Teachers’ online strike: A clear case of duplicity | Daily News

Teachers’ online strike: A clear case of duplicity

Teachers are keeping away from online teaching.
Teachers are keeping away from online teaching.

Last week was full of news stories published, telecast and broadcast over all the media on a few topics. All of them were connected to either the 16-year-old domestic aide who died of burn injuries at a politician’s residence or the online teaching strike. It is very interesting to see the facts and figures behind those new items published, telecast and broadcast over the Sri Lankan media. The real situation is far away from what was told through the media by the relevant groups and individuals.

When it comes to the ongoing strike of teachers, it is very interesting to see what is not told by the media so far in connection with the strike. Usually whenever professional Trade Unions like the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) launch a strike, they give real facts and figures very clearly and they do not do any ‘double acting’. The GMOA launched strikes only for decisive matters for the entire country’s future. One example is signing foreign free trade agreements that can potentially destroy the future of the entire country and the people in order to gain benefits for a few selected individuals.

A protest by teachers underway. 

The other issue was the SAITM private university which put the lives of innocent and poor patients in grave danger. Even a kindergarten student can understand that a qualified surgeon can perform the task of a butcher but a butcher cannot perform the task of a qualified surgeon. If those with Ordinary Level Examination qualification or three ‘Fs’ in the Advanced Level Examination began to serve in local hospitals, poor patients can die in the operating theatre. Therefore, the GMOA launched an islandwide strike a few years ago.

The most important factor is that they did not do private practice and only a handful of selfish Consultants who are only concerned about how much money they can get from innocent patients did not take part in the strike. But what is happening right now is not similar to any of the strikes launched by the GMOA in the past.

Online classes

Almost all teachers who do not conduct online classes for their schoolchildren do private tuition online. In order to get the private tuition, the children need to pay tuition fees before the online class and not after the online class.

The parents of innocent poor children need to pay tuition fees in one of the few methods available. Some parents go to the gate of the tuition master’s home and put the money into the post box while some other parents deposit money into the bank accounts of the tuition masters. The tuition masters who are also teachers in Government schools check whether the money has been deposited by the poor parents and only after doing so, they give the link and passcode to the children to take part in the online tuition classes.

Only the children whose parents pay money to the teacher can attend online tuition classes and not any other poor student. But the MBBS doctors did not resort to this third grade practice during strikes. MBBS doctors rarely demanded things for themselves such as salaries, allowances etc. They launched almost all strikes in order to save the country, people and especially the future of the children.

A demonstration in the upcountry over the suspicious death of the 16-year-old domestic aide.

The demands of teachers are not acceptable at all because they receive their full salaries without any deduction of allowances or anything else while private sector employees have already lost their jobs, receive truncated salaries and get exposed to deadly COVID-19 while travelling to their workplaces in congested State and private transport services which hardly provide a healthy service to the public. They do this while all teachers are enjoying their lives comfortably at their homes and doing private tuition to earn extra money.

Private sector employees

Private sector employees need to worry about their ‘job security’ all the time because their employers can send them home at any time citing any reason. But there is no such threat to any public servant. Teachers have launched this online strike while snatching the hard earned money of the children of private sector employees by doing private tuition. This is a type of crime which needs a punishment.

The other important but ignored factor is how these teachers did online classes for their schoolchildren in the past before commencing their strike. What they did was doing online tuition during the whole day and conducting online classes for the schoolchildren during odd hours which are not healthy or acceptable. They paid attention to their schoolchildren only in the late night and holidays. The Education Ministry made a mistake in this issue by not issuing clear instructions on ‘conducting online classes for schoolchildren’.

The acceptable system is conducting online classes according to the ordinary school time table during usual school hours which is from 7.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. But many teachers totally ignored this and conducted online classes for schoolchildren late at night and on holidays. Many teachers used ordinary school hours which is healthy for children to conduct their tuition classes.

It is highly admirable that some teachers did not take part in this strike and are still conducting online classes for schoolchildren without interruption. They are the real teachers who live in this country who really deserve respect, facilities and mainly recognition for their continued dedication. All previous Governments are responsible for not solving their salary anomalies after promising them to do so. Their demands should have been given a long time ago.

Almost all Sri Lankan trade unions belong to a political party and all trade unions who call themselves ‘independent’ have their own political ideology. Therefore there are no independent trade unions or independent media in Sri Lanka. Therefore believing that a specific trade union or media institution is independent is just mythical.

Online teaching has become essential during the pandemic.

No trade union steps into streets when ‘their’ Government is in power and they step into streets with their demands only when their ‘Opposition’ party is in power. This is the same for the ongoing trade union action of teachers. That is why they were silent during the past several decades and came into the streets only now.

A mason earns Rs. 3,000 per day and if he works all 30 days of the month without taking a holiday, he can earn Rs. 90,000. But he needs to work over eight hours per day and he cannot sit down and work in an air-conditioned environment. Working as a mason is a tiring job. He does not have work on rainy days. He does not get Rs. 3,000 for the days he stays at home due to various illnesses and other family requirements and he does not have work if the country is closed. He does not get paid leave. He does not have the Agrahara Medical Insurance Scheme. He does not get paid from people’s tax money. He does not get Rs. 3,000 per day from the day he falls from a height and becomes permanently disabled. He does not have a pension. He cannot file a case against his employer when he sacks him.

Domestic aide’s death

The 16-year-old domestic aide’s death is another hot topic reported in almost all media in Sri Lanka last week. Everything had been told by now through media and social media in connection with this incident. But only one fact needs to be told. She is not the last such innocent poor girl raped and killed by powerful people in Sri Lanka and she is not the first such victim. This type of incidents will fill Sri Lankan media until poverty exists in this country. COVID-19 has made it more difficult than ever to eradicate poverty.

The only way out in the middle of poverty is introducing toughest laws possible for parents and guardians of all the children under the age of 18 and all the others who use children for anything no matter what it is. The culprits should be punished to the maximum extent possible by bringing new laws if necessary, if the present laws are inadequate.

But unfortunately here in Sri Lanka all previous Governments introduced laws and amendments to existing laws just to show the country that ‘they care’ and not to genuinely ensure the safety of Sri Lankan citizens, especially vulnerable social groups such as children, women, elders, the disabled and the sick. At least now this should be done giving the highest priority to such legislation.

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