Demonstration in Colombo earlier this Year
Teachers, principals and university teachers demonstrated together in Sri Lanka last week
The teachers are demanding long overdue pay increases as well as 6% of GDP to be spent on education. At present the government spends only 1.9% - one of the lowest figures in the world. Thousands of demonstrators marched on the Education Ministry in the capital, Colombo, where they held a rally. The leaders of the teachers' union said that if their demands were not met within two weeks, they would call their members out on a continuous strike. Five school teachers' unions and four principals' unions took part in the demonstration and are threatening strike action.
The unions are also demanding an end to compulsory transfers of teachers. Teachers over the age of 45 are sent to far flung regions with no consultation with unions and sometimes these transfers are made on a racial basis according to reports. The government justifies these transfers on the grounds that the teachers are 'stagnating' in schools for too long.
Meanwhile academic staff have just ended a three month strike
- which also campaigned for 6% to be spent on education as well as an end to privatisation and an end to the militarisation of univeristies - students have to undergo compulsory military training. The university teachers attracted wide support for their action including from other unions representing workers in water, health, electricity and transport. There is widespread anger in the country about austerity measures being imposed by the Internaitonal Monetary Fund including raising prices of electricity and other fuel and cutting government spending.