Coalition against corruption says schools 2nd on corruption list

by Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) yesterday lashed out at the Education Minister Bandula Gunawardane over his statement that collecting around Rs. 250 for school development activities was acceptable.

The CAC urged the Education Minister to take immediate action against corruption which it alleged was rampant in government schools.

They said that currently, the Education Ministry was the second major institution overrun by large scale corruption.

Addressing a media briefing at the Nippon Hotel yesterday, Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA) President Saman Ratnapriya said that the Education Minister had given permission indirectly to school principals to collect money from students for development projects.

However, he stressed that regardless of the free education policy, students and parents were burdened with numerous requests for money for public school necessities.

"But the Education Minister has given the licence to violate the law through his statement that said collecting around Rs. 250 is acceptable," he said.

Ratnapriya noted that the students in almost all government schools, weather they were prominent institutions in Colombo or situated in rural areas, eventually had to pay cash for school projects such as repainting classrooms, repairing desks and chairs, over the course of the academic year.

"The Education Minister recently asked to lodge a complaint if there was any corruption taking place in a school but we wonder why the Minister said so as there is no such institution or a place in his Ministry to lodge a complaint," he said.

"Though we sent a letter to the Secretary to the Education Minister or directly to the Minister, asking to investigate those corrupt activities in schools, the relevant authorities are turning a blind eye to such complaints and never respond to them," he added.

Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) Secretary Joseph Stalin said that the school development committees were created by circular 2008/35, which says if schools acquire money by means of donations, school gardens etc., that money should be allocated for school development. The obscure language in that circular paved the way for schools to collect money from students.

He also said that there were no laws that said schools could collect additional fees from students.

The government should work towards stopping the practice, he said adding that on the other hand, the schools were compelled to collect fees from students because the government didn’t give a single cent for school maintenance.

Stalin claimed that even if the provincial councils allocated money to each school for development, the amount was not sufficient for proper maintenance.

Limited allocations had always been a pressing issue for schools. The situation had got worse as the cost of living had risen, but not the money allocated for schools by provincial councils, he noted.

"The Government should allocate six percent of the GDP to the education sector, if not free education will simply disappear from the country," he added.


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