Govt measures to address ‘teacher’ salary anomalies | Sunday Observer

Govt measures to address ‘teacher’ salary anomalies

5 September, 2021
Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena
Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena

The Government is set to take comprehensive measures to address salary anomalies in the teaching profession and implement solutions agreeable to all.

Newly-appointed Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, speaking to the Sunday Observer, said the Government has taken a decision to implement salary increases in stages to be completed within four years. The Rs. 5,000 allowance will be given to all teachers and principals for September and October in addition to their salary while the service will be declared a closed service before the end of November 2021.

The annual cost of the proposed salary increase is Rs. 33 billion for teachers and principals combined. Of this, Rs. 32 billion is for teachers alone.

Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q. What are the decisions taken by the Government to resolve salary anomalies?

A. The Cabinet of Ministers decided on Monday to recommend the following decisions to be implemented to resolve the salary anomalies of the teacher, principal service.

The President presided at the Cabinet meeting and the decisions that were taken after the Cabinet Sub Committee recommendations on the subject were considered by the Cabinet of Ministers. Under the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor’ pledged by the President after his election, key areas in the educational sector to resolve salary anomalies and to establish a stable, strong and respected professionalised teacher, principal service, will be considered by the Government.

Firstly, the Cabinet decided to implement the salary increases in stages. To be announced by the Finance Minister in the first week of November, the Budget proposals will declare the first installment of the total package to be completed within four years.

The salary increases are to be completed within four years and until the announcement by the Finance Minister in the Budget proposals, Rs. 5,000 allowance will be given to all teachers and principals in the service for September and October in addition to the salary.

The principal, teacher service will be declared as a closed service before the end of November 2021 by a special Gazette notification. This too has been a demand that the Teachers Unions have been agitating for.

Also, the anomalies of the principals, teachers and education administration service within their departments, school, provincial councils and the education departments will be studied and resolved within six months by a special committee appointed by the Education Ministry.

The annual cost of the proposed salary increase is Rs. 33 billion for teachers and principals combined. Of this, Rs. 32 billion is for teachers alone.

Q. Who were those who were involved in drawing up the proposals?

A. These proposals have been discussed at different levels. The Cabinet Sub Committee once again discussed and gave a hearing to all the Trade Unions and made these recommendations. The Sub Committee comprised of Minister Dullas Alahapperuma who is former Minister of Education, Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Prasanna Ranatunga, and Mahinda Amaraweera.

The allowance of Rs. 5,000 nor the special allowance of Rs. 5000 for the next two months was in the recommendations. The provision of this allowance, in addition to the salaries, was initiated by the Finance Minister.

The entire Cabinet of Ministers under the chairmanship of the President and guidance of the Prime Minister agreed to this proposal.

Q. What is envisioned through these proposals?

A. Anomalies have been there since 1995, even after the B. C. Perera Committee made recommendations and thereafter, Devendra-chaired committee, Wanasinghe-chaired Committee, Ranuka-chaired committee, and various departmental committees which have been working on rectifying the anomalies in the education sector and parallel services. But none had been implemented.

Therefore, these recommendations that will be announced and implemented under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Government and through Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, will bring the changes that have been envisaged for a better teacher and principal service in addition to the other facilities that will also be upgraded, such as training programs, and finally giving all in the service to work towards a graduate degree program.

Q. Will the Government receive support from teachers for these proposals?

A. About 249,000 teachers are in the register and the overwhelming majority of teachers will cooperate. However, some have agendas to oppose and sabotage Government work. But education is for the children of our country. So, the overwhelming majority of teachers will cooperate and support us when we proceed on this according to health regulations.

Q. How can the Government manage to address anomalies during a pandemic?

A. The Government decision comes at a time when the entire nation is faced with the Covid pandemic and the highest priority has been given to the protection of human life and to the processes of vaccination and the supply of other health and medical services. This is not only in Sri Lanka but in the rest of the world as well.

As a result of the Covid crisis, economies have been in recession across the world. The Sri Lankan economy has faced serious setbacks as a result of the Covid pandemic. Amid all these problems, the Government will present the Budget which will include education and a special allocation for the increases for the principal and teacher service.

This is because education is an important factor and there are over 4.3 million school going children. Families await their children to get back to school once health regulations are relaxed.

Education is the most valuable thing that the children of our nation can inherit with. Teachers, principals, and the community have an obligation and responsibility to support and work towards getting our children, who is our future, involved in education programs with the support from the public.

The Government has taken on this huge responsibility in the online delivery of teaching programs for the benefit of our children and it will be increased through a number of electronic channels where programs have been prepared.

Q. What is the latest situation with regard to the GCE O/L results?

A. The GCE O/L results are awaited. About 600,000 students who sat for the exam await results. The Commissioner of Examinations is unable to release results at the moment owing to the issues to conduct aesthetic practical tests for 160,000 students, because of the obstacles caused by some teachers which caused a delay.

Q. What are your comments on the news spreading that the country would face a food shortage and other criticism by the Opposition?

A. The Opposition has been criticising and condemning the Government from the beginning on the positive steps taken by the Government to manage and overcome the Covid pandemic.

They never appreciated any of the steps taken. Even today, thousands of the elderly population, and the over 30 population were vaccinated with the second dose. The Opposition doesn’t appreciate any of this.

The Covid economic crisis is prevalent in every country. All of them face problems in the production, distribution, and services sector because of the shortages.

But the Government has been able to deliver the essentials for the benefit of all and also supportive measures have been extended with allowances to the people who are affected by Covid.

But the Opposition continues to ignore these positive measures. They do not adhere to the role of the Opposition in a national crisis. Utterances are no different to that of the last days of the LTTE defeat by our heroic forces. The Opposition only has words of sabotage or destabilisation rather than give strength to the nation in this national crisis.

The Government has embarked on new steps and the hoarding of various goods in massive stocks has been raided. This shows the forces that are involved in creating this problem. But the Government will continuously have additional options to help the public in this difficult time.