Ah, government school. A/Ls , to be precise. The school teachers were either incompetent to teach or were absent. Or sometimes (as was the case for IT) we didn’t have a teacher at all. So we went to classes. paying exorbitant amounts to learn in crammed mass classes of hundreds of students. We paid our way and picked up some of what the “free education system” was supposed to teach us.


But only some. The teachers eventually stopped coming altogether, citing student absence. The students cut school completely, citing absent teachers and incomplete syllabuses as a reason to go to any number of classes: the truth is that the syllabuses are so large (especially Science) that you HAVE to learn from somewhere – you can’t wait for that teacher to remember your class exists. The teachers retaliated with a big “fuck you” by skipping classes themselves and conducting more lucrative private classes.

I knew a Maths teacher who at school was considered the laziest prick to ever set foot in a classroom. He showed up perhaps one hour for the week. His real business? Running private tuition for 3000 bucks a session, where he put those skills to good use. And the dark truth was that every school – from the renowned Royal / Ananda / Vishaka trio to the lesser known fringe schools – were in exactly the same situation. Our classes were crammed with students from Anula, IsipathanA, Royal, D.S, Vishaka, Mahanama, Bishops – the works. The supposed “top” Sri Lankan schools whose students, year after year, bludgeon their way through exams and bring fame to their schools. It’s not thanks to the teachers: it’s thanks to the classes. School is basically six hours of doing fuck-all, roasting in the heat of the Sri Lankan sun, wasting time, wasting life.

I grew up in a private school. Not something I’m ashamed of. When, sometime after my O/Ls, I switched to a local school, things seemed horribly chaotic to me. My classmates would gape at the “expense” of going to private schools, but they somehow failed to count the class fees they were paying – from 9, 000 to 15, 000 bucks a month. Add that up, and they’d have been able to afford the term fees for a decent private school. Not to mention the time they spent. Every day, after school, they (and I with them) would head to a series of brutal classes, which would often end at 7. Once you hit mid-syllabus, you had to start revision classes – which were often held in the morning, voiding school times.

Hah. 7 to 7 for what’s supposedly six hours of education. These costs they were blind to. “Oya salli kohomath yanawane bung,” they would tell me, Seriously? 15 thousand bucks a month for free education?  

So why, you ask, would you go to school at all? My response is to shrug. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to Sri Lankan public education, Where Nothing Is As Free As They Say it Is.

All of this would be solved if the students and teachers worked well in school. They don’t. Students go to classes saying the school teachers are useless. School teachers don’t teach, saying that the students go to classes.  This is Sri Lanka’s biggest Catch 22.  The end result? Free education is Sri Lanka’s biggest sham.

Education? Ain't nobody got time for that!
Photos courtesy of the Internet Society (http://www.flickr.com/photos/internetsociety/)