President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday (19) the education of children cannot be allowed to be taken hostage.
If teachers do not make themselves available for A/L exam paper marking by next week, he said, he would not hesitate to make education an essential service under emergency law and initiate legal action against teachers flouting their responsibility.
He said all the teachers responsible for marking exam papers last year must be available for paper marking this year, failing which, he will prosecute them.
“You can’t stop the education of the children. What nonsense is this? By next week I must tell the AG to be ready with the Emergency Regulations.”
The president was speaking at a discussion at the Presidential Secretariat to review the progress of the special budget proposals implemented in 2023 by the Education and Higher Education, Labour and Foreign Employment Ministries.
He noted that the matter would be put to parliament for a vote where MPs would be asked to vote by name.
“Let’s see which MP is going to vote against it. I will ask for a vote by name.”
He told the Education Ministry authorities that he will not allow the education of children to be taken hostage by anyone and demanded that the teachers come back to paper marking immediately.
“Tell them if they don’t want to come back and they want a confrontation, we are willing to come for a confrontation. No one is going to hold the education of children hostage. That can’t be allowed.”
“You must come up with a solution by the end of this week. If you don’t have one I will take it up in the cabinet and then we will decide what to do. Speak to the minister and we will have a meeting by Friday,” he said.
The president instructed officials to create a programme to enable at least four students per year, based on their exceptional performance at the GCE Advanced Level Examination, to pursue graduate courses in foreign universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard.
He stressed the importance of increasing the number of students who could benefit from such an opportunity.
He emphasized the significance of providing equal opportunities to students from public and private universities and encouraging more students to pursue technical subjects.
The president noted that a decision would have to be made regarding the Eastern University and was told by the education authorities that a sub-committee headed by state minister Dr. Seetha Arambepola had been appointed to look into that matter.
He instructed the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to prepare a plan to provide internet facilities to schools.
The President has directed the creation of a joint programme between public and private universities to produce 10,000 engineering and technology graduates and 5,000 medical graduates annually.
In order to carry out this initiative, the President has called for the formation of a suitable committee to prepare and submit a report on the matter.
The President has stressed the importance of integrating over 350 government-run technical and vocational training institutes and implementing training programmes.
Recognizing the complexity of existing labour laws, president Wickremesinghe emphasized the need to consolidate them into a single, unified labour law.
The Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment has been tasked with preparing the necessary bill for its enforcement by May.