Tuition posters:The writing is on the wall for our education system I wish to bring to the notice of the public as well as the relevant authorities the harm done to the environment by tuition posters that are on every wall, bus shelter, pillar and post by the roadside. They are not only an eyesore [...]


Letters to the Editor


Tuition posters:The writing is on the wall for our education system

Sea of tuition posters: An eyesore and a sorry reflection of our education system. Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

I wish to bring to the notice of the public as well as the relevant authorities the harm done to the environment by tuition posters that are on every wall, bus shelter, pillar and post by the roadside. They are not only an eyesore but also depict the state of our education system. Sometimes there are up to ten posters by the same person pasted on a wall or bus shelter aimed at students passing by.

You cannot watch a TV programme without having to watch several tuition adverts repeated over and over. These cost millions and show how much these tuition providers are earning from students.

Attending tuition classes has become a must for those children preparing for state examinations from Year five onwards. Several thousands of students attend these tuition centres during the week and at weekends. Some centres have more than 2,000 students attending lectures. They may be on several floors and have to listen to a loudspeaker. They never see the tutor. To sit in the main hall with a chance to see the tutor in person, they would have to come an hour or so earlier.

At some centres there are hardly any facilities provided. No proper desks or chairs but only benches. No clean toilets either and female students are compelled to avoid drinking in case they have to use the toilet. What about safety precautions? Hardly any! In case of fire there are no ways to escape and often these tuition centres are on the upper floors. How authorities allow such centres to operate is beyond imagination.

The most important issue here is why do thousands of students attend these tuition centres? For parents with a good income it is not a problem to send their children to tuition classes. But the majority of parents have to struggle even to feed their children due to the high cost of living and their other commitments. Sending children to tuition classes is a great burden for them. Whether they can afford to or not they have to keep up with the general trend. Children demand to attend these classes because they feel that the education they receive at school is not sufficient to prepare for competitive exams. Often tuition classes are conducted by the same teachers who teach them at school.

Tuition centres are everywhere like mushrooms and bring an enormous income to those who run them. According to TV adverts they conduct tuition centres all over the island and it is a thriving business.

These adverts also harm the environment. It is a nuisance to say the least. Election posters are banned by the Election Commission and Police employ workers to remove them. Some action must be taken to prevent this menace and the authorities must make the perpetrators remove them whenever they appear. After all their names and telephone numbers are on the poster. This has been going on for a long time and it is high time the authorities put a stop to it. This will save parents too being pressured by their children and put an end to the current practice of defacing parapet walls and bus shelters.

If schools provide a good education, considering the vast amounts spent, there will be no need for children to attend tuition classes. When we were at school in the fifties we managed to do our exams without having to attend tuition classes. That was because we had dedicated, hardworking teachers who at times voluntarily stayed after school to coach students when exams were approaching to make sure they will succeed.

They were poorly paid then but their dedication and commitment to the profession was exemplary.

Teaching was not a business then and it did not expect rewards pecuniary or otherwise. Teachers were respected and people were grateful for their service. Sadly that respect is no more and teachers are to be blamed themselves. Teachers often get assaulted by their pupils and teachers assault pupils.

This is the current state of affairs.

J. W. Dewasiri  Kandy

Want to promote tourism? Let’s start with basics such as decent behaviour and clean toilets

The Minister of Tourism is to embark on a “new” strategic plan, (part of which is an expensive advertising campaign on CNN), which is to be steamrolled  ahead despite advice from the Ministry itself. The Minister seems out of touch with reality.

The statistics alone show that we are an unpopular tourist destination- (and for good reason, as set out below). Statistics  alone show that other countries in the region are, and always have been, way ahead of us- for example, in 2016,(source- Wikipedia World tourism rankings), Thailand had annual tourist arrivals of  over  32  million, Singapore (12.9 million) , Malaysia 26 million , Indonesia over 12 million, and even Burma- wracked with genocidal attacks, still had  over four million visitors in 2016.( Burma is a country with poor infrastructure, and  the Burmese government began encouraging tourism only as late as 1992).We are proud of having two million visitors, a large part from India, being business travellers.

But a much larger problem are the serious reasons as to why the country is unpopular for tourists – from the moment a tourist disembarks  at Katunayake, he/ she is pestered by touts and conmen, often with the tacit support of the Police- the recent incident  of the British Nurse  Naomi Coleman wrongly arrested and later compensated, is a case in point.

In the Sunday Times of February 18, letters page 2, no less than three writers, (two tourists and a local), point out the habitually filthy state of any public toilet in Sri Lanka, using as examples the Galle Literary Festival,  the air conditioned First Class (AFC)  Railway, or Sigiriya. One of these letters  refers to the perverts driving tuk tuks, in Colombo and Kandy, who are a menace to female tourists. Sri Lanka is an unsafe and unsavoury destination for any woman travelling alone, and we all know this for a fact.

On the very next day, (The Island-February 9,  letters page 9), had a letter from a Sri Lankan expatriate, regarding the stink on the Podi Menike train first class AC compartment, where the stench of urine pervaded the compartment, no action taken about the complaints, and no toilet paper in the latrines.(Expect toilet paper in a Sri Lankan public latrine? Well, good luck!)

I have myself experienced the crude behaviour of families travelling in the long distance trains to the hills. “Buth parcels” are eaten, hands are unwashed and the garbage casually tossed out of the moving train. Children run wild, standing on seats and yelling noisily. Parents are oblivious. There is also a coordinated racket as regards sale of tickets on this so called Air con First class carriage- tickets are NEVER available at the CGR station in Fort.

The Tourism Minister is in another world.What is needed is not a grandiose and expensive “Strategic plan”, involving the hiring of expensive PR agents from abroad and TV blitzes on foreign channels. The requirements are far more basic, and involve teaching children and their parents, the basics of polite behaviour and personal hygiene. We could start with clean toilets in every rural school!

Jayman  Via email

Conduct online poll on women only buses 

I am a regular bus traveller and see the harassment the female passengers have to undergo. Unlike about 15 years ago there are far too many men who take advantage and lean on them or touch them. The small seats in present-day buses makes the situation easier for these perpetrators. You will never find a female bus passenger who has not been harassed someway or the other by a male passenger in a bus. It’s disgusting to see them lean on female passengers on purpose while sitting next to them.

Therefore, I would like to suggest you take a Sunday Times online poll on “should we introduce women only buses  during morning and evening rush hours”.

This would send a signal to the Ministry of Transport and Transport Commission too.

Rukshan  De Zoysa  Via email

Senior citizens have done their duty now it’s time that they are granted some concessions

Latest statistics on demography indicate that the ageing population in Sri Lanka is on the rise and now there are more senior citizens than ever before dependent on others for their sustenance.

Senior citizens have become a burden to society in many cases as their meagre savings after earning for a lifetime and providing for basic needs such as housing, children’s education, marriage, etc. are not enough to keep them afloat vis-à-vis the spiralling cost of living and unbearably high medical expenses that are inevitable at old age.  The plight of some senior citizens is unimaginable– like in the case of those who are not getting a monthly pension who were solely dependent on interest payments from savings deposited with failed finance companies. Many people have become paupers after having lost their lifetime’s savings.

Under these circumstances, some of the senior citizens who are knowledgeable and still in good health are compelled to eke out a living by re-employing themselves as contractuals, wherever possible. Unfortunately, they are not getting any concessions from the state and whatever they earn with much toil is again subjected to tax.

Therefore, I make a fervent appeal to the Government to grant some concessions to senior citizens by exempting them from PAYE tax and other forms of taxation, taking cognizance of the fact that they had contributed to government coffers throughout their career in active life.

Desperate senior citizen  Via email

A question regarding visa exemptions for Canada/Sri Lanka dual citizens 

I am at a loss to understand why the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa or its Consulate Office in Toronto is not allowed to issue visa exemptions for dual citizens (Canada/Sri Lanka) based on documentation submitted in person. This can be done with the concurrence of the Controller General of Immigration & Emigration in Colombo by submitting photocopies of all the documentation, including the data page/s of the foreign passport. A nominal fee can be charged for this service.

Over to you Controller General.

Kamalawathie Sameer  Via email

Christmas mail that arrives late or not at all

I pose this question to the Minister responsible for Postal Services and the Post Master General.

Why is it that the postal service in Sri Lanka takes an uncalled for period of time to deliver mail from overseas, especially during the Christmas season? Not all people have access to receive electronic greetings from overseas and as such look forward to receiving greeting cards from loved ones and friends through the post.

The mail posted from Australia during the last festive season took a whole month to reach Sri Lanka. At one point in time the duration was an approximate 14 days from posting to delivery.  For a minority of people observing one of their most important religious celebrations, some received cards two to three weeks after December 25. What is the point in people living overseas going to the effort of selecting and posting cards well in advance when they cannot be delivered on time or not at all.

A friend recently made inquiries at her local post office (not a remote one by any means) one morning as to the delay with mail and quite surprisingly found her mail box filled with seven items of mail by noon the same day, some of which were official, local letters.  She also advised that let alone experience delays in overseas mail she could not even get local mail delivered on time or at all.

I would like to know where the delays are occurring.  Is it in the mail sorting areas or the transport to post offices or possibly postal staff not taking their jobs seriously enough to ensure that delays with delivery are minimised?

Sylvia Taylor  Perth, Australia

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