Ranatunga, Lokuge lock horns over school admissions in WP


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has turned down Labour and Labour Relations Minister Gamini Lokuge’s call for increasing the number of children accommodated in a classroom to 45 contrary to the Education Ministry directive.

Ranatunga and Lokuge had a heated argument over the latter’s proposal at a meeting held at the District Secretariat at Narahenpita last Friday (18). The meeting was held under the joint chairmanship of CM Ranatunga and UPFA General Secretary and Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premjayantha.

When Minister Lokuge pointed out that national schools which came under the purview of the Education Ministry now accommodated 45 students per class, an irate CM Ranatunga said that classrooms in schools managed by the WPC could accommodate only 30.

However, due to various other factors some schools had accommodated as many as 56 students in a classroom, though there were Education Ministry directives restricting the number of students to 35 and 42 depending on the circumstances, the CM said.

CM Ranatunga lamented that there was no control over admission of children to schools, though there were restrictions as regards the transport of cattle and pigs.

In spite of the CM’s explanation, Minister Lokuge insisted that there was no option but to increase the quota immediately to solve the problem.

The CM requested Minister to secure Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena’s consent to his proposal.

Minister Lokuge alleged that the issue should be tackled expeditiously as many children were languishing at home without schools.

CM Ranatunga alleged that some parents were largely responsible for this situation as they went behind various people seeking the admission of their children to popular schools. Ranatunga warned that overcrowding of classes was a major problem, which could cause gradual collapse of the education system.

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