Contemporary Issues
Posted on June 22nd, 2016

By Dr. Tilak S Fernando Courtesy Ceylon Today

A drastic social and cultural revolution has taken place in Sri Lanka over the past few decades; with peoples’ attitudes, culture, the calibre of the rulers and politicians, school teachers, parents and students alike, have taken a three hundred and sixty degree turn towards the depreciation of the social fabric of the country. The present day children will never be able to fathom the difference between now and the bygone era. The new generation may call it simply a ‘fantasy’. The modern child will not be able to envision the difference between now and then, even when explained to them in detail about the freedom, enjoyment, discipline and parental bond that once existed. Regrettably, the modern child has no time to relax in a proverbial scenario of  ‘Work while you work. Play while you play. This is the way to be happy and gay,’ what parents of the older generation used this rhyme to inculcate into the young minds.

In the bygone era there were special ‘School Drills’ with the participation of the local police where an experienced traffic police officer visited schools and gave a ‘pep’ talk to the children, regularly, explaining how to cross roads by looking to the right first, then to the left and once again to the right and advised them always to walk on the right hand side of the road etc.

Contrary to the present day trend, many children used to walk to their nearby schools in the past, but today a new industry has taken root with a ‘school-van culture’ where hundreds of passenger vehicles are to be seen blocking all the parking areas around Colombo schools as they keep their parked vehicles from morning until the schools close in the afternoon to take the children back.

This, in a way, is a loss of revenue to the Colombo Municipal Council because these stretches of roads not only become congested with traffic but the Council is losing a considerable amount of money in the absence of any parking meters or parking attendants overseeing this problem. Other motorists also get caught in the trap and are inconvenienced by not being able to find adequate parking areas due to such selfish parking attitudes by school van drivers.

Breakdown of discipline

 What is seen today is the change of attitudes of young school children to a greater extent on roads or in public transport, especially after school hours. Gangs of noisy, boisterous and quite undisciplined youngsters are seen. Those children who travel by vehicles too, show no discipline either, or pay any attention to their own lives, when they walk abreast on the road engaged in loud chattering and disregarding any on coming traffic or while crossing the roads!

In a sense the teachers have lost control of their students today. Those who belonged to the ‘old school mind-set’ regarded a schoolteacher as a second parent where his/her responsibilities lie in inculcating discipline while moulding the young to be intelligent, educated and responsible citizens of the society. This concept seems to have been permanently erased from the social fabric in Sri Lanka at present with the modern trend of tuition classes, seven days a week, where children have no free time at all except ‘studying’ and doing home work, which according to psychologists tend to affect young minds!

Accusation

Some sections of the society point a finger and allege that a certain section of the present day teachers are neglecting their duty and ignoring all concepts, morals, traditions and are hopelessly letting down the noble meaning of the teaching profession by ‘doing a shabby job’ during school hours. The motive, it is alleged, is that of earning an extra buck by instilling in the young minds of the students as well as parents to have extra tuition classes and earn a good sum free of income tax! Any bystander near one of those ‘sophisticated’ private tuition classes on a Saturday morning would be amazed to see large numbers of children coming out of such private tuition classes like a flock of sheep!

The latest tool for advertising such tuition classes has become the television where the TV companies pay no heed either; their sole aim is increasing their advertising revenue! The six million dollar question is how on earth these tuition masters manage to impart their knowledge to such unprecedented numbers in a large hall (using microphones and speakers mounted in the hallway)! The modern teacher is described in the Urban Dictionary as “a person who cares enough about abusive and ungrateful teens to work for crappy pay and long hours while hoping someday students mature enough to realise how lucky they are to have someone who cares a shit about them“.

Computers

With the advent of the microchip age present day child spends most of his/her time at computers either playing games or engaged in chatting with others. One may call it ‘advancement’! Apart from children, most of the offices in Sri Lanka are now equipped with television sets which distract the staff discharging their official responsibilities for a salary they earn at the end of each month.

These TV sets which are switched on during office hours cause the staff to constantly divert their attention by tempting them to view news bulletins, watch their favourite teledrama or glue to the box whenever there is a cricket match until their eye balls become hexagonal! Sri Lanka may be perhaps the only country where this type of facility has been extended to the staff during office hours because generally in other countries the TV sets are mounted in rest rooms, conference rooms, cafeterias and in the Manager’s room to monitor the progress of the institution. Rather than TV sets many suggest installation of CCTV cameras would help to get the message across to the staff that they are being monitored!

The other side of the coin is the absence of computer facilities in vital offices such as in police stations where police staff have to use the old typewriters that belonged to the ‘hanamitiyugaya! (great grandmothers’ era), causing the public to spend hours on end when they visit a police station to lodge a simple complaint because everything has to be logged on to a book by a policeman in written form using blue and red pens, and then sent to a typist at the station, a copy of which is usually available to the complainant the day after by paying an allocated fee. These are the areas where computers could be utilised to a maximum as police stations are inundated with the public arriving with their whines which need to be logged in. Now that the Sinhala fonts are available on computers it does not mean that only English educated PCs should be employed to do the job at the reception area.

Computers are seen better utilised in some of the busy offices such as the Dept of Immigration and Emigration where hundreds of people flock every day to either obtain new passports or renew passports or visitors coming to extend their visas. Same could be said about the Ministry of Transport and Vehicle licensing and driving licence issuing offices where the advanced technology is utilised to a maximum for the convenience of the general public, such as the ‘drive in service’ to obtain the revenue licence, which helps not only to maintain electronic records (rather than piling up hundreds of hand written ledgers) as well as giving a quick turnaround to customer service!

Surely what is the need to have a television set at every office, glaring at the members of staff? It is much better, as critics suggest, to invest that amount of money to install CCTV cameras where the head of department will be able to clearly see the progress of his office staff at a glance, as much as if any member of staff is getting up to any monkey pranks during office hours such as playing computer games or becoming Face Book fanatics!

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