5 April, 2020

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Let Military Be Alone; Resurrect Education

By Rasika Jayakody

Rasika Jayakody

W.A. Wickremesinghe, Principal of Pangnananda National School in Raddolugama died while undergoing the physical training designed for principals of national school. The 52 year old Principal died of cardiac arrest after he was hospitalized by the officials of the Rantembe camp. This physical training is provided as part of the newly started programme to offer military ranks to principals. Although it was started with much media fanfare, the objectives of the programme are still obscure. Some, including the trade unions of teachers and principals , argue that this programme aims to militarize the entire educational system. In a counter-argument, the Education Ministry and the architects of the programme say that this will restore ‘discipline’ in schools.

It is obvious that discipline is rapidly eroding not only at the school level, but also at various levels of the society. When a society as a whole loses its order and discipline, it is naïve to believe that ‘Schools’, one of the many entities of a society, will remain intact, in isolation, against all odds. Having said that it is also important to understand that even at the school level there are various internal factors that create further frustration and disappointment among students and teachers, resulting in further deterioration of order and discipline.

Several years ago, when this writer was a journalist covering the Education Ministry for a national newspaper, a report came from the ministry stated that nearly 1500 schools across the country were on the verge of closure. This situation has now been deteriorated with time and more schools have been added to this list, reflecting the state of affairs in the educational system. The sole reason for this is highly asymmetrical distribution of resources and infrastructure, thanks to the flawed policies of successive governments and their incompetent policy-makers.

This asymmetry has hurled rural schools from frying pan into the fire while creating an elitist circle of schools that enjoy seamless benefits, resulting in a rat-race among students, parents and teachers. Only the crème de la crème is entitled to the benefits of education while the rest is destined to fall by the wayside. It wouldn’t take an Einstein to notice that this has mounted immense pressure on the entire educational system and all its stakeholders.

Discipline and order at the school level erode as a result of this excessive pressure and it is, needless to say, a systematic process. Without identifying the root cause and without viewing the big picture, any isolated attempt to address this matter will end up being an act of walking in the dark. That is where the attempt to provide military training (or whatever you may call it) to school principals falls short of the target.

It is true that the present asymmetry cannot be rectified overnight with a magic wand. That is where the national policy of education comes into play. The present government’s educational policies, such as establishing 1000 secondary schools and setting up 10,000 odd more ‘Mahindodaya’ IT labs in schools island wide, did not take off the ground as national policies. The moment a new minister takes over the ministry or a new government comes to power, sooner or later, such projects will be the first to hit a snag, as has been the case for the past 35 years.

It is an undeniable fact that School principals in Sri Lanka in general lack managerial skills, fresh-thinking, efficiency and correct approach. But the pertinent question is whether such qualities can be injected to principals by making them quasi-Colonels of the Army.  For that, the educational system needs to resort to a comprehensive plan as far as training of principals in concerned.

It is true that over the past several years, ‘Military’ is the only entity in Sri Lanka to have produced desired results, whether one likes it or not. The government has failed in addressing many burning of the country while the government service has failed miserably in showing efficiency. Treasury is in doldrums and the health sector is plagued with endless issues, ranging from bribery and corruption to lack of competency in battling dengue. But the Military, on the contrary, won the war and eradicated the LTTE militarily, from the soil of Sri Lanka, the task which they were entrusted with.

But the fact that Military won the war does NOT mean that military theory can be applied everywhere to produce better results!

The Principal of Pagnananda National School in Raddolugama , however, has died. The military training for principals may or may not stop as a result of his death. But this tragic death of the Principal has opened a window for us to take another look at our flawed policies and rectify them. It also urges the government to do away with funny PR exercises and address the core issues comprehensively.

*The writer may be contacted at  rasikajayakody2@gmail.com

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Latest comments

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    In Buddhism –
    “Fear comes from Greed, Hatred and Delusion” – One of the Dynasty Rulers
    is severely subjected to it and S-Lankas Education sector has been
    ruined, however there is hope this situation will change in the
    distant future, merely because the direction taken is detrimental to
    freedom.

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    BUT THAT GREAT HERO, THE ARCHITECT OF THE 4 YEAR PLAN, NEVER SAY DIE MAN WHO REVAMPED THE MILITARY AND WON THE MILITARY VICTORY AS WELL AS THE HEARTS OF THE MINORITY WAS TREATED IN A REPULSIVE MANNER BY A BUNCH OF FLEES.

    MAGGOTS ARE NOW FLIES FEASTING ON THE ENTIRE ISLE.

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    Recruiting should be stopped only on the basis of the MPs recommendation as well as only the basic educational qualifications.

    Job suitability should be more than that and that includes whether he will be able to do the job.

    In the case, of school principals they should be mentors to children and should have management skills.

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    never really understood the policy of “special schools” and this whole scholarships exam scheme. Surely it would be better for the country and the kids if the govt. simply did away with this nonsense and concentrated on standardizing facilities for schools across the board? and the funding could come from our massive defence budget- and honestly, it’d be better spent.

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    This opinion that everybody is getting military training is wrong.

    For decades, Sri Lanka has cadet corps. That is the norm in in every country. Teachers are officers of the Cadet Corp.

    SO, if the govt includes most schools and every teacher, what is wrong with it ?

    Sri Lanka people are very self -destructive and can not understand what is profitable to them and not.

    • 0
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      cadets who have the option of joining or leaving. don’t piss on our heads and tell us it’s raining.

      • 0
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        You like a frog in well… get up from the sleep…

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          this coming from people who’re narrow-minded enough to ignore the death of one man and the increasing militarization of the country?

          what a joke you are. :D

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    He didn’t die from training. He died from cardiac arrest!

    If he had done enough physical activity he should not have.

    So the military led training is the right thing to do.

    Go ahead ministry of defence with the highly successful model.

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      MOLAE KULAPPU;

      Yes you are perfectly correct, again correct.

      As he said
      “that School principals in Sri Lanka in general lack managerial skills, fresh-thinking, efficiency and correct approach.
      But the pertinent question is,
      whether such qualities can be injected to principals by making them quasi-Colonels of the Army,????????????.

      “by A few Idiotic Ministers and Retired psychopathic Army Colonel”??????????

      CHINA STYLE Army PRODUCTION FACTORIES of ROBOTTIC,
      psychopathic MOSEXUALS,VULTURES AND LOOTERS.

    • 0
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      So fitness will be the new criteria for school teachers and principals; not teaching ability?

    • 0
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      Please don’t be callous. Are you a Buddhist?

      • 0
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        Mr. Wickramasiri, these are people who have ‘transcended’ Buddhism. They claim they are ‘protecting’ Buddhism by not sticking to the principles of their faith.

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    Is it obligatory school principals to complete such physical trainings?

    Since when have they introduced this to them ? Who has asked them to add this to teachers’ trainings ? Is this at all in compliance with international standards ? I have not heard any school principals in EU are asked to have completed such trainings.
    OMG – this is really a shocking incident…. in the particular case, these teachers should have undergone a body check-ups to allow them such trainings because they are not young.

    ane apoi… sri lankans are caught by group of Devils today. School level Management skills have nothing to do with PT trainings except that sports masters should do so – this should be checked with school masters from the developed world.

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    Military training may not be the answer to bring discipline to schools. Schools should introduce sports in their curriculum and should be made compulsory for all students. University education in the USA requires you to take 4 sports as subjects for graduation. During our time in school we had a lot of time to play. Unfortunately now children don’t have time to play. We should also do away with private tuition classes. this would bring a lot of pressure to revamp the schools.

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    When the army cannot maintain discipline among its rank and file how can it try to preach discipline to to others.The rank and file in the Vanni is running amok raping women and collecting “kappan”

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    It is good to use the military for leadership and managerial training. Many Principals lack administrative ability, and skills of organization. The location of a remote military camp for such training will be stimulating and interesting whilst also providing a break from the routine of school life. In fact it should be mandated every two years or so along with a generous stipend and other living comforts so that it becomes a restful holiday as well.Besides the training this type of residential camp will build comraderie and stimulate exchange of views and ideas.

    Physical training on the lines of the military, with obstacle courses, pack drill, weapons training, etc. are not required. Nor should the Principals be awarded pseudo ranks. Let those be for the volunteer army or school cadets.

    I condole with the family of the Principal of Pagnananda National School, W.A.Wickremasinghe, on his unfortunate and untimely death. I do hope the government has financially compensated them for their loss and taken remedial action not to put these non military persons through the rigours of physical training.

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      i still don’t see how military leadership training is going to help anything… we had superb principals back in the olden days- and that was without the military getting involved. the problem here is the complete lack of resources and support by the government to the education sector- something that can’t be solved by putting plasters like military training over the problem and hoping it goes away.

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    On average, a national school enrolls 200 students to Year 1 annually. Estimated at the going “rate of Rs. 500,000.00 per student”, admission to Year 1 is a business with Rs. 100 million annual tax free income. That is why the in-fighting to get into “Past Pupils Associations” and “School Development Societies”.

    Politicians of the area know this well and those in the government side become pally with school principals to get a percentage. The principals find an easy way out by allocation 5% f the vacancies to the government side parliamentarian of the area and another allocation to Mayor. In return the politicos protect the principals.

    When a principal retires an acting principal is appointed and the saga continues. When the new principal comes to assume duties the “Acting” principal get hold of the staff, OBA/OGA, SDS and politicos to prevent the new principal reporting for duty. With FR/HR cases the new principals assume duties and the saga continues.

    Making these principals “Colonels” after short training, will never result in discipline in schools because the principals, whether academically qualified or not, will never give up “domestic” businesses which brings in non-taxable revenues of Rs. 100 million per school annually.

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