Doctors’ children in popular schools: Find solutions by thinking outside the box Reading and watching the print and electronic media, I notice how unpopular the GMOA has become. As I notice that there is no one other than the Union publicly defending the transferable doctors cause, I felt I should do so despite the great [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka



Doctors’ children in popular schools: Find solutions by thinking outside the box

Reading and watching the print and electronic media, I notice how unpopular the GMOA has become. As I notice that there is no one other than the Union publicly defending the transferable doctors cause, I felt I should do so despite the great likelihood of meeting a blast of the public ire. I would like to say I am not a member of the GMOA.

Fresh thought is in order to this rather thorny issue. This issue is not one to go away with time. It’s going to get worse. “An   increasing   middle class, an  ever increasing Government  professional class, as yet on  a transferable service, schooling as yet not  up to expectations throughout  the land, professional parents demanding the best opportunity for education for  their precious children” underlies the request.

Public School education seems to be yet at a premium. The so called International schools,   are yet too expensive to a talented professional, beginning his or her career on a meagre government servant’s salary . With high expectations for his children’s education, he  is  desirous of an educational eco-system which will give his kids a quality education which his own education has conferred on his mindset, a certain discriminatory awareness, seeking  to look for discipline, admixture with students of all social strata and   if possible all religions but of a uniform gender. The Public Schools that have been named by the parents are ones that, by and large, foot this bill  and  are  hence,  popular by  choice. The products of these schools, as we know, have, over the years upheld the traditions and  the expectations of parents, both in education and in the playing field, and have grown up well as educated human beings.

For the Minister, to deride the parents of such a group of professionals publicly, however irksome their Union mouthpieces are, shows a lack of grace and poor taste. Even though empirically he is right in what he contends, this issue is much more complex.   It  should not have been brought  into the public domain, it should have been “ nipped in the bud”  by frank and friendly , constructive  discussions seeking a solution rather than an attitude of  antagonism   by pre -conceived   bias. I hold both parties responsible.  Arrogance gets you nowhere.

This issue could, I am sure have been sorted out by thinking outside the box. It   should be  realised  that it is  an  ever growing demand  that will not heal at least in the next  few years. It is a national problem for all professionals on transferable services. These people often have to run two houses, as quarters are becoming a rarity, contend with increasing risks and  costs of transport and come to terms with not having a family life which is yet  unfortunately not dubbed a human right.

I am a medical officer and am arguing from their point of view but the arguments can be legitimately brought up by other professional groups in like circumstances, who I think should  state their case.

The Government spends millions training doctors and engineers. Those who, for instance specialise,  it includes a good   ten years of intense  training both local and foreign,  entailing  an exorbitant cost to the government. If these professionals, whatever their area of specialisation  feel insecure about their children’s  education, it is a stark reality, that  they will seek posts overseas. Even now it is a major source of loss  of trained human personnel  to   our system. If you don’t believe me check with the National Post Graduate Institutes. Believe you me, when I say other countries   will grab our graduates with both hands.

At least in the corporate world   this is a “no go” situation and would be considered bad practice. The Government can ill afford such a loss . It is not economic sense, though  the use of such  empirical rules , may have  political sense.

We in the profession   have to provide an equity of medical  services throughout this island of ours. How do we cater to this  need?  Certainly not by enforcing “closest school is the best school” in these circumstances, based on schooling as it stands presently. Only an immature empiricist will say so. Looking at the issue in a more pragmatic and   mature light , the Minister must engage in  a positive dialogue with the GMOA  however contentious this maybe.  You may ask how more slices can be cut from  the educational cake?

Have short term and long term plans to be implemented   Maybe take a radical step, for example run double sessions in these schools, as was formerly done in the short term. In the long term create new  institutions that are fee-levying but bear the ethos of the school like for instance,  Royal College (Private) etc,  or build schools in big cities which have a public-private partnership like the denominational schools  of which S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and  Trinity College, Kandy come to mind.Give incentives in the budget for entrepreneurs to start private-public schools in locations where they have access to good teachers eg.  close to Universities. The Government must be pragmatic  and helpful about the realities of all those in transferrable services.

The Minister has to realise that a long term solution to this problem is a must. All professionals in the Government  on transferable services  though silent on this score are watching how this issue evolves . A knee jerk response ill behoves one who is expected to find a tangible solution to this vexed issue.

Upgrade schools outside Colombo

The problem of parents seeking/demanding entrance to elitist schools for their children will stop, if the Government upgrades schools outside Colombo to be on par with Visakha, Royal, Ananda etc.

The best schools are in Colombo.The best medical facilities are in Colombo. The best theatres are in Colombo. The best postal offices are in Colombo.  The best utility services are in Colombo. The best recreational spaces are in Colombo. You name it, the best is only here!

If the immediate outstations (for a start) are given facilities as good as in Colombo, no one will clamour to be only here.

Decentralization is the answer, and should be the policy. Let us start with the schools, please.

V. Gunasekera
Via email

Dr. Channa Ratnatunga

Via email

International Day of Elders fell yesterday

Caring or uncaring for the aged?

It is a matter of pride that Sri Lankan seniors live long.  This is largely due to the good healthcare policies of successive governments.  Child and Maternity Care are on par with the developed world. But, and here is a very big BUT; they have no policy on caring for the aged.

Let us take a quick look at the general state of our seniors. Older men and women have become a burden to their children.  As long as a senior can be of help, like babysitting and doing the general house work, they have some security.  But when the children grow up and seniors get feeble then they become a burden to the children.  It is at this point that the children look for Homes for the Aged.

Homes for the Aged are ‘mushrooming’ in Sri Lanka.  Any building is used as a Home for the Aged even if the furniture and toilet facilities are not suitable for seniors.  They live in a kind of dormitory. Their scanty belongings are kept under the beds. The stench of urine as one enters a Home is a good indicator of the type of care that is given.  Once the aged are admitted to the Home, the children sever contacts with them.  Visiting these Homes and seeing both the vacant as well as the expectant look on these seniors’ faces is heart-breaking.

Many of these Homes charge fees, from Rs. 20,000 to 100,000 or more.   In some of the up market Homes the old person is confined to a room with all facilities and perfect geriatric furniture, etc.  One could even say that some of the Homes are ‘picture- book’ perfect.   When I was in  Standard 2 or 3 we had a book titled ‘Food  Clothing and Shelter’.  In many of these Homes this is all that is given, and at times even less.

The staff in these Homes have NOT been given any training in the care of seniors.   Often the senior is abused either physically or verbally.   They have no recreation or recreational facilities.

It is time for the Government to take action regarding geriatric care.  It is time they trained doctors, nurses and other staff in the care of elders.  It is NOT because we owe it to the elders, but it is because we are a humane and an educated society.

Sujatha Samarajiwa
Via email


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