Government to reopen schools on January 11 | Sunday Observer

Government to reopen schools on January 11

3 January, 2021

Bringing an end to the escalating uncertainty in the education sector due to Covid-19, Minister of Education Prof G.L. Peiris recently said that the Ministry will open schools islandwide on January 11. During a press conference in Colombo on Tuesday, the Minister thoroughly discussed issues arising at ground level and propositions to overcome such challenges.

“It was decided to reopen schools on January 11, after paying close attention to all matters. It should be clearly stated that this decision has no narrow political objectives. This decision was taken aimed at the betterment of the students,” Minister Prof Peiris said.

“As the Minister of Education, I now understand how parents feel about the future of their children. From the phone calls and letters we receive from parents on a daily basis, we now have an understanding of this situation. It is the will of the parents to educate their children daily in a systematic, successful, safe and practical manner. Continuous postponement of school reopening and uncertainty about starting schools can cause children a lot of stress. Therefore, the Government has intervened to end this situation. After lengthy discussions we have taken steps to open schools in the new year,” he said.


The third school term of 2020 (except for the Western Province) began on November 23 and continued till December 23, where many schools reported Covid-19 cases, and also the irresponsible behaviour of students and school staff. In this backdrop, the Ministry of Education confronted much criticism especially from trade unions in the education sector, he added.

“Opening of schools in November was a complete failure,” General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union (CTSU), Mahinda Jayasinghe said.

He said that the Government has not learnt from past experience on how to navigate school education during Covid-19. He stressed the need to implement an alternative educational plan other than opening schools.

“Conducting classes via television and radio would be a better alternative. Even though one TV channel telecasts classes currently, it is clearly not adequate. The Government must push private-owned electronic media as well, to telecast educational programs instead of unnecessary and inappropriate children’s programs,” he said.

Exams on time in 2021

The Minister of Education and the Secretary to the Ministry had met a group of medical experts recently to discuss the opening of schools. “Schools will be reopened with the advice of all of them. We are announcing the new program to the teachers, parents and children in the next few days. If there are shortcomings, anyone can point it out to us. We are ready to humbly rectify these shortcomings and move this program forward” Minister Prof Peiris said.

Secretary to the Ministry of Education Prof Kapila Perera told the Sunday Observer that the Ministry expects to hold all major examinations i.e. Advanced Level, Ordinary Level and Grade 5 Scholarship in 2021 on schedule.

“If we consider the last year, the average student attendance at schools was about 67 to 92 days. But on other days he or she has covered the syllabus through television programs such as Guru Gedara or online programs such as e-thaksalawa. Therefore, after a reliable assessment of their syllabus knowledge, teachers of schools can decide on the scope of teaching in the new year” Prof Perera said.

“Also I must stress that we are prepared to cover all subjects for A/L, O/L and Grade 5 students via online or some other channel, even if there is a country wide lockdown. We are pretty confident about it as we now have previous experience” he added.

The Ministry of Education has allocated Rs 105 million to islandwide schools for the purchase of health care items. A large amount of this money had been sent to schools by November 23 and the rest before December 23. Both the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have assisted the Government on this program where body temperature, measuring machines, hand washing disinfectants, washing liquids and zinc will be made available in all schools.

In addition to that, the cleaning of school grounds, disinfecting classrooms, arranging sick rooms and providing clean ventilation to the classrooms are other proactive steps instructed by the Ministry to school administrations.

Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Secretary to the Ministry of Health and the Director General of Health Services also met with us for discussions. Our primary goal is not only to create a plan but also to successfully implement it while protecting children and school staff both,” he added.

Health committees

A health committee has also been appointed in all schools with the composition of the Public Health Inspector (PHI) of the area, the Grama Niladhari, the Police Officer in Charge (OIC), a representative of the Old Pupils’ Association (OPA) and a representative of the School Development Committee (SDC). Also, a Health Promotion Officer (HPO) will be appointed for each school to monitor the implementation of this program.

Of the 10,165 schools in the country there are 1,428 schools with less than 50 students and 1,498 schools with 50-100 students. Of these schools about 76.3 percent are with less than 500 students. Therefore, maintaining social distance is not a big issue in most of the schools, especially those in rural areas. On the other hand, the program is monitored at three levels as divisions, zones and provinces.

Prof Peiris also promised to meet the State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugama, the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and representatives of the private school vans association to discuss the possibility of providing safe transport facilities for students, he said.