Published: 17th July 2021
Lankan teachers released from forced COVID-19 isolation vow to carry on agitation
The teachers said they would begin an indefinite strike against online education, citing lack of facilities to teach
Teachers in Sri Lanka, who protested against the government's move to allow a military academy to conduct higher education courses and were forced to quarantine after being found guilty of breaching COVID-19 regulations, have been released from the state isolation centres.
The teachers' union said they were released from the quarantine centres on Friday. They vowed to continue their agitation. One of the unionists, Mahinda Jayasinghe said, "There is no question of stopping our agitation, until our demands are met. We urge the government to enter talks and solve our very reasonable grievances." In the beginning of the month, 22 trade unionists held protest demonstrations in Colombo, saying Kotalawela Defence Academy should not be allowed to conduct higher education degree courses as it would lead to the 'militarisation of education institutes'.
The teachers said they would begin an indefinite strike against online education, citing lack of facilities to teach. The Inter-University Students Federation, Ceylon Teachers' Service Union, Ceylon Bank Employees Union and several other trade unions and civil society activists took part in the protest. On 7 July, the teachers were arrested and produced before the court, where they got bail.
However the police forced them to quarantine in government centres as they were found in breach of COVID-19 regulations, public gathering and protest demonstration. The teachers said the forced isolation was political vendetta against them. During the isolation period, the teachers on social media wrote on the low salaries of teaching faculties in government institutions and the lack of facilities to conduct classes online. All in-class teaching was been suspended in Sri Lanka this year in April, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes are conducted online.
The forced quarantine of teachers drew condemnation from Opposition parties, trade unions and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL). Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekera has said the arrests were not political but were necessary because of the pandemic. The coronavirus has so far killed 3,702 people, along with 282,060 confirmed cases in Sri Lanka, according to Johns Hopkins University.