A harebrained order | Daily News

A harebrained order

Politicians have never had it so good. Not only do they live on the fat of the land but have now got to be pandered to and waited upon by the most unexpected quarters. According to the main story of an English daily, the Colombo Zonal Education office has issued a letter directing Principals of Colombo schools to invite parliamentarians and PC members, who represent the area, for all special school functions. In a letter dated February 20, sent to all schools within the territory of the Colombo Zonal Division, the Zonal Education Director had said the principals are bound to give members of parliament due respect when they attend such events. He has also attached the names of Provincial Council members representing the Colombo Zonal Division, for good measure. It is not clear if the practice is going to cover all the schools in the island.

The directive, naturally, has drawn heavy flak from the trade unions attached to the education sector. According to Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin, the move was an insult to the Principals. He charged that such a move could lead to schools too to be entirely politicized.

But there is a graver risk involved. More than being politicized, schools could be devalued by the move and in the case of elite schools, in Colombo, lose their prestige. One recalls how a powerful minister in the Rajapaksa regime stormed into an elite school in Colombo with his security contingent and intimidated the Principal for taking disciplinary action against the son of this politician. The school official concerned succumbed to pressure in the end. This is why politicians should be kept out of bounds from school premises.

It is often reported that one third of our honourable members of parliament have not passed their GCE (OL) examinations. Included among them, no doubt, would be MPs representing the Colombo Educational Zone. Leave alone their educational qualification, the conduct of our parliamentarians, the kind of abuse they hurl at each other, the all too frequent wrestling matches in the Well of the House, fleeing with the Mace, that is the symbol of authority of parliament, are certainly not the stuff that could inspire school children to be exemplary citizens.

It was only a few months ago that an MP, and a Deputy Minister to boot, was seen making a spectacle of himself, pretending to commit suicide by placing a rope round his neck, that was attached to a ceiling fan, while another government MP was seeing conducting a death fast on the middle of the road, demanding the transfer of the OIC of the local police station. Another MP, known for his garrulity, staged a death “farce” while in hospital, due to the denial of bail for one of his several offences that are being heard in court, committed during the heyday of the former regime.

These are but a microscopic representation of the antics of our erstwhile people's representatives, who, school principals and their charges now have to genuflect before, after compulsorily inviting them for school functions, if the directive explicitly asking them to ‘show respect’ is to be literally taken.

What about our ‘MPs in waiting’, in the Provincial Councils, who, too, are eligible for the same ‘respect’, as per the Zonal Director's directive? These are but the kith and kin of the MPs, already mentioned, waiting to take over the baton, some day, from their mamas and papas and, who are, no doubt, made of the same stuff. Are these the examples that our younger generation is going to be exposed to at a tender and impressionable age?

What is more, most often these young students are made to kneel before these PCs, most of whom have criminal cases pending against them in the courts. On whose instructions did the Zonal Director issue these instructions? Are all the leading schools in Colombo going to follow this edict?

It is time that sanity prevailed and someone in higher authority gets this order rescinded immediately. Schools have enough issues to contend with without their Principals being forced to wait on politicians with questionable pedigree, at their school functions. Not only that, school children should not be used to bolster the ego of politicians. Today, these MPs and PCs are taken in procession to the accompaniment of school bands to the venue of the school functions. This should strictly be confined to the President, Prime Minister, the Minister of Education, religious dignitaries or philanthropists by whose largess the school concerned may have benefited.

Schools are sanctified seats of learning, and, should always maintain this facade. It should not be made to be blotted by the presence of run of the mill politicians, certainly not the types we have in our midst. True, in the past too politicians attended school functions. But this was a time when our parliamentarians were not viewed by the public with a jaundiced eye. Those were also the times when mass communication was not what it is now. Today the public, including schoolchildren, view the conduct of politicians on TV and form their own opinion about their representatives.


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