|Monday, 14 February 2005|
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Root out corruption in school admissions
We hope the interim report submitted by the Presidential Investigation Unit in respect of Year I admissions to five National Schools, to President Kumaratunga and Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Tara de Mel, would have the desired effect of ending the scandalous state of affairs attending the recruitment of students to some much sought-after public schools.
If one needs to gauge the degree and depths to which the cancer of corruption has spread in this country, one should only peruse this report.
Apparently, embroiled in irregular school admissions are some Grama Niladaris, school principals and even some Assistant Commissioners of Elections - that is, a considerable number of State officials who represent the local administrative machinery.
As is well-known, some of these officials need to testify to the presence of the parents seeking admission for their child to a coveted, well-known public school, within the officials' areas of administration.
The usual unethical practice resorted to by unscrupulous parents is to obtain forged documents from conniving officials in the local administration, endorsing that the parents concerned are ratepayers, voters etc in required proximity to the sought-after school. It is well-known that these forged documents are obtained at a price.
Likewise, it is no longer doubted that some school authorities could be bought over to facilitate irregular school admissions.
Some such school principals have been called on by the relevant authorities to account for substantial wealth earned over the years, which cannot be accounted for by their yearly incomes, which are meagre by Lankan standards.
It needs to be remembered that the report in question is only in respect of Year I admissions for 2005, covering just five National Schools.
Accordingly, is in no way comprehensive, but signifies what may be called the tip of the iceberg of corruption in relation to school admissions. The evil, in other words, may be far more widespread and pervasive.
Nevertheless, quick, punitive action in a few cases may have the effect of stemming the rot and putting the whole system on the alert. Accordingly, the public look forward to corrective action on the basis of the report, which would be launched swiftly and without much ado. Bring the corrupt to justice, is the people's earnest plea.
Much to the disquiet of all defenders of the public school system, which was launched with highest educational ideals in mind, it is now heard that state-funded schooling is being gradually undermined. We hope these prophets of doom are wrong.
May the day be never on us when the public school system would be really found to be moribund. For, that will spell the end of equal opportunity in education. Let's save this system by rooting out corruption.
Lighting up the table
Forget the latest electronic fluorescent lighting systems. In the very near future, that plate on your dinner table could be a light bulb as well. We already have edible plates, so 'light plates' could be the next hot thing.
This discovery that literally sheds new light on tableware was made by a team of researchers from the Marshall University in the USA.
The US Patent Office has granted a patent for solid state "ElectroCeramescent" lighting technology. The investors are now entertaining contract offers for commercial applications for the ceramic- on- steel lights.
Even though the base material is ceramic, the plate lights will not break upon impact. They can also be kept lit underwater (fish tank lights, anyone?). Moreover, a square foot of the new light panels consumes just one quarter of a watt. The bulbs, which emit a soft greenish light, will last for more than five years.
This is a combination of two entirely different products that most people would not hope to see fused together. But technology is advancing so rapidly that new uses are constantly being found for old products.
A US Patent Official proved to be spectacularly wrong when he said - in 1889 - that "everything that has to be invented has been invented".
The humble light bulb has been around for more than 100 years. Today, an incandescent bulb can be bought for just a few rupees. A Compact Fluorescent bulb is much more expensive, but it consumes far less power and lasts several years.
Power and Energy authorities around the world are urging electricity users to switch to CFL bulbs. Sri Lanka's own Ceylon Electricity Board even has an easy-payment system for buying CFL bulbs.
The authorities should also promote the use of solar powered outdoor lights for gardens, parks, homes and offices. These could help reduce electricity consumption substantially, although the initial investment may be high.
The latest ceramic lights could also serve much the same purpose. Their durability and very low power consumption would make them ideal for outdoor use, such as road signs, garden lights and maritime buoys. Besides, candlelit dinners will never be the same again. Who needs candles when the plate itself will light up the evening?
Produced by Lake House