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Sri Lankan bishops back teachers’ strike, call on gov’t to increase salaries of educators

For more than two months already, the union of teachers and principals in Sri Lanka has been on strike to demand for a salary increase

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka has expressed support for the call of public school teachers in the country for the immediate release of their salaries and for increase in wages.

For more than two months already, the union of teachers and principals in Sri Lanka has been on strike to demand for an end to alleged anomalies in the payment of salaries.

Several teachers have stopped online activities and have suspended the submission of application for student examinations and promotions.

In its statement, the Catholic bishops called on the government to listen to the teachers who have been neglected in the past 20 years.

The bishops noted that salaries of teachers in Sri Lanka have been among the lowest in all of Asia.

“[The] teachers cannot stand on the street to get their salaries,” said the bishops, adding that authorities should do everything possible to ensure that children can return to classes immediately.

A music teacher in Balangoda in the province of Sabaragamuwa was quoted in an AsiaNews report that the teachers “are not asking the government to pay us immediately.”

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“We know that due to the weak economic system this government cannot pay us now,” she said.

“We are ready to receive the arrears even later, but we need an immediate and adequate official response from the government. We no longer believe in other promises,” said the teacher.

Schools in Sri Lanka were closed last year due to the failure of the government to provide alternative means of providing education to children.

Last week, the government announced that it has set up a technical committee to recommend a methodology for the reopening of schools.

Teachers and principals, who have been on strike since July 11, said they will not go back to school unless their demands are met.

Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said despite financial difficulties, a special allowance of 5,000 rupees will be granted to teachers and principals who report to duty in September and October.

Gunawardena declared school teachers’ and principals’ services as a “closed service” on August 31.

Both teachers’ and principals’ services are under the public service. But declaring them a closed service will allow the government to treat teachers and principals separately from the rest of the public service when resolving their demands of salary anomalies, wages, transfers, and other benefits.

The minister said the implementation of the salary revisions will be done in stages through a 2022 budget proposal. Full implementation will be done in the next four years.

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