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COLOMBO: Schools in Sri Lanka will close for a week from Monday, the education ministry has announced, as the island nation grapples with its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Sri Lanka is struggling to find essential finance to fund the import of essential goods including fuel, food and medicine.
The country’s existing stock of petrol and diesel is only enough for a few more days and is now limited to use in essential services, such as health, public transport and food distribution. Long queues of drivers have been seen across Colombo at petrol stations, with some waiting more than 48 hours to fill up their vehicle.

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The announcement comes after schools in Colombo and other urban areas were closed for two consecutive weeks. Classes have been replaced by online classes, with officials previously citing transportation difficulties caused by the fuel crisis.

With the economic crisis worsening, the Ministry of Education has announced an early ‘holiday week’ for all schools on the island, following an official review of ‘fuel distribution notifications’ in the country.
“The week of July 4 to July 8 will be declared a holiday week for all public schools and government-approved private schools across the island,” said a circular issued by the ministry on Sunday.
The latest announcement comes after schools in Colombo and other urban areas were closed for two consecutive weeks. Classes have been replaced by online classes, with officials previously citing transportation difficulties caused by the fuel crisis.
The prolonged closures have raised concerns among Sri Lankans, as some worry about how the crisis will affect the future of younger generations.
“Just closing schools will harm the future of the next generation,” Professor Chandima Wijegunawardena, leader of the Sri Lanka Humanity Party, told Arab News.
“It’s sad that the political blunder of parliamentarians affects the education of children.”
The economic collapse sparked a political crisis, with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa facing charges of corruption and economic mismanagement. Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets for months to demand his resignation.
Wijegunawardena said the government should put in place a system for students to attend schools closest to their homes.
“It’s a program that allows children to walk to schools near their homes, so the rule can also apply to teachers and other staff,” he said. “Policies and principles may change with changing times.”
Ismeth Fatima, principal of Zahira College in Colombo, said students should not be deprived of education in schools.
“Let them go to the nearby school and transfer the teachers to their respective places of origin so that they can reduce their trips,” Fatima told Arab News.
“It’s sad that the country has to go through this ordeal,” she said. “A school is a school – we cannot expect children to learn properly in their own respective home environment.”
Online learning as an alternative has also worried educators, with Mr. RM Rifky, headmaster of Al-Humaisara National School in Beruwala, a town 60 kilometers south of Colombo, warning that students at his school do not have followed the new virtual classes.
“Online education is a complete failure,” he told Arab News.
The two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have already deprived children in Sri Lanka of their educational experiences, said women’s rights activist Shreen Saroor.
“Now with this ad hoc management of the education system, Sri Lanka will lose its history and its pride.”


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