Teachers` unions are cock-a-hoop as their boycott has reportedly crippled the GCE (A/L) answer script evaluation. What an achievement! It is going to be a long wait for the students who are aspiring to higher education after years of hard work. Instead of letting out a strident cock-a-doodle-doo, they must hang their heads in shame for holding students to ransom to win their demands. Adding insult to injury, they are now shedding crocodile tears for the affected children and trying to use them and their irate parents as a bludgeon against the Education Ministry and the Commissioner General of Examinations, who has ruffled their feathers.
The warring trade unions have, through their despicable action, brought the noble profession of teaching into disrepute. Confucius had this to say about teaching: `If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed if in terms of ten years, plant trees if in terms of one hundred years, teach the people.` If that great philosopher were alive and residing in this country, he would say, `If you think in terms of one hundred years, sack all those disruptive elements posing as teachers!`
Even the private bus Mafiosi notorious for their callousness, as we have pointed out recently, had some consideration towards school children. They put off a strike in view of the A/L examination. Teachers` unions?with due respect to the genuine teachers who, we are sure, don`t endorse the on-going boycott but are wary of opposing the trade union terror for fear of reprisals?have proved that they are worse than even the private bus crews! What a shame!
Last Thursday, we discussed the appalling situation of school education. It needs to be reiterated that according to the National Education Commission, 28 per cent of the tenth graders cannot write legibly and 35 per cent of them cannot take down a passage dictated to them. Performance of only 41 per cent of the sixth graders is at a satisfactory level and 18 per cent of them cannot write at all! Students in A/L classes, as is public knowledge, consider attending school an utter waste of time. Teachers` unions cannot shun the responsibility for this deplorable situation. Before demanding more, they must work for the salaries they already get paid with public funds.
Standards of school education are falling so rapidly that more and more children are voting with their feet. Private schools are mushrooming as a result. A senior government minister has made bold to suggest that the state divest itself of running schools. Minister Sarath Amunugama was reported by the Sunday Island the other day as saying: `The responsibility of the government should be limited to governing, not to teaching, running hotels, factories, tea boutiques or cigar boutiques. That is not the job of the government.`
What is of interest here is that the minister has deliberately lumped together schools, tea boutiques and cigar boutiques! We wonder whether the minister has spoken for the Rajapaksa government which makes a big show of its commitment to education. Let there be no argument about the fact that the country badly needs educational reforms but Minister Amunugama`s remedy is manifestly worse than the malady! He has also said he is ashamed of the prevailing education system. Yes, it is a total mess and one may be justified in feeling ashamed of it. But, we are more ashamed of politicians, especially those pundits hell bent on destroying the free education system. Most of them need to be sent back to school.
The teachers` unions are only strengthening the hands of the unscrupulous political elements and their partners in crime who are eyeing state institutions. It behoves the teachers to desist from playing into their hands by giving school education a fresh impetus on its downhill journey.
The unions must be condemned for toying with the idea of using schoolchildren in their protests. We had the southern terrorists making cannon fodder of children in the late 1980s. The northern terrorists have been doing that in a bigger way. Are teachers with some anarchists among them trying to emulate those child abusers? It is time they were told where to get off!
When teachers act in such an irresponsible manner, how can they command the respect of their pupils and society at large? `One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers,` said Carl Jung, `but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.` It is this much needed warmth for the growing child that is sadly lacking in schools today.
The boycott has sullied the image of the teachers and distanced them further from students. However, all is not yet lost. There is one way of making amends! The unions must call off the boycott forthwith and get back to paper marking. Better late than never! Then only can they think of winning the public support for their struggle against political nincompoops and bureaucratic buffoons who have made their contribution to the present crisis in no small measure.
In dealing with such good-for-nothing elements, stooping to their level is something that teachers cannot afford, if the dignity of their profession is to be preserved. The teachers` unions have done just that. It is time they began to behave as teachers.