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Request for a More Cautious and Measured Approach Regarding Re-opening of Schools

Due to the concerns raised of over the health and safety of 4.5million students and over 200,000 teachers, a group of credible and responsible citizens spearheaded by the members of the Voluntary Initiative for National COVID-19 response effort – Education sector, have come together to request from H. E. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the government of Sri Lanka to refrain from re-opening of schools on the 11th of May 2020 without a reliable and a transparent plan. The group consisting of academics, policy makers, educationists, development professionals, private sector heads, legal professionals, health professionals and administrators have set forth 6 broader areas of consideration to the attention of the President and the Prime Minister.

In a letter sent to H. E. The President, they noted the importance of implementation of a measured approach with the collaboration and professional advice from Health experts, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, National Child Protection Authority and other relevant stakeholders, and creating a safe environment for all school children and citizens. Assessing the feasibility of reopening of schools on a priority basis, ensuring that the mechanism where containment of the virus is continued and ensuring effective functioning of the education task force with representatives of desired skills and experience in education, health, child development and disaster management was brought to notice. Another suggestion points out the need to learn from foreign expertise where alternative education measures are identified and implemented. It also stresses on the need for provision of necessary school materials to enable children resume their second term and finally, providing a safe environment irrespective of gender, ethnicity and religion and ensuring the implementation of Ministry of Education Circular No. 12/2016 in providing an education free of mental and physical abuse.

The Government of Sri Lanka has taken best possible actions to contain the spread of COVID 19 in Sri Lanka. Among the many timely preventive measures taken, the closure of schools in mid-March and ensuring the safety of every child was a significant decision during that period when the virus was about to expand. All the government authorities in charge of the containment of the virus have done a commendable service prioritizing the safety of the general public. Since it is too early to be relaxed with a gradual improvement on the situation, the citizens are requesting the government to continue monitoring the situation and bank on the collective approach to see an end to this virus at the earliest possible.

The eminent group includes Prof. Savithri Gunasekara Emeritus Professor of Law and Former Vice Chancellor University of Colombo, Prof. Siri Hettige Emeritus Professor of Sociology University of Colombo, Joseph Stalin General Secretary Ceylon Teachers Union, Dinesh Keerthinanda Executive Director International Women’s and Child Rights Council, Dr. Sujata Gamage Co-Coordinator Education Forum Sri Lanka,  Visakha Tillekeratne Chief Commissioner Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association, Rohan Masakorala CEO Shippers’ Academy Colombo, Soraya Marikkar Attorney at Law, Social activist and Interfaith Consultant, Sunila Mendis Former Senior Assistant Secretary to the Former President 1994-2005; Member of Presidential Task Force on Educational Reforms 1998, and Former School Principal, Sidath Wettimuny Chairman Nobles Group of Companies and Former National Cricketer, Dr. Ruvaiz Haniffa Head of Department of Family Medicine University of Colombo and Past President Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Tush Wickramanayaka Chairperson Stop Child Cruelty Trust, Manu Tissera  Communications and Advocacy Specialist.

For further clarifications, contact: Conveners of the Voluntary Initiative for National COVID-19 response Effort  Education sector, Dr. Tush Wickramanayaka – Chairperson, Stop Child Cruelty Trust on [email protected] (0778272639) and Ms. Manu Tissera – Communications and Advocacy Specialist on [email protected]  (0768718297)

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