At one time you would say Sri Lanka had the highest literacy rate in South Asia. Thanks to the hard work by farsighted free thinkers like C. W. W. Kannangara who introduced free education. Influenced by the Western education system, patriotic leaders like Mr. Kannangara laid the foundation for an educated future generation.
It was on this foundation that Sri Lanka could achieve adult literacy rate of almost 92 percent according to United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) ranking. Our country also displayed a significant achievement in education with the male literacy rate at 93% compared to 91% for females.
The credit should go to the generations of teachers who gifted an educated younger generation to this nation and the world. This was despite the poor salaries they were paid and difficult working conditions specially in rural areas of Sri Lanka.
We witnessed the same dedication of the teachers when schools were closed suddenly in October 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The teachers voluntarily started online teaching using their smart phones, laptops and other devices. This was out of their own pockets and despite various other obstacles. Unfortunately the education authorities did not realize the urgent need of online education.
Some greedy service providers who made millions of rupees selling data too were unable to understand the need of the hour. They failed to organize some sort of service to the children and the teachers who were willing to work for our tomorrow.
Children in rural villages had to climb to trees and mountains in search of signals as both local and multi-national telecommunication partners had catered their ‘services’ only to cities where they could earn at a time people were restricted to their homes and only mode of relaxation was the internet.
This was also a time where parents were struggling to find day today living as the pandemic had devastating consequences for their jobs. World Bank data indicated that more than 500,000 people in Sri Lanka may have been pushed into poverty as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and this number is likely to increase.
“Children across Sri Lanka have had a terrible two years, with COVID-related school closures completely disrupting their ability to get a basic education. This economic crisis is making things worse. Not only are schools closing once again, but families have even less resources at their disposal to keep kids learning than they did before the pandemic,”Ranjan Weththasinghe,Save the Children’s Director of Programmes in Sri Lanka stated referring the period of Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis thereafter.
“A recent needs assessment by Save the Children shows that 50% of families are struggling to support their children’s education and some children are already dropping out of school. Parents are having to decide whether to buy data to access online classes, or use this money for food. Faced with such a decision, families make the life-saving choice. But at what cost?” Mr. Weththasinghe asked in a statement.
The results of all these tragedies are now out. A recent survey by the Education Ministry itself has revealed that the education level of children had suffered a severe setback during the covid-19 period and 90 percent of the students have not been able to acquire sufficient literacy or knowledge.
It has also been revealed that the technology which was in wrong hands had been misused as nearly 33 percent of grade one students have played games using mobile phones during the study from home period of the pandemic.
The survey done randomly selecting the provincial and regional education offices, genders, school classification and income levels also had revealed that 64 percent have watched television for more than one hour a day and 7 percent have watched television for more than three hours during the school hours. Who could be blamed for this disaster now? The damage is done and we have played with the precious future of our country.
The legendary Thomas Jefferson founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809, has said “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,”.
During the past 75 years most of our leaders have played politics with our education and most of our children are left uninformed or ill-informed and are unable to make a proper judgment on the role they should play in building a just and fair society.
Zaza Monday, 20 March 2023 09:20 PM
I agree with these comments " During the past 75 years most of our leaders have played politics with our education and most of our children are left uninformed or ill-informed and are unable to make a proper judgment on the role they should play in building a just and fair society. " Rest only space filling.
Zaza Monday, 20 March 2023 09:23 PM
Dear Editor. As a Nation, we have not had a National Educational Policy for decades. The system had been raped and ravaged, sloganized by many ministers. Education is a process, not a factory. You cannot put children at one end and collect Doctors, Lawyers, and Technocrats at the other end, politicians yes can.
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