HEALTH, EDUCATION AND YAHAPALANA Part 5
Posted on April 18th, 2019

KAMALIKA  PIERIS

Revised 20.6.19

HEALTH

We start with Sunshine stories”. Here they are:

  • European standard hospitals will be established in Hambantota, Panadura, Dambulla, Matale and Embilipitiya with German, Netherlands and French aid.
  • New accident wards are to be established in 24 General Hospitals and Teaching Hospitals located island wide.
  •  A total of 48 blood transfusion centres have already been established island wide.
  • A  clinical wastage recycling project, spending Rs. 2600 million will  be launched.
  • A foreign company will invest in E-Health system and issue E-Health cards for Sri Lankans .the company will include all State hospitals in the E-Health system. It has provided E-Health cards for 40 million people in Andhra Pradesh in India.

The country’s health care system will be digitized via an E-Health policy. According to the E-Health policy, all citizens will be issued E-Health Cards which will record their health conditions so that any doctor can have history of their patients. The E-Health System will be introduced to 45 Hospitals in the next two years 2018-19 .it is to be expanded to 300 hospitals following the initial implementation.

  • The government is to launch a project to manufacture a key ingredient in medical products using liters of blood plasma daily unused in the country. We will have a joint project with United States of America and India to produce certain ingredients which are very important in some medical products. When we export blood plasma, these countries manufacture these ingredients and export them back to our country for very high prices. With this new project, we will receive a quantity of these products for our local use.

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In 2017, The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) urged  the Health ministry to appoint a suitable officer to the post of Director General of   Health services. This is the apex position in the health services and the post has been vacant for nearly one year now with an acting DGHS.

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In 2018 The GMOA asked the Health Ministry to fill the 148 Deputy Director posts which had fallen vacant instead of creating  ‘Acting Deputy Directors’. There were 180 Deputy Director posts in the country and 148 of them were vacant. the vacancies had been advertised about one year back. But, no attempt had been made to fill them. Medical Superintendents in Base hospitals, Deputy Directors in all major hospitals, Deputy Regional Directors come under the category of Deputy Director. State-run hospitals are facing a crisis due to the delays in appointments. 

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In 2018 the Government Medical Officers’ Association  warned it would resort to a strike if the North Central Provincial Council attempted to bring doctors serving in the province under the Provincial health service. North Central Province (NCP) had, in a letter, informed the Provincial Director Health Services that the Council had taken a decision to absorb doctors under its purview. GMOA said doctors belonged to the All-Island service.

The doctors had also wanted to take up with the Governor NCP several other issues including Indian medical officers conducting mobile clinics in the East, the misuse of World Bank funds and the delay in paying doctors’ overtime. A group of GMOA representatives in the East who attempted to take up those issues at a meeting with Governor on March 29 had been threatened.

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Puttalam nurses staged a demonstration in March 2018 saying that they had worked in Puttalam for nine years and had got transfer orders but the hospital is not letting them go.

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Doctors protested in 2018 against an appointment of a second vascular surgeon to the Ragama Teaching Hospital (Colombo North Teaching Hospital) from outside the annual transfer list. The surgeon involved was sent to the Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital in 2016.Two years later a special position had been created for a second vascular surgeon at Colombo North Teaching Hospital (CNTH), Ragama and this surgeon appointed to it, in violation of the annual transfer list. Doctors allege that the second position had been created to accommodate this particular surgeon. Director of the Ragama hospital told the Director General Health Services, that two vascular specialists are not required in his hospital as the hospital doesn’t have a specialized unit for vascular surgery.

***

The post of the Chief Epidemiologist was always held by a qualified epidemiologist but a doctor without the required medical knowledge  was   appointed to this position in 2017. Protests were made by the GMOA, former Chief Epidemiologists, current Epidemiologists and senior academics.

Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Paba Palihawadana, sought and obtained no-pay leave from the Health Ministry to join the UN service for one year, in 2017. While she was on no-pay leave, another senior public health specialist of the Epidemiology Unit acted for the Chief Epidemiologist. However, when Dr. Palihawadana reported back for duty as Chief Epidemiologist on January 1, 2018, she found that another person had been appointed to the post.

Dr. A.  Dissanayake was appointed as Chief Epidemiologist on December 19, 2017, There was an advertisement, I applied and I was selected,” he said, pointing out that the appointment was made by the Public Service Commission in accordance with the prevailing medical minutes. Dr. Dissanayake said he had headed the National Blood Transfusion Service for several years.  Before that he was Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) in Kalutara, where he was handling everything”. The medical profession did not agree. They said Dr D. did not have the necessary qualifications.  He had a M.Sc in Medical Administration.”

According to  circular No. 02-132/2000 dated September 26, 2000, the Chief Epidemiologist should be a Board certified Consultant in Community Medicine with work experience in epidemiology,. These criteria are also included in the Medical Services Minute of 2014. All Consultants attached to the Epidemiology Unit have these qualifications and field experience in epidemiology-related activities.

The Epidemiology Unit is responsible for controlling communicable diseases. If there is a major outbreak of a communicable disease, the Epidemiology Unit, will not be able to handle the crisis with a non-technical head without a background in epidemiology, Sri Lanka’s much-commended public health system would crash with the next outbreak of disease.

All epidemiological-related activities — which include communicable disease control and the immunization programme – are coordinated and implemented through Regional Epidemiologists based at district-level. When the Regional Epidemiologists need any technical input, it has to be provided by the Chief Epidemiologist. the Chief Epidemiologist has to provide technical advice and guidance to these Consultants. The doctors will not be ready to follow the medical instructions given by a doctor who does not have the requisite knowledge. That is why we think that the current Chief Epidemiologist cannot handle the job,”

Doctors pointed out that a non-technical doctor  had been appointed to head the Dengue Control Programme. He had abandoned” his post during the height of the dengue epidemic in 2017. The main reason for influenza reaching the epidemic level in the Southern Province is the appointment of a  doctor without the relevant medical knowledge to the post of Chief Epidemiologist, said the GMOA in May 2018.

The influenza started to spread in the Southern Province one month ago, but nothing was done to control it, The Chief Epidemiologist kept mum. Now it is up to the parents and the school authorities to control the outbreak and prevent it from spreading all over the country.  The Epidemiology Unit and the Chief Epidemiologist is not ready to face any possible disease outbreak that could occur as a result of the present floods, either.

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Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Namal Gamage has decided, in July 2018, to stop performing surgeries as the air-conditioner at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital was not functioning. There were around 3,000 heart patients waiting to undergo heart surgery at the hospital. Although a number of requests had been made for repairing the central air-conditioning system, no action had been taken, The patients also made the same request to the authorities.

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The Health Ministry said in 2017 it would make use of theatres at private hospitals to perform cardiac and eye surgeries to clear waiting lists at government hospitals. The surgeons and staff would be from the government and private sectors.  Health Ministry would meet the cost. The private hospitals  have submitted their charges for each surgery and the time table during which the operations could be performed. The Private Sector Regulatory Authority would study the report and come up with an action plan.

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The Emergency medical Service system of the country will soon be strengthened with eight Airbus Helicopters and 28 state-of-the-art emergency vehicles, said the Ministry in 2017. Steiger Foundation of Germany will provide 24 helicopters, 1,025 ambulances and 24 emergency vehicles. Helicopters will be  useful addition to the system,  considering   road traffic congestion . Sometimes ambulances could not travel through roads due to traffic congestion.

The government  announced that it has decided to continue with Sri Lanka’s pioneering  Pre Hospital Emergency Care Ambulance Service, Suwasariya, launched with Indian financial backing  in 2016. the free ambulance services now operating in Western and Southern Provinces will be expanded covering the entire country by  2018. Joint Opposition pointed out in Parliament  that  it was the ambulance service in the hospitals which should be expanded.

The Indian firm GVK EMRI LANKA operated the free ambulance  service through a Public-Private Partnership with the Ministry of Health,. The operation is a 24 hour, 7 days a week, round the clock service, the Control Centre received over 322,000 calls and has served over 32,000 cases, out of which, cardio, trauma, and stroke were the major cases.

In a Memorandum to the Cabinet of Ministers, Wickremesinghe had said that the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Ambulance Service, which was launched in the Western and Southern Provinces with GVK EMRI Lanka Limited and assistance of the Indian Government on July 29, 2016 had by April 2017, responded to 236,000 calls with an average responding time of 12.52 minutes and transported 130 to 135 patients daily.

In a ‘letter to the editor’ which was supposedly to praise a hospital ward, ‘Concerned woman’ heaped praise on the Indian ambulance service which she said was excellent. The service included a  doctor, a nurse and nurse aide. They were trained in India,  including  the driver. They knew emergency medical action. they were considerate and capable. They helped revive her husband with emergency first aid. All this at no cost thanks to the present government, she said.

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Health Ministry has. in 2018,  outsourced the laundry services of hospitals in the Western Province to an Indian Company, complained Government Medical Officers’ Association  . The GMOA wanted this outsourcing of the laundry in government hospitals to an Indian Company, stopped.

The Ministry said that the new  laundry  service would be provided  by the Sri Lankan affiliate of India’s Sugram Hospital Solutions, which is engaged in laundry services at several hospitals worldwide, The service is a Board of Investment (BOI) project under the Build, Operate, & Transfer (BOT) method with a  USD 4 7.5 million investment. The government does not bear any expenses for the project. Constructing  of  buildings and installing required machinery, will be done at the expense of the investors, After 15 years the project, with up to date technology will be transferred to the Ministry of Health. More than 300 unemployed youths will be given employment.

Under the project, the garments used by the patients and staff during the surgical procedures will be sterilized using modern methods, washed and ironed, sealed in protective covers, and transported to the hospitals in sterilized trucks. The Ministry of Health will spend less than the cost incurred by the hospitals on local laundry services at present.

 The Ministry said doctors in Western Province had complained about the local providers who were engaged in the laundry service for the hospitals in the Western Province. They were using substandard materials for sterilization,  they were not sterilizing, there was  delay in providing cleaned laundry to hospitals during rainy season,  and the possible spread of skin related diseases due to incomplete cleaning also, white-colored bed linen are brownish. They were washed with water from the Beira Lake.

GMOA replied that the local agencies involved in washing hospital linen had been registered with and certified by the Health Ministry after calling for tenders. They were experienced and met the required standards. The charge that Beira Lake water was used for washing hospital linen was incorrect. GMOA wanted to know whether cleaner water was to be brought from India or whether linen was to be sent to India to be washed and brought back to Sri Lanka.

This was yet another instance of Sri Lankan politicians acting as agents of foreign countries. They were selling government institutions and services to foreign companies, said GMOA.   GMOA had warned that the Economic and Technology Corporation Agreement (ETCA) would threaten the services and professions in Sri Lanka. Now, it seems that not even small enterprises and family trade would be safe with ECTA,  said GMOA. This project has no relevance to ETCA, replied the Ministry.

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there were 13 local drug manufacturers who locally produce 82 items for the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation, said the Ministry at a media briefing in 2017. Ten more local manufacturers producing 40 more items will join the local drug manufacturing in the near future. a total of 38 agreements have been signed between the government and the local drug manufacturers to produce drugs in Sri Lanka .Sri Lanka has already begun local drug production at two factories situated in Kandy and Horana.

Sri Lanka expects to produce 80% of its drug requirements by the end of 2018, which will save USD 400 million plus annually which the government spends for drug importation. Accordingly, the importation of all drugs which can be produced locally, will be stopped by the end of 2018.

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The State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation of Sri Lanka (SPMC) and Pharma Zone (Pvt) Ltd entered into an agreement in January 2018, to build the first ever exclusive pharmaceutical manufacturing zone (Pharma Zone) of Sri Lanka. It will be located on 50 acres in Welipenna, Kalutara district at an investment of over US $ 10 million. to be.

The Pharma Zone is a BOI approved company whose principals are the Sultan of Johor and Patrick Lim Soo Kit, a leading Malaysian entrepreneur. This is a 100 % Malaysian investment and it underlines the high regard that the Sultan and the people of Johor for Sri Lanka, said the Ministry.

The Zone will be run and administered by Pharma Zone, headed by Patrick Lim Soo Kit, while the SPMC along with the Ministry of Health will set the standards and monitor quality. Electricity, water, road infrastructure, security, waste water management,  will l be provided to the companies operating within the Zone. it is the intention of Pharma Zone to attract overseas investors to set up operations within the Zone as well. “We will be marketing Pharma Zone regionally,” said Lim.

Pharma Zone will facilitate the local pharmaceutical manufacturers with sufficient land for manufacturing plants and basic infrastructure facilities for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products. So that the government can achieve its target of localising production of essential pharmaceutical items to a value of US$100 million. with the completion of the Pharma Zone, envisaged to be in operation within one year, the country’s dependency on imported drugs will soon become a thing of the past, said the Ministry.

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 In 2017 the Health Ministry announced an exclusive agreement between the government and the staff of the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) to grant a staggering 55 per cent salary increase to the lowest paid employees and 41 per cent pay hike to their highest paid counterparts. This  salary increase had been granted due to an impressive profit of Rs 1,800 earned by the SPC . it would be effective from July 1, 2017 to June 6, 2020.

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Hospitals do not have adequate drugs to treat cancer patients and are not sure when the drugs will arrive critics said in January 2019. This is due to the delay in appointments to tender boards. That is turn is due to vetting process by the committees appointed by the President. The Boards cannot function until persons are formally appointments to tender boards. the Medical Supplies Division  of the Health Ministry and the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) responsible for supplying the required medicines confirmed that delays in appointing tender boards and the release of payments to suppliers had adversely affected the supplies.

 The resulting delays in completing tender processes has  particularly affected the purchase of vital drugs for cancer patients.. medical authorities have been forced to defer treatment of cancer patients throughout the country. the country’s main Cancer Hospital, ‘Apeksha’ in Maharagama  was forced to tell patients to come back later for treatment or advise them to by the medicine from private pharmacies. Hundreds of patients have already been turned away, reported the media.

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in September 2018,  Health Ministry officials said that a crisis is looming in the health sector due to the Treasury not releasing more than Rs 20 billion to settle bills for essential items, including medicines,  it is the first time such a large amount has been outstanding. Of this, Rs 10 billion is owed to the Health Ministry. Another Rs 10 billion is due to the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) which has not been paid up to five months for production of essential medicines. Arrears to the tune of Rs 450 million are owed to one supplier.

The SPMC takes out loans to manufacture close to 200 pharmaceuticals. When Treasury reimbursement is delayed, it is forced to reduce the quantity of drugs it produces or cease manufacturing completely. This is because it costs money to import the raw material required to make the medicines in Sri Lanka. All these medicines are for Government hospitals,” said the official. If the outstanding amounts are not settled soon, manufacturers will refuse to provide medicines, plunging the free health service into crisis.”. There is also no money to advertise tenders, meaning those that are in the pipeline will be delayed.

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 In 2017 Yahapalana government   purchased two clinically untested cancer drugs  Trastuzumab and Bevazizumab, produced and imported from Russia. In 2016, 25 oncologists wrote to the Health Ministry advising it not to import these two  drugs.   The drugs were of low quality and were not used even in Russia. Their price was higher than other drugs which have US Food and Drug Authority (FDA) approval.

The drug was hurriedly registered in the NMRA    and tenders called. There were no Oncologists in the technical committee which approved the tender. The tender was floated by the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation of Sri Lanka (SPCSL). (Tender No. LP/MSD/CPU – DHS/RQ/016/018). The five shortlisted bidders submitted quotations for Rs. 64,700, Rs. 93,950, Rs. 109,000, Rs. 135,900 and Rs. 190,000 per vial, respectively. The second highest bidder wasawarded thetender, despite a substantial price difference of Rs. 39 million for the whole stock of 557 vials.

The company which submitted the lowest bid wrote to the authorities, complaining about the unjust manner in which it was elbowed out and the tender awarded to the second highest bidder. The lowest bidder  said that he too was able to supply 100 vials ex stock (with three vials free of charge) and the balance within 14 working days on receipt of the confirmed order.

A second purchase  order was placed on October 3, 2017 with the local supplier for another 2,500 vials of Trastuzumab at a staggering cost of Rs. 360,250,000, despite a competitor offering a time-tested, FDA approved product, at a competitive price. The move to purchase another 2,500 vials of a product which has generated much controversy is beyond belief, said critics. Somebody is making a big kill on the bid. Otherwise, why opt for a higher price when a better, time-tested drug is on offer.

After the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and Chamal Rajapaksa as Health Minister,  in October 2018, the SPC had ordered a better and cheaper drug, but when a court order preventing the Prime Minister and the Cabinet from functioning was made, the SPC  cancelled the order and again ordered the Russian drug.

The SPC bought 557 vials from this company at the second highest bid price of Rs. 135,900 each at a total cost of more than Rs. 75 million. The lowest bidder had offered the stock for Rs. 36.37 million which meant that the government had spent an additional Rs. 39 million. analysts said this was done to prevent losses to the local importer of this drug.  The importer was holding large stocks of this very expensive drug. It had known that the Ministry  will definitely purchase the drug from them. These three purchases have resulted in a colossal loss of more than Rs. 108 million to the country, said critics.

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The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) appointed by the President to investigate and inquire into serious acts of fraud, corruption, and the abuse of power, state resources and privileges by the   present the government,  issued summons on the current and former chairmen of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA).This was regarding the import of the Russian-made cancer drug Herticad by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) for the Maharagama Cancer Hospital.This drug is deemed to be of an inferior quality, and can only be used on patients with stage two cancer.

SPC had decided to import a drug that couldn’t be used for all stages of the disease in spite of paying such a high price for it. Furthermore this drug lacked the approval of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Medcines Agency (EMA).Several Oncologists in the country had objected to the use of this drug said the Attorney General’s department .

Those summoned before the Commission stated that Government hospitals do not have proper supplementary medicines that are used with chemotherapy for early stage breast cancer patients. Currently Sri Lankan government hospitals only had the drug, Herticad and that it was not suitable for treating early stage breast cancer patients. “Herticad is good for treating patients with advance cancer.

Herticad saw clinical practice in Russia, where the drug originates, only in March 2016. The NMRA had registered the drug in Sri Lanka in February 2016.The reasons given was that NMRA only registers drugs and the decision to import them or not is decided by a tender committee.

Herticad was introduced in 2016 by the Ministry of Health that insisted that the drug is a cheaper alternative to Herceptin. However oncologists have been critical of the drug stating that 80% of Sri Lankan breast cancer patients are detected at an early stage and that Herticad is not suitable for treating them.

the oncologists on the tender committee, objected to Herticad stating that by allowing this drug, NMRA has failed to follow guidelines set by WHO and European Medicines Regulatory Authority. ‘This product is not suitable to be used for adjunct use (during early stages of cancer.

A number of oncologists have written to the Ministry of Health about the dangers of Herticad. But the response from the Ministry has not been positive. Four oncologists had to face a disciplinary inquiry due to their objections to using Herticad. “The inquirer wasn’t even a technical person. When oncologists had sent letters complaining about it to the Ministry it has responded by saying that this is the only drug available and that they better use it,”

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From the time Yahapalana government took power,  the GMOA has been actively opposing  the government  on economic issues such as ECTA. They  antagonized the government and the government  retaliated . In November 2016, the tyres of cars belonging to doctors has been deflated at the Ministry. Doctors at Kandy, Kurunegala and Matara had suspended work for four hours as protest.  

There were several disagreements between the doctors and the  Health Ministry. GMOA said government has cut down vehicle permits, their children were not given good schools when transfers were made and did not grant schools to their children  when they returned from abroad, Government said schools had been given. Doctors said , no. Not all children had  got schools. only     20 out of 138 children had got schools. Doctors were contemplating trade union action

doctors also complained of an inordinate delay in the implementation of enhanced transport allowance as well as the amendments in respect of duty free vehicle scheme. They objected to the  way they were taxed in Budget 2017. they  staged a lunch hour protest demanding that the government solve several issues of the Budget 2017. Western province doctors would stop private practice for a day, against the budget proposal to tax government employees  private practice. 

Association of Medical Specialists said in June  2018 they would refrain from private practice  in protest over the new tax policy for doctors All specialists doctors will strike if the discussion with the Finance Minister fails. Yahapalana gave in and said they would give the disturbance, availability and transport allowance. and allowances will be increased. Also doctors  private practice will not be subject to tax.

In 2017, the Ministry said that GMOA was preventing  the routine transfers. GMO said that was nonsense. The GMOA has always participated in the transfer process for years and it is only  in 2017 that GMOA has clashed like this with the Health ministry. The ministry has still not got the transfer list ready,  they said. The list should have been published in December last year and by now the doctors would have been in their new stations.  

EDUCATION

The Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) said in 2018 that though around 7,500 candidates qualified for promotions, only 700 were promoted Principals. That is due to a circular issued by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2015, that all teachers to be eligible for the Principal’s post should have a Simple Pass in Sinhala or Tamil at their Ordinary Level (O/L) exam. A Sinhala medium teacher have a Pass in the Tamil Language, while a Tamil medium teacher have a pass in the Sinhala Language.  Of those eligible for promotion to the Principal grade, only 4% possess Language proficiency.

This has resulted in about 4,000 Grade 2 teachers and 3,500 Grade 3 teachers stagnating without their due promotions. Minister Mano Ganeshan   granted a solution by diluting the clause, stating that teachers over 50 year of age, instead of the Pass at O/L, could follow a 100-hours course in Tamil/Sinhala, to qualify for promotions. However, the Ministry has this concession and granted promotions only to those candidates with Passes in Sinhala/Tamil in their O/Ls.

The Ceylon Teachers Unions stated that teachers in class III and II unable to acquire proficiency    in Sinhala and Tamil are stagnating in their grades and unable to get promotion. According to   Public Administration circular 1/2007 all officers recruited to the public service and provincial PS  should acquire proficiency in the other official language within a period of 5 years of their recruitment. This includes a pass in S or T at O level, and speech test.

When the matter came up in 2017, they granted concession to all teachers who had reached the age of 50, they were allowed to follow 100 hours of Sinhala or Tamil course conducted by the Ministry of National Integration and Official languages. However government failed to extend this concession in 2018 and 2019 which resulted in several teachers retiring without achieving class I status, and have gone on pension without this.

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The Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) charged that the Education Ministry, which failed to distribute free copies of the Teacher’s Guide Book for the Year 4 syllabus, is now selling the books to teachers. The syllabus for Year 4 had changed, and teachers were inconvenienced as there was no guide. The Education Publications Department (EPD), which is responsible for distribution, was now selling the Guide at Rs545 a copy and teachers serving Year 4 classroom had to buy them. The Teacher’s Guide Book for Year 13 has also not been distributed for the last six years. Stalin pointed out that the Advanced Level syllabus was changed in 2012. The National Institute of Education was releasing the syllabus in sections to teachers via the internet.

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In May 2019, Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by the Minister of Education, to purchase 160,000 laptops to develop IT facilities in secondary schools across the country. A previous attempt by the Minister to purchase Tab computers in 2017 for AL students and teachers had created controversy. Presidential Commission investigating frauds under the Current Administration found that Education Ministry officials had inflated the number of AL students and teachers eligible for Tab computers in 2017, in the first estimate officials stated that 113,340 students, 2820 principals and 5000 teachers were eligible to receive Tabs. These numbers were gathered from a census of schools conducted in 2016. A later estimate, three months after the first, stated that 159,786 students, 2820 principals and 31,459 teachers were eligible to receive Tabs.

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Cabinet approval was obtained in January 2019 to appoint 3,850 Sports Instructors to schools island wide. salaries are to be paid by the Central Government, a training programme was to be arranged for those selected, and the chosen would be individuals who had proved their sports abilities at provincial or national levels. 850 individuals were already selected and awaiting appointments said Yahapalana.

Ceylon Teachers Services Union is opposing this.  When there are vacancies for some 4,000 Sports Teachers, why is the government trying to introduce Sports Instructors instead, asked the teachers. The Ministry was trying to provide employment to party loyalists. Due to this, persons who had no sports qualifications had been selected.

Ceylon Teachers Services Union is also opposing the government’s decision to recruit Sports Instructors to government schools in violation of the Teacher Service Minutes. TSM requires candidates appointed to the teaching post have sports qualifications in one of five National Colleges of Education (NCOE). Sports Instructors can be selected from NCOE graduates and the Sabaragamuwa University. The NCOE at Vavuniya and Batticaloa conducts Diploma courses for Sports Instructors in Tamil, and Bandarawela, Ruwanpura and Milwela NCOE conduct Diploma courses in Sinhala. The Sabaragamuwa University conducts degree programmes in Sports Training. Instead, there were moves to recruit persons with GCE Ordinary Level qualifications with a sports background.  Further these instructors are not teachers and have no responsibility towards students.

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The Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) claims politicians are changing the name boards of schools in the Western Province to include their own names, in alleged gratitude for the work they do for the schools. It is claimed Madiwela Sri Rahula Vidyalaya has been renamed Isuru Maha Vidyalaya after Western Province Chief Minister Isuru Devapriya. In a similar move, Provincial Council Chairman Sunil Wijeratne has proposed that Bulugahagoda Maha Vidyalaya in the Gampaha district change its name to Sunil Wijeratne Maha Vidyalaya. Another school, Kiridiwela Sangamitha Balika Vidyalaya, also in the Gampaha district, has a three-storey building named after Provincial Council member Upali Wijeratne.

Chief Minister Devapriya told the Sunday Times he had no hand in the change of name of Madiwela Sri Rahula Vidyalaya to Isuru Maha Vidyalaya and that it was the parents of the school’s pupils who had decided on the move. He said this had been done as a token of appreciation for the work he had done for the school. The school was in a bad state, almost on the verge of closure, and I took it upon me to reconstruct and rejuvenate it,” he said.

.Meanwhile, he noted, this issue was nothing new as a playground in Mirihana had been named Isuru Devapriya Sports Pavilion. Western Province Education Minister Ranjith Somawansa said protocol should be followed in changing names of schools. There was no provision to change the name boards and if at all there were to be a change a school could not be named after a living person, he said. (Sunday Times 7.4.19 p 11).

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The Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate Corruption of the current Administration was informed that there was a misuse of Rs. 2,430 million due to the re-insuring the funds allocated for the ‘Suraksha’ insurance policy for schoolchildren with a reinsurance company in India. Reinsurance is the practice whereby insurers transfer portions of their risk portfolios to other parties by some form of agreement to reduce the likelihood of paying a large obligation resulting from an insurance claim.

 The Ministry spends approximately Rs. 285 million per year on the insurance cover for all students in the country. However, the Ministry obtains public funds amounting to around Rs. 2,700 million for the insurance scheme said   an officer giving evidence before the Commission. He said he was employed at the Health and Nutrition Division of the Education Ministry and the insurance scheme was handled by that division.”We had several discussions with Director of Health and Nutrition Division and Chairman of Suraksha Committee. We pointed out that there was no need to re-insure this with an Indian company. We were told that they were working according to the Minister’s orders. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe when he was Education Minister had submitted a Cabinet paper to establish a fund at the Education Ministry that can re-insure the ‘Suraksha’ insurance scheme.

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The Ministry of Education had made seven appointments to top positions without following proper procedure, They have got covering approval for these appointments from the Education Services Committee of the Public Services Commission, said the Ceylon Teachers Union .These seven positions are Additional Secretary – Establishments, Chief Commissioner of Colleges of Education, Education Director – Technology, Education Director – Research, Education Director – Human Resources, Education Director – Teacher Training Schools and Education Director – Extra Curricular Activities.

However,   nine other top positions have been vacant in the Education Ministry for an extended period of time and that had caused a serious crisis in the education sector. The vacant positions are Director of Sports and Physical Education, Director – Primary Education, Director – Private Schools, Director – Science, Director – Aesthetic Studies, Director – Estate Schools, Director – Languages and Humanities, Director – Teacher Transfers and Director – Informal Education.” these are vital positions and due to this  lapse these sectors not functioning properly,”

these positions have been left vacant to be filled with those who say they have been politically victimized, said the Ceylon Teachers Union. The Yahapalana government has been turning the education sector into a job bank for UNPers. The government has attempted to fill important positions in the Ministry with UNP henchmen who claim that they have been politically victimized. “About two weeks ago they appointed 3,850 sports instructors. They are also appointing a large number of watchers. Last week the Ministry of Education has sent a list of 217 ‘political victims’ to the Public Service Commission seeking permission to give them appointments. Last year the government tried to promote over 1,000 UNP supporters who claimed to have been politically victimized, the Teachers Union complained in May 2019.

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One of the main issues in the education sector was that there were 302 acting principals in national schools. “These appointments were made for the most part by old boys/girls associations and/or regional politicians to exercise control over institutions by having persons dependent on them for survival appointed as acting school heads. In 2012, there were 96 vacancies for principles in National Schools. That number has risen to 302 in2019. In 2017, there was an attempt to select principals but because the process was so corrupt, the Public Services Commission (PSC) canceled the recruitments and asked the Ministry to stick to rules and regulations. Nothing has been done so far.

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Ceylon Teachers Union complained in June 2019 that the Ministry of Education was planning to appoint registrars to all schools with over 1,000 students at a time when there were vacancies for principals in 302 out of 353 national schools. There were 984 schools with over 1,000 students and depending on the number of students in a school, the grades of the Registrars would be determined. schools with over 4,500 students will get Senior Registrars. The work that is to be assigned to the registrars is currently done by vice principals. So, essentially, the Ministry is creating positions in 984 schools to give jobs to UNP henchmen.

The teachers summarized the various grievances, in a statement to the media in June 2019. “The government has been turning education sector into a job bank for UNPers. Such attempts have been ramped up in recent months as national elections were fast approaching. In mid May, the government appointed 3,850 sports instructors, the CTU said.”They are also appointing a large number of watchers. Last week, the Ministry of Education has sent a list of 217 ‘political victims’ to the Public Service Commission seeking permission to employ them. Last year, the government tried to promote over 1,000 UNP supporters who claimed to have been politically victimized. The government has left nine top positions vacant in the Education Ministry for an extended period and that has caused a serious crisis in the education sector and made seven appointments to top positions without following proper procedure. These actions are creating a lot of issues, they said. (Concluded)

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