Whatever the Education Minister says, the teachers have still not achieved job security | (Pic by Ravindra Dharmatilleke)

There is a popular saying that education depends on the teacher. When we brood over the deceitful manner in which World Teacher’s Day (WTD) was celebrated on October 6th, it would be dishonest not to admit that as a race teachers are not a popular section of the community. It is a grave injustice to ignore such a profession whose member are performing a social function that is second to none in its importance and who in the lives of our own children, exert an influence which we cannot belittle.

employment of cheap labor in the area of teaching has lowered the dignity of the teaching profession to zero. The whole procedure of recruitment is directed at humiliating the teacher. See the type of teacher appointments the successive governments have made over the years to fill in vacancies in government schools

As such, all parents ought to have some idea of the way in which the teaching profession is recruited and trained for its job and they should know something of their particular professional problems. The Late Mr. Wilmot A. Perera who was a former chairman of the Salary Commission appointed by the late SWRD Bandaranaike in 1959 addressing a teachers seminar at Sri Palee College, Horana said that teacher ought to be paid more than any other professional because their power to instill good or evil in students was great. An engineer, if he makes mistakes can rectify them, a doctor can kill only a relatively small number of patients and continue to practice, an architect will not get many commissions if his buildings fall down and the results of a priest’s efforts are not visible in this world. But a teacher can wreak scores of lives by incompetence and still go on teaching until retirement. People with such a responsibility should be paid enough to attract the best qualified, and enable them to do the things-which teachers ought to do if they are to keep fit and fresh for their jobs – like travel, buy books, see plays, listen to good music and so forth.

Although education is deemed to be the main pillar on which the success of everything in a country depends on, all governments during the last forty years have give low priority to education.

Our politicians often boast that the expenditure on education has increased over the years since national independence. While rising cost of education often provokes criticism we spend only 2% of our national income on education. Again, in Sri Lanka expenditure on teacher salaries consume more than 75 – 85% of the allocation leaving little scope for resource availability regarding teachers and Institutional initiatives.

The  concern  for  professionalism and quality regarding teachers, their status and social credibility is very aptly summarized in the UNESCO report popularly known as Jacques Delor Report. It summarizes the essential ingredients for quality in a teacher. The status of the teacher and the status of education are interwoven. The expressed status as used in relation to teachers means both. The standing or regard shown for them is evidenced by the level of appreciation or the importance shown for their functions in the classroom. Working conditions, remunerations  and other material benefits afforded to them depends on other professional groups.
The teachers in this country suffer from low morale due to a variety of factors such as; political recruitment, unjust promotions, bleak promotional prospects and political transfers etc.  Herein lies the failure of the state in making the most effective use of resources in achieving the national education targets. It goes without saying that low morale inhibits resourcefulness, initiative and team spirit; all of which are necessary if teachers are to play a full role in educational development.

The basic cause, however, for all this is associated with education policy planners.  The liberal component of Education is not there. The object of this so-called free education, as obtaining in Sri Lanka, is not to develop a mind, but an out – look. Politics has influenced every aspect of teaching. As things stand at present, teachers are completely unprofessional, their work is largely dominated by politics.  This process of the politicization of the teaching profession is interpreted by some trade – union pundits as a new progressive phenomenon.

In Sri Lanka education is not the business of educationists, but rather the business of politicians who seek power at any cost. In the education sector, politicians wield more power than most of its secretaries and directors, as things stand at present. It is political loyalties that are operative behind all teacher promotions.

Employment of cheap labor in the area of teaching has lowered the dignity of the teaching profession to zero. The whole procedure of recruitment is directed at humiliating the teacher. See the type of teacher appointments the successive governments have made over the years to fill in vacancies in government schools. Those appointed are: Pupil-Teachers, Difficult-district-teachers, Graduate Trainees, Voluntary teachers and so on. The result? Today, the society sees teaching as a profession for second-raters; they are the people who cannot compete for better jobs. First raters don’t stay in teaching’. This is the general attitude of society towards teachers. See the degree of humiliation they have been made subject to!

When it comes to their transfers; promotions and extensions of service it is also the politician that has the final say in it. The so-called teacher trade unionists by their silence, have tacitly accepted all these procedures as correct. The question to be asked is this: do we in fact, need trade unions if it cannot raise a voice to correct it?

Whatever the Education Minister says, the teachers have still not achieved job security. The legislation which has been introduced still give them only a partial protection and political victimization, their most insidious enemy, remains unconquered. Every time an election is held- General, Presidential Provincial or Local – we hear of teachers and teacher unions making a big hue and cry demanding an end to political victimizations.

Although on many an occasion our teachers have fallen prey to political victimization, up until now our policy planners have done nothing to pass any law to prevent such excesses. Today this phrase ‘political victimization’ has become a very vague one for no statutory interpretation is found in our law to clarify its meaning. It is a phrase left open to any interpretation.

In rural schools, classrooms are left teacher-less, unless replacements are found. Very often these replacements are made from the punishment transfer lists prepared by political henchmen of the ruling party of the day, much to the detriment of the children.
The most pathetic thing about these transfers is that the interest of education is subordinated to the individual interests of employees in other sectors. This is not a situation that could be condoned anymore. For one of the paramount consideration in education should be a realistic perception of the situation being faced by the children. Present day parents are not satisfied with the sort of present day schooling, which is considered insufficient even for their grandparents that lived in the 20th century. They want a school for their children with life in it.

The whole of our life could have been much better had we been honest with ourselves. This is true whether we are speaking about everyday life or our national education.
It is pointless to ask teachers to act responsibly while they are being denied responsibility and considered unfit even to be consulted. It is equally pointless to ask them to take an interest in what they do. Teachers will never accept obligations with grace when others have not honored their obligations towards him.