The reopening of schools for academic activities under several phases commenced from today (21), nearly six months after they were closed amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.
Accordingly, the primary sections of schools with less than 200 students were reopened today recommence academic activities.
The Ministry of Education says that all necessary facilities have been provided for these schools to commence academic activities.
Schools in Sri Lanka had to be closed repeatedly amidst the Covid-19 pandemic while this is the first time that the country’s schools are reopening since being closed in April this year, following a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that steps will be taken to gradually open the remaining schools in the island in the coming weeks.
He said the primary sections of over 3,000 schools will reopen today and that a decision would be taken regarding the opening of classrooms for other Grades in the coming days.
Despite the reopening of schools today, several teachers-principals’ trade unions have said that they would not be reporting for duty at their respective schools until solutions are provided to their long-standing wage issues.
However, several other associations including the Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) have said that they will continue their strike action today and tomorrow (22) and that they have decided to resume teaching at schools from Monday (25).
Meanwhile the island-wide vaccination of students in the age group of 18-19 will be commencing today at the respective schools.
The pilot project of this had commenced on October 15 in the Colombo District with over 10,000 school children being inoculated.
Chief Epidemiologist Dr Samitha Ginige said that the programme to vaccinate school children will be carried out at every MOH office on every Saturday starting from this Saturday.
Last month, UNICEF had said that school closures have led to alarming inequities in learning opportunities for children in South Asia, despite significant efforts by governments and partners to expand remote learning.
According to UNICEF research conducted in India, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, school closures in South Asia due to the COVID-19 pandemic have interrupted the learning of 434 million children.
According to UNICEF’s research, a substantial proportion of students and their parents reported that students learnt significantly less compared to pre-pandemic levels. In India, 80 per cent of children aged 14-18 years reported lower levels of learning than when physically at school.
Similarly, in Sri Lanka, 69 per cent of parents of primary school children reported that their children were learning ”less” or ”a lot less.”
Girls, children from the most disadvantaged households and children with disabilities faced the biggest challenges while learning remotely, it said. – ada derana