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Controversy over the Online Safety Bill is loud; gunshots of gang-warfare and trigger-happy police are deafening; and, of course, protests proceed as usual like the recent road marches against the shooting of a man by a police sub inspector. So, plenty to comment on but Cass chooses what’s caught her attention most.

Education news from overseas

We have heard from FUTA – Federation of University Teachers Associations – from some time ago protesting against an increase in taxes on salaries and the impossibility of maintaining living standards. This resulted in the exodus of university teachers almost as severely as the migration of doctors seeking greener pastures overseas. A friend sent me a January 18 article that reported Harvard drops teaching programmes. Very interesting since it shows our problem of reduction in faculty staff is prevalent in academically renowned countries like the US. I quote:

“In an article in Forbes, the education sector is facing critical challenges including burnout among teachers, declining enrollment in teaching programmes and an overall shortage of educators. Notably, the profession’s declining appeal is attributed to toxic work environments, low payment, a lack of support and fewer individuals choosing to enter the teaching profession. The decline is evident in renowned institutions, like Harvard.

“A key factor contributing to the dwindling interest in teacher careers is identified as low pay with teachers earning 26.4 % less than similarly educated professionals in 2022. The author has emphasised that supporting teachers is crucial to preventing a catastrophic failure of the education system and fostering a positive experience for students.”

Cass comments that opinion is mixed on this last issue. It is strongly felt that teachers, even in universities, are not burdened by the workload of parallelly educated persons in the mercantile sector particularly, and even in government jobs. Of course, teachers have the responsibility of dealing with the future generations of a country – young human beings whose personalities have to be developed correctly.

But teachers have fewer working days and shorter working hours. Additionally, they have the benefit of long school vacations. Even university lecturers are not 9 to 5 workers, as such. A year-long, paid sabbatical too intervenes for university faculty. The general opinion of the Sri Lankan public is censoring trade unionists and most severely a teachers’ union led by Stalin, whose demands on behalf of teachers are deemed extravagant and non-feasible. It is said the local education field and the profession of teaching are both in the doldrums. It is that many other countries, too, suffer Sri Lanka’s education plight.

Sensible suggestion to be taken

“Ex-envoy asks govt. to reduce number of SL foreign missions.”  That is one sensible suggestion made by Milinda Moragoda, returned to base having served as High Commissioner to India since 202. Cassandra was happy when she read the latest news item of Moragoda offering wise advice. Of course, nonentities such as Cass have mentioned this useless cost of maintaining embassies in countries SL did not need much DPL ties with.

Editorials of this particular group of newspapers have also written strongly on this near useless expense.  But the embassies in all sorts of nations and states have been maintained, for the favourites or relatives of politicians manning these embassies. High Commissions were job spots for many politicians’ and high bureaucrat’s kith and kin reaching a zenith during the ‘reigns’ of the Rajapaksa clan.

So, let’s fervently hope that many a Sri Lankan embassy will be closed and the little DPL work necessitated in such countries will be managed by SL embassies in neighbouring countries. The government should drastically curtail expenses instead of expecting us Ordinaries to tighten our belts to strangulation point.

And that brings on a rush of nausea in Cass’s innards. She heard from a friend that Galle Face Green is being prepared for National Day celebrations with the construction of tiers of seats, etc. Aney appoi! What celebration at this time? What is the use of parading arms, armed forces, armoured vehicles? Why get the usual trappings displayed on February 4? What on earth have we to celebrate? What is called for is sackcloth and ashes at what the present and past governments have done to this country which seven decades ago was the envy of the Singaporean leader. Not celebrate independence but mourn bankruptcy. Not display a baby elephant and dancers but parade in chains those who brought this country down to sheer penury.

Cass has not seen the upcoming constructions since she avoids going to that area of Colombo. The sight of the encroaching Port City puts her off completely; she moans the alteration in the coastline in the Colombo Fort area.

 Prez offers help to African States

The Sri Lankan President has been more up in the air, metaphorically and literally than in the land he is supposed to pull out from the pit it was pushed into by the SLPP government. Sajith gave an actual count in The Island of Wednesday 14. “18 foreign trips in 17 months” having “secured an additional Rs 200 mn through Parliament as funds allocated for him were not sufficient.” Not done, not done at all!  Some journeys were essential but certainly not all and contingents, not made known to us, could have been severely pruned.

Snippets of news

“House belonging to ex-President Sirisena’s daughter burgled.” The incident turned out to be a treasure hunt, the gossip grape vine reports, with the stolen goods including artefacts or table ornaments of pure gold. We thought thus far that one political family had the monopoly to collect gold. This daughter, who probably was the author of a hagiography, was not an heiress to legitimately inherited wealth. Her grandfather, it is said, was given a bit of land in Polonnaruwa for services rendered as a voluntary soldier during WWII.

But families like hers have plenty of reserves stashed away. Incidentally, how much has her father paid of the huge fine imposed on him as compensation for those who lost family members or limb and faculties to the Easter suicide bombs of 2019? Is he perchance apprehensive of being next in line to get his knuckles smacked for mercifully releasing a Supreme Court convicted murderer using extensive presidential powers just a couple of days before he was outed from that post? Hirunika won her case and saw her bête noir retaken to death row, which to the powerful prisoner is substituted by perhaps a room in the prison hospital. Cass used to aver that such pardons were akin to the worst form of contempt of court since they contravened verdicts of the apex court in the land.

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