ECONOMY – Schoolteachers in Sri Lanka are struggling to continue serving as high inflation continues to destroy their paychecks and with the constant battle to wear more affordable clothing than the traditional saree in the meantime.
As the country is going through the worst currency crisis in the history of its central bank, teachers say the country’s rapid inflation has forced them to wear more affordable clothing than the traditional sari.
A.M. Chandani, an A-Level Mathematics teacher, told EconomyNext, “It’s too expensive to wear a sari, you need ironing and we have electricity tariffs, the textile industry is collapsing, so prices are going up.”
The traditional saree is the go-to outfit for all female parameters in the country, even though it is not officially announced by any law. Students wear dresses.
Teachers say that while the sari brings a level of respectability and formality, they do not define productivity and quality in education.
“The quality of education is measured by the syllabus and depends on the skills of the teacher, but not on what the teacher wears, so why is education defined by the saree?” Chandani says.
“Sari prices have gone up by about 50 per cent, electricity prices have gone up by 75 per cent, transport costs are going up and on top of that there is inflation in food prices in Sri Lanka. How do you expect one to save in such a situation?”
At least two ministers dressed in a Western jacket and tie spelled out the teachers’ uniform.
“The Education Minister and other ministers are busy making announcements on what teachers should wear to school,” Co-Coordinators Sujata Gamaj and Tara De Mille, Sri Lanka Education Forum said in a statement.
“There is no indication that they consulted the main stakeholders in this case, the teachers.
Guidance on teachers’ dress is found in Section 5.1.b of Circular 2012/3 on ‘Code of Ethics and General Rules of Ethical Conduct for Teachers’. Specifically, teachers are required to:
“Wear culturally appropriate, clean, smart and well-tailored clothing, maintaining decency and modesty at all times.”
“Insisting that a saree is the only appropriate attire, especially at this time when teachers are struggling to provide for their families, work on time, and teach children who are very likely to become undernourished or hungry, would be inconsiderate.”
“In addition, it would be a violation of their basic rights and a violation of the constitution as all discipline and control of education workers are transferred to the provinces.”
Sri Lankan teachers’ salaries were increased in January 2022, after the teachers went on a sustained protest, as the Cabinet approved an allowance of Rs 5,000.
The electricity tariff was increased last August in order to mitigate the continuing losses incurred by the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board after the collapse of the rupee from 200 to 360 against the US dollar after macroeconomists printed money to target the output gap.
Fuel, taxi, bus and food prices also rose as economists printed money.
Ceylon Teachers Union in Ceylon (check exact name) said, on average, teachers get paid 50,000 to 80,000 per month, and the union plans to get into discussions about the education system, the high cost of education in addition to the salary offered to teachers .
Teachers’ union secretary Joseph Stalin told Economy.next: “Teachers’ salaries are disappearing due to the high cost of living… Also, the cost of work is increasing such as buying sari and transportation, and this will lead to an explosion in the education sector.”
Meanwhile, Education Minister Susil Premajayantha told parliament on December 1 that relief will be aided for teachers who are unable to afford the sari costs after media reports showed that teachers were finding it financially difficult.
Even if the government does not approve the allowance, I will make sure that assistance is provided to teachers who find it difficult to afford school clothes,” Premajayantha said. (Colombo/Dec 02/2022)