to which they were exposed out of the blue are destined to remain and haunt their memories for years to come. 

Many such sad stories as usual will remain in the realm of obscurity with focus changing from one crisis to another as time progresses. Many people who struggle hard to make ends meet and keep home fires burning would now have a mammoth task ahead in rebuilding their lives from scratch. To make matters worse, the country is now facing one of the worst health catastrophes in the form of the dengue epidemic which is raging with greater ferocity every passing day fast assuming pandemic proportions in the wake of the flooding. So far this year nearly 76,000 cases of dengue have been reported countrywide with some patients including children succumbing to this lethal affliction. 

Many children have contracted dengue and are receiving treatment at several hospitals. With Dengue assuming hyper endemic proportions there is a countrywide red alert on the lethal disease. With the situation aggravating by the day even some of the leading private hospitals find it hard to cater to the enormous demand for admission by the rising number of dengue patients. Moreover people are at their sixes and sevens not knowing what to do with symptoms of the disease varying with each individual case putting the lives of patients at grave risk. 

The writer is personally aware of many cases of children being treated for this life-threatening disease and the post-treatment agony the young ones have been compelled to go through due to various forms of physical discomforts disabilities and pain that follow in the wake of the illness. Such debilitating aftereffects in some cases linger for a considerable period preventing the young victims from engaging in productive activities such as studies, sports or any form of vocational training. 

As usual the blame game and buck passing continues with the core of the problem largely remaining unaddressed. Although proud pronouncements are made from elevated podiums ostensibly for public consumption, there is lack of a robust and coherent action plan to address the core issue, the eradication of deadly virus. No one needs rocket science to tackle it if there is a genuine will on the part of those calling the shots in the body politic to take necessary action. People have seen how hurriedly politicos take action when it comes to matters that work for their benefit irrespective of whether they are of any common public interest or otherwise, and it is well known that politicos are predominantly motivated by self-serving agendas. One of the main challenges faced by parents who have been fortunate enough to save the precious lives of their children from the deadly disease is consistently taking proper preventive measures or preventing relapses in an effective manner as there is lack of necessary remedial measures from authorities in many cases. Unless measures are taken at community levels individual action by households would have only a limited scale of success in ensure prevention and avoiding a relapse. 

As usual the blame game and buck passing continues with the core of the problem largely remaining unaddressed

Schoolchildren were hit by a double whammy of floods and dengue that followed in its wake. It implies a situation where the man fallen from a tree being proverbially gored. This is particularly significant in the case of scores of children who are preparing for their GCE Advanced level examination, as victims of floods or dengue or even of both misfortunes would certainly be at a huge disadvantage in sitting the exam for reasons beyond their control. This situation warrants serious consideration as we are not talking about an illness that has impacted only on some isolated cases with a handful of patients reported. 

Some 43% of the dengue cases have been reported from the Western Province with the majority belonging to Colombo and the suburbs. Ongoing disruption of medical facilities caused by trade union action unleashed by the medical fraternity no doubt is exacerbating the issue and worsening the plight of the poor unable to afford private medical treatment. Such hapless ones are forced to seek treatment from vastly overcrowded public hospitals, and in consequence are precariously placed at the mercy of medics preoccupied with trade union actions with urgent need for patient care going out of the window. 

The GCE Advanced Level examination practically determines which route a child has to take in his future and it is certainly one of the most critically important turning points in the life of every young person aspiring to reach whatever goals he or she desires. This is where competition matters most, and students are expected to perform at their level best. 

The recent catastrophes that occurred in quick succession and dengue which is ferociously raging today tormenting people and recently claimed the life of a female undergraduate of the University of Moratuwa and this resulted in its temporary closure with many children affected by dengue being left with  a colossal disadvantage as compared to their peers, as their ability to perform up to the mark at full potential at the GCE Advanced Level Exam to be held in August ‘17 has been seriously eroded and undermined by the plague they are suffering from. 

The victims of these catastrophes obviously need special consideration

The victims of these catastrophes obviously need special consideration and every possible support to ensure that they would also be able to compete on a level playing field. The best that learned professionals and the considerate Education Minister could do at this critical juncture is to give relief to well deserving student victims by temporarily postponing the GCE Advance level examination until December ‘17. This will also enable the student to prepare for the examination better whilst helping the Government to conduct this examination in the month of December starting from the next year as it may already have plans to do so. 

This is a reasonable plea based on humanitarian grounds. It is being made on behalf of many a student victim suffering in anguish with the sincere hope that it would not fall on deaf ears. 

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