|Tuesday, 5 August 2003|
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Watching the children of today, one cannot help but feel a heartache. They carry bags weightier than themselves, with bent backs they proceed to the school. The tuition menace has come to stay - even leading schools publicly allow their own teachers to give tuition - sometimes to their own students - whether it is the fashion of the breeding place of vices - no one cares. Children, pushed by the competitive nature of our examination system, do not feel comfortable unless they go for tuition, however well they understand the lessons in class.
And now we see children of all religions, of all ages starting at 4 years, trekking early morning, on Sundays to Sunday schools. Though it is a meritorious service that these Sunday schools are doing, one wonders when do these children ever get to play!
What with burdens of homework followed by TV watching, our children never get to actually play. No wonder they are growing up with a brooding sense of hopelessness which is reflected in the number of suicides committed by people of all ages - especially youth giving up their total future for trivial reasons - like having a fight with the mother, father scolding, failing the exams or a failed love affair.
We must change this. If we wait for our governments to change the system, we'll be waiting till the cows come home. The least we can do is for each religious community to concentrate on how to include religious lessons into the school curriculum, as well as for each area people to concentrate on eliminating the need for tuition - by making sure their schools get good teachers and they work!
We also see people rushing to enroll their children in the prestigious schools even by lying through their teeth. But we will not have to do this if we can make sure each area has a prestigious school.
How do we do this? Obviously it needs the participation of the area people who do this for the sake of the future generation.
Otherwise we'd be robbing our children of their childhood.
DR. (MRS.) MAREENA THAHA REFFAI, Dehiwela.
As reported in the DN of 25th July, 10 to 30 per cent of funds received from the above bank are reported as loss due to corruption and frauds. Accordingly, it should be accepted that the more aid we receive the more would be the loss, bringing the above percentages to vice versa, if no proper action is taken to correct same, which is pathetic, alarming and also disgraceful.
In this regard it is amusing to note the donor telling the receiver how it could be done, which I am certain would receive the attention of those concerned. While a jungle of hands are stretching for assistance a few individuals are benefited the most, compelling the country as a whole to wear and exhibit the "Third World logo" for a longer period than expected.
No wonder those responsible are so concerned about the development of their respective areas, thereby helping themselves under the pretext of developing the country and helping the poor voter as well.
TOMMY WANIGESINGHE, Kurunegala
Apropos news item Police recover ingenious revolver in the DN of 22.07, it is very creditable for one of our nationals to invent a revolver which has qualities superior to those obtained from foreign manufacturers according to the DIG who has taken it into custody.
This may be a boon to this country if it passes ballistics and firearms tests so that the Government could manufacture all revolver requirements of the Forces.
If this technique falls into Tiger hands they are sure to manufacture them in a large scale.
Therefore it is up to the authorities to make the best use of this invention and save foreign exchange on this type of firearms imports.
I.P. NANAYAKKARA, Kalutara.
Reader O. D. Sooriyapala in a letter of 23 July of the above title follows up on previous articles by asking appropriately what kind of internal release valves are possible to make whistle blowing unnecessary. Indeed in the public sector several valves already exist - for example, the University Services Appeals Board (USAB), and the Human Rights Commission.
In the larger picture of public service, these are internal mechanisms and it is my experience that they work. For example when my normal promotion to senior professor was not being processed, a simple letter to the USAB got the processing started just before an answer from the university was due. But these valves are widely seen as "complaining to outside authorities" and therefore there is general fear to take on bosses by going outside.
In this regard, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (The Ombudsman) does a lot of his work over the telephone and persuades administrators to put their house in order.
This informal approach also means that he moves much faster and there is less hostility. When I was charged with fraudulently altering the mark book (involving a Tamil student) and the enquiry declared that the charges should be dismissed and that I should never have been charged, the embarrassed university sat on the report for 5 months after it was tabled at the Council without releasing it. A complaint to the Ombudsman got me the report. When the Council decision based on that report was not formally released to the university community with the same publicity as the charges had received, a complaint to the USAB has got things rolling.
The point I make is that release valves do exist and we must dare to use them. This requires a lot of education on our civic rights and even duty to clean up the system by freely using these mechanisms. Over the past 6 years I have seen administrators increasingly saying at meetings "No, if we do that we will have a fundamental rights case on our hands." We are just learning to use authority with reason and justice, treating discretion as a public trust rather than our personal fiefdom. But we have a long way to go. For I still see some administrators arrogantly responding "Let them go to court. We will see!"
In contrast to the public sector, the private sector has a long way to go. A model for both sectors is for bosses to surrender a little of their authority voluntarily by having an Internal Ombudsman to whom employees can go. He or she must have the trust of management and employees. It could also be a Grievance Committee. If bosses can commit themselves to taking the Internal Ombudsman's or Grievance Committee's recommendations seriously, it will make working for private companies much more pleasant than it is today. A boss who does things properly has really nothing to fear from such an internal corrective mechanism and the organization, whether private or public, can only gain through the enhanced probity.
PROF. S. RATNAJEEVAN H. HOOLE, Colombo 3.
I sincerely hope and pray the Govt. and Sri Lankan intellectuals do everything to preserve the mausoleum of Queen Dona Catherina at Avissawella - who can be truly named as the founder of the political nationhood of modern Sinhalese.
Queen Kusumasana Devi wife of the Great King Wimaladharmasuriya of Kandy and King Senarath of Kandy conferred legitimacy on both by being the heir of the true Kande Udarata Monarch. In difficult times of Portuguese rule she adroitly guided both husbands thru tumult. Her ability and her legacy for all the Sinhalese has to be acknowledged and cherished forever. She deserves every praise that Sinhalese can shower on her.
V. ANANDASIVAM, Via e-mail
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