SUNDAY OBSERVER Sunday Observer - Magazine
Sunday, 16 November 2003  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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Lapses in the education system

A lot has been written in the newspapers in the past, about the education system, children's books/bags etc. which are ever increasing in number and weight.

It is a common but pathetic sight to see young children carrying heavily laden bags on their shoulders running to catch a bus or a van. Inside the vehicle the conductor insists that they remove the bags from their backs to make room for other passengers. School bags consume so much of vehicular space.

It is high time the Education Minister and his officials take a closer look to save the schoolchildren from the burden they have to carry every day, physically and mentally.

In the good old days there were eight subjects the most. There were no fashionable bags as now, and the students were seen carrying just a handful of books. Those eight subjects made several leading citizens who attained international acclaim.

Despite all the modern technologies and equipment one can without hesitation say that the present day student is nowhere near the 'Old School' boys. In addition to the load of books, it has also become a necessity for children to attend tuition classes outside school hours. Almost every day of the year is a school day for them because of the tuition classes.

In our time in the fifties, the school week was strictly five days and the teaching staff were dedicated, qualified too. They did a wonderful job within school hours and produced good citizens.

But now, with all these advanced methods and technology, the children lag far behind. They might know how to operate a computer, which facility did not exist during our time, but now it is just a case of attending 'classes' everyday of the week, month and year, draining out their parents hard earned money in the process.

I would therefore reiterate that the minister should appoint a top level committee to study the whole education structure and make drastic changes necessary in the syllabuses to minimise the number of subjects to only the most useful and important to students as well as the nation.

With the dearth of qualified teachers everywhere, perhaps the reduction in the number of subjects would be a world of good all round.

David Williams, 


Our school education starts at age 6 and students have to face the scholarship exam in Grade five to enter a popular school. Students who get through that examination enter good schools and others remain in the same school.

Most students who get distinctions for science and Mathematics at the O/L examination tend to select Bio Science and Mathematics fields as they hope to become doctors or engineers.

But only a few succeed to enter the Medical College or the Engineering faculty and others remain without a clear idea of their future.Most students who have selected Arts and Commerce subjects are able to enter university. But their avenues of employment are very limited.Those who fail to enter university tend to follow various courses.

In Sri Lanka although several students leave the university per year the job opportunities are limited. The future of these along with those students who don't enter the university remain bleak.Some of them follow various courses only if they can afford it, and some tend to get involved in vocational training.

But whatever they do, finding a job remains a problem. I think our education system should be changed in a proper way.

It was changed recently but it is a problem whether it was successfully done. In my view our new generation is more intelligent than they used to be and school education should be started at age 4 or 5.They must be given a vocational training, a good english knowledge and a good computer knowledge.As a developing country, what Sri Lanka needs is skilled workers to develop the country. But school leavers and graduates are not skilled enough to do a profession to enter the developing process of the country.

Dulamani Namaratne, 

Sun a star or planet? - a response

This is in response to an article on the above subject which appeared in the Sunday Observer of September 21, S. Freil Dias has requested an explanation of the astrological opinion that the sun and moon are planets rotating round the earth.

To understand this phenomena, one should understand the difference between astronomy and astrology, which are too different subjects.

We all know that sun is the centre point in our solar system, and is a star belonging to the milky way galaxy with millions of other stars.

Moon is an astral body rotating round the earth. But according to astrology planet earth is taken as the mid-point in the universe, where Sun, Moon and planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are going round it 'Rahu' and 'Kethu' are two imaginary points in the sky, where Moon's orbit crosses the earth's orbit in two different points in its path round the Sun, opposite each other.

The sky round the earth (360 degree) is divided into 12 equal segments with 30 degrees each and are known as Signs or 'Rashis', beginning with the sign 'Aries' and ends with 'Pisces'. These 'Rashis' are named after star constellations contained in those segments, (visible in the sky during the night) and are considered fixed.

The 'Rashi' or Sign arising in the eastern horizon at the time of one's birth, is taken as the birth sign, and any planet contained in this 'Rashi' is marked in the No. 1 segment in one's horoscope.

The other planets, Sun and Moon, Rahu-Kethu, are marked in the birth chart counting the segments anti-clock wise.

K. A. W. Angulugaha, 
Mulleriyawa New Town

Alcohol consumption

I was surprised at the great concern shown by Dr. Mareena Reffai in her letter which appeared in the Sunday Observer of Sept 21 about the prevalence of taverns in an around Dalada Maligawa and the criticism levelled at Buddhist clergy for not staging a protest over any taverns being opened.

If only she cared to ascertain for herself how politics works in Sri Lanka, she would have known that taverns, bars etc, are opened consequent to decisions taken by politicians and that Buddhist clergy are unable to veto such decisions.

Any protests, even if staged, would serve no purpose. Ironically, having said that if one believes Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, the whole country should be free of alcohol (she condemns the closure of taverns on Poya days as eye wash). Surely, don't you believe in the dictum that something is better than nothing.

In the light of the above observations, there is no necessity for her to comment somewhat sarcastically on the requirement that women should 'wear sarees' to enter the precincts of Dalada Maligawa. Now that she has thought it fit to level these criticisms, will she explain for the enlightenment of the ordinary readers as to why Islam permits the killing of animals, under very inhuman conditions. Animals are cut and bled to death, before the carcases are sold for human consumption.

One day, I had the horrible experience of witnessing how a cow was slaughtered at a slaughter house and the words fail me to describe this incident in detail.

About a decade ago, the Colombo Municipality wanted to introduce a humane method of slaughter where the animal is first stunned before being killed but this procedure had to be abandoned owing to protests from those professing Dr. Reffai's religion.

In fact, stunning the animal before killing is the standard procedure adopted in most of the western countries. Over to you Dr. Reffai, for your comments and observations.

D. Siriratna, 

A plea

Interest rates have decreased during the few months this has adversely affected many depositors especially the retired who have worked in the private sector and are dependent for a reasonable income for existence.

In most cases though over 60 years of age they remain breadwinners of their families with no other income and they are dependent on interest accruals through fixed deposits placed in banks or finance companies.This decline in income coupled with the prevailing cost of living has made existence miserable with a negative return.

These desperate depositors remain an isolated lot with no one to speak on their behalf and feeling either neglected or ignored.

In the circumstances a special fixed deposit scheme for those over 60-years would be desirable with a higher rate of interest (on documentary proof that their deposits are exclusively on terminal benefits received from their respective employers.) thus enhancing the 9.07% rate presently offered by the National Savings Bank to reach at least 14%.

Affected person, 

Credit cards and bank secrecy

'Credit card frauds' is the talk-of-the-town in Colombo, these days. Responsible government and private sector financial institutions should keep the public aware of these crimes and also the public about prevention of such occurrences.

There are advertisements regarding credit cards in newspapers, showing a 'rosy picture.' They advise the use of credit cards for convenience. Ignorant citizens fall prey. Central Bank shows a blind eye. So, where do we average Sri Lankans stand?

Do not believe in advertisements alone. Think before you apply. There are so many banks offering credit cards - Go for the best and the safest.

How do you gauge the safety? It is in the same manner that you decide on the safety of your deposits or investments.

Do not believe that long-established foreign banks are safe. Some may be but all are not! There are some banks employing 'contract staff'. When they leave, they will take with them vital information regarding deposit holders. Bank secrecy is lost.

These innocent account holders could be their prime targets for crimes. They will either try to rob or demand ransom amounting to the balance in your account.

Do not believe in what is stated in bank advertisements.

D. A. M. Ayantha, 
Colombo 6.

Nobel Prizes for complementary alternative therapies

Medicina Alternativa is an organisation which directly represent over 1.5 million active complementary and Alternative Medical Practitioners worldwide. It was established in 1962 as a result of the choice of public in complementary and alternative medicine. These medicines are safe, simple, effective and economical, with significantly less side effects as compared to allopathic medicines.

Homeopathy being a system of medicine is based on the philosophical law like cures like. Homeopathy can easily convince any reflecting person that the diseases of man are not caused by any substance, any acridity, that is to say, any disease matter, but that they are solely spirit-like (dynamic) derangements of the spirit like power (the vital principle) that animates the human body.

This vital principle is called immunity in the western system. Homoeopathic medicines boost the Immunity and it works in a dynamic way in the human body. A person's moral thinking and conscience can be improved by these medicines. So homeopathy is able to build up a society free from fear.

The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal Society of Medicine, the European Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Public Health and consumer protection, the House of Representatives (USA) and the WHO in their global strategy for asthma have all called for better designed research trials to overcome the lack of sound scientific data on the efficacy of complementary therapies.

It is important to provide Nobel prizes for these humanitarian therapies on annual basis in order to encourage the physicians to be effective in their work. The prizes should be open up in medicine to all practitioners of all healing. This is the highest level of all healing with lots of love for the patient, not for his/her money.

Dr. Fathima Rahman, 

Antics and gimmicks of politicians

Opposition means to antagonise, to resist and for a parliamentary party opposed to that in office. In the mother of parliament the opposition is known as the "Queens Opposition". In Sri Lanka the opposition party in parliament opposes whether a proposal is beneficial to the country or not - they oppose for the sake of opposing.

Most parliamentarians go for cheap popularity (public stunt). Their names and fame depend upon the way they play the game in public in front of cameras.

All done to hoodwink the masses on how to win elections and capture absolute power. From the time a party is pushed to the opposition from day one they concentrate and contemplate as how they could overthrow the Government in power. They spent all energy and money accrued by organising walks, rallies and demonstrations by hiring supporters etc. In acting our politicians will push actors like "Marlon Brando" to the back seat. All the antics and gimmicks are performed to convince the leader and to be in the good books.

The leaders of opposition parties organise walks to either 'Lipton Circus' or 'Fort Railway Station' - these two venues have become so notorious grounds for demonstrations and agitations. It may be because the Lipton Circus is close to several hospital wards and the patients there are not worried about what is happening out there than think of their own health and the other venue being opposite Fort Railway station - because where the people rush to catch their homeward bound trains to be with their kith and kin before it is too dark.

Another opposition party will walk from Mawanella to Lipton circus opposing the granting of the interim administration to the North and East and have no alternative proposal other than war for they will not go to fight the war. Their whole aim is how to defeat the Government and join hands with the majority opposition at least to grab the five portfolios which they are fighting for. They want power and position.

The next gimmick comes from the pure Sinhala party trying to liberate 'Manirasakulam' for they think that only this particular area is under the LTTE control leaving all other areas under LTTE control. The entire opposition parties are less concerned with the welfare of the country.

The government in power is very adamant in finding a solution to this unwanted war. The opposition parties do not think that this is a national issue, instead of joining hands with the Government in power to solve this problem once and for all, and not finding ways and means to disrupt every attempt made by the Government. They still call themselves patriots.

All these parties are misleading the general public saying that if the interim administration is granted to the North and East the country will be divided.

The pertinent question is whether the country is not divided at the moment. Even an ordinary citizen knows that some parts of Sri Lanka is under LTTE control and it is more divided than united. Why cannot these big brains get together for a national issue like this and solve, which had been created by politicians since independence for the future generations to live in a peaceful country where all citizens could live in harmony with equality?

Will there be a day like it?


Nutritional status of children in Jaffna - a reply

It was good to read of the nutritional survey done by WFP in Jaffna. In this context, I was able to observe as a paediatrician with years of interest in nutrition, that wright for age as recorded in the growth charts was satisfactory in the vast majority I observed, going down the queues of hundreds of children at the Sub National Immunisation clinics in Palaly, Nallur, Jaffna town, Kaithady, Chavakacheri, Kopay and Kayts.

Yet an eye estimation of children from 5-10 years who were also immunised on that day, showed stunting during the many years in war-torn Jaffna.

Surprisingly there were a few obese children in town.

The paediatrician whom we met in the hospital confirmed that malnutrition is not the problem though breast feeding has declined with years of activity by the industry before his arrival. The clinics were very well attended with public health personnel and volunteers and diligent retired re-employed MOOH who were at their posts all day up to 4 pm.

I was pleased to see the perseverance, confidence and diligence of these officers as well as the young paediatricians in the Teaching Hospital as I had been the first paediatrician in Jaffna Hospital in the fifties.

The standards have been maintained despite twenty years of battle.

I hope and pray that many more will serve the professional ranks to serve the poor in Jaffna.


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