Education is at the core of development and Sri Lanka, targeting post-war development, is still not getting its focus right on developing knowledge across the board, starting with the schooling system.
It can be argued that the Sri Lankan Government is more focused on fixing the ills of the university system to pay adequate attention to the school system, where the lopsided education begins. One can also point out that fixing these shortcomings in university is too arduous a task, especially given that the resources are wanting.
It is shocking that even with the access of free education, over 40,000 students drop out of school every year. It is sad that a country with massive defense expenditure, one that is now even higher than during the war, has lost sight of what is important.
In fact as many as 41,923 students have dropped out of school and given up their studies, according to the latest Annual Report released by the Auditor General on Thursday. It also shows that 46,854 had given up studies in this manner in the previous year, while the figure had reached 46,173 in 2008.
The report has dealt with a wide range of issues facing the education sector. One of the facts that came out in the report was the ratio of one teacher per 24 students at the primary level, whereas a ratio of one teacher per 15 students was seen in secondary level.
The document found that the drive launched by the Education Ministry to improve computer literacy among schools had not achieved the desired objective during the year under review. Though internet facilities were expected to be given to 372 schools, such facilities had only reached 259 schools.
To make matters worse, a census carried out in 2009 found that most of the schools in the Districts of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi had been closed due to the war and it is unclear when or if those institutions have been reopened. Even though millions have been spent on the ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ and ‘Negenahira Navodaya’ programmes, it is unclear how much of it has resulted in education development in those regions.
According to inspections carried out, the wide disparities in the deployment of teachers had been identified from zone to zone. It was recognised that while in certain zones teachers had been deployed in excess of the required number, there had been a shortage of teachers in others. The audit had revealed an excess of 50 principals in one particular zone, 259 vice principals in eight zones, 4,931 teachers in 17 zones and two sectional heads in two zones.
Gross politicisation, corruption, mismanagement and negligence are wasting away the most precious resource in this country. If one were to take into account the number of students who end their formal education after O/Ls and A/Ls, this number would surely rise even higher.
It is clear that all stakeholders spearheaded by the Government should take immediate steps to ensure that these children stay in school and support them in their endeavour to do so without focusing only on fixing the problem when it is too late.