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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Educators urge President not to open schools without a plan

ECONOMYNEXT – A group of renowned educators and school administrators is urging the government to refrain from re-opening schools on May 11 without a transparent plan based on science.

In a letter sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Monday April 20, the 13 educators suggest that the government take a look at the re-opening based on a priority basis.

They say the GCE O/L classes could, for instance, be opened first as delaying those examinations would have a cascading effect.

The group which includes Professors Savitri Gunesekara and Siri Hettige point out that studies done on school-going children in other COVID 19 affected countries have shown that the vast majority of students, more than 90 per cent had mild infections or did not show any symptoms. Only around 6 per cent of the kids were seriously ill.

In contrast, nearly one in five older people became very ill when they contracted the virus. “This shows the greater risk of transmission of Covid-19 from children to adults causing severe infection in adults necessitating intensive care” the letter warned.

The estimated current student population in government and private schools is approximately 4.5million with over 200,000 teachers in Sri Lanka.

The letter said that although they “recognize the importance of reopening of schools and ensuring the students can continue their education and return to normalcy, we are further mindful of the complexity and challenges that will be faced by school authorities, students, parents and service providers, in the midst of the current critical pandemic situation without a transparent exit plan from the lengthy period of lockdown status.”

They offered the following recommendations:

1) The opening of schools should be made on transparent and reliable factual decision made by the health experts, based on their collective agreement with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, National Child Protection Authority and other relevant stakeholders, on their satisfaction over the containment of the spread of the virus and a safe environment for all school children and citizens.

2) Assess the feasibility of reopening schools on a priority basis, i.e students who are sitting for GCE O/L and A/L examinations in 2020, and in areas in the country where there is health clearance obtained with particular attention to maintaining safe distancing in classroom arrangements ensuring safety of children and staff. A school preparedness plan should be in place that includes early awareness for students, teachers, parents and relevant service providers, suitable facilities and services in schools, as preventive and precautionary actions to contain the spread of the virus.

3) To ensure the effective functioning of the Education Task Force with representatives of desired skills and experiences in education, health, child development and disaster management, who will make key recommendations to the sector, in the COVID-19 relief response period and during a stipulated period of time in agreement with the stakeholders as mentioned in point (1) above.

4) To learn through foreign expertise especially from the countries where alternative education systems are identified and successfully implemented during the crisis period, to ensure the continuity of school education through alternative means until such time all schools are functioning.

5) Identify the provision of essential school materials and supplies to enable children to resume their school second term (on dates collectively agreed based on recommendations (1), (2) and (3) above), as state support to help parents of a majority of school children, who are faced with financial difficulties in loss of regular income.

6) Provide a safe environment of education non-discriminatory of gender, ethnicity, religion and ensure the implementation of Ministry of Education Circular No 12/2016 in providing education free of mental and physical abuse reminiscent of post Easter tragedy.

Apart from Professors Gunasekara and Hettige the signatories include General Secretary, Ceylon Teachers Union Joseph Stalin, Executive Director, International Women’s and Child Rights Council Dinesh Keerthinanda, Head of Department of Family Medicine, University of Colombo, and Past President Sri Lanka Medical Association Dr Ruvaiz Haniffa and a number of other leading educators. (Colombo, April 20, 2020) Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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ADB USD200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”

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Sri Lank in blackout as power grid hit by cascading failure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka suffered a blackout as Saturday evening as the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid was hit by a cascading power failure.

The cascading failure is believed to have been triggered by the failure of the Kothmale-Biyagama transmission line.

“The Ceylon Electricity Board wishes to inform our customers that due to the failure of Kotmale – Biyagama main transmission line, an island wide power failure has occurred,” CEB Spokesman Noel Priyantha said.

“Step by step restorations are underway and it may take few hours to completely restore the power supply.”

With hydro plants running flat out, a outage of the line tends to create a big imbalance in the demand and supply, leading to tripping of more lines and generators.

Lines can trip due to lightening strikes, or equipment failures.

Sri Lanka last suffered a cascading failure in December 2021, due to the failure of the same transmission line.

RelatedSri Lanka power blackout as grid hit by cascading failure

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Sri Lanka to host regional Food and Agriculture Organization conference

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will host the 37th session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from February 19-22, 2024 in Colombo.

The Conference will bring together agriculture ministers and officials from 46 countries across the region to discuss challenges in food and agriculture.

“The 37th APRC will provide a vital platform for regional collaboration, benefitting the agricultural landscape, fisheries sector and environment of Sri Lanka,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said at a press briefing on Friday (8) to announce the conference.

FAO has had an active presence in Sri Lanka for over 40 years. “FAO has supported the country in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and the development of the fisheries sector for growth and climate resilience,” Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives said.

“The APRC conference will be an opportunity to highlight the innovative approaches introduced in partnership with the government.”

By hosting APRC, Sri Lanka hopes to demonstrate the country’s dedication to the growth of sustainable agriculture, and showcase its commitment to sustainable agricultural development.

The APRC agenda will include a forum on agritourism, especially requested by the Sri Lankan government.

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