By Jeewana Pahan Thilina
All of us are in a race.
'We run, run and run and it is never ending.' It seems as if there is no time to even breathe. Like for Nissanka. When Nilanthi Madam shouts for Nissanka, as he says 'he breathes while walking.' This race a truly amazing race! No one knows who started it or when or how? We are in this race now for generations upon generations. Previously the race commenced with either the O Level or the A Level. Now it is not the same. We cannot even wonder where it started!
A Level is of course compulsory. At the same time there is no problem. We do not say that either. There exists a surprising race. Sometimes even if a student got three As he cannot get into university. Therefore, what everybody wants is to be ahead of everyone else in this race. Not only for students it's the same for parents. At times the mothers are keener than their children. Even teachers have this. Therefore, students have to attend all types of classes. The cost does not seem to matter. Neither does the time. The names and whereabouts of the teachers are what matters most. Sometimes even the height and weight,shape of the body and the style of the teacher also matters.
The vehicle the teacher uses to come to the class is also somewhat important. In this manner, due to various reasons, children attend classes of various teachers at various levels. They go because they have to win this race. So, we do not accuse the children, the parents or the teachers. Teaching in whatever manner it is done does not mean a job only. It is true that you can earn money. It is said that in the past, pupils from royalty who went to study under the teacher Disapaamok also engaged in splitting wood and washing pots and pans and learnt from him. So, what does it matter if you go to a class and pay something? No teacher can teach any subject unless they themselves have studied it. Therefore, all of them make a commitment in relation to the money they earn. That means that O/L and A/L are different things. The examination is also different.
The children are also different. The ages of 15 and 16 are a transition period. Poetry written by the renowned poet Mahagama Sekera mentions this transition period. However, this is not a time for poetry. We are going on a different journey. We are talking about the O/L examination. At the A/L examination there are only three subjects. Students do not bother too much about English and Information Technology. They do not bother because the results of those subjects have no impact on their chances of admission to universities. The O/L examination is different. There are nine subjects. Amidst all that girls and boys are experiencing their teenage years. They struggle with new feelings and emotions. As a result the O/L examination or the General Certification of Education Ordinary Level Examination is an amazing 'battle.' Children are like kites. The strings are in the parents' hands. If by chance the parents lose the hold on the string, there is no saying where the kites will float away to and end up. Therefore, parents should have their wits about them when they are in possession of the kites' strings. When with greed they try to fly the kite higher and higher also the string breaks. They also break when there is wind and without allowing out the string more and more and trying to secure them. At times when everything is correct even while the string is in hand there are kitesthat turn tail and gradually hit the ground.
Not only that, even if the string escapes from the hand there are some kites that float away and reach very carefully the intended target. Therefore, parents should deal with these children with amazing care. Going to classes is an extremely decisive thing. Unlike an A Level Class, the shape of a child's life can be changed through an O Level Class. If parents are not always alert and are not keeping their eyes on their children, things could definitely go wrong. The craziest classes among all classes are the classes held for students sitting for the Grade 5 Scholarship Examination. The students are of a young age but they have to tackle a log, the size of which is equal to what an elephant carries. Finally the log ends up on the mother's shoulders. When the examination is round the corner this log is given back to these children. More than the students sitting the scholarship examination, it is their mothers who show an interest in studying what is in papers. However, this going to classes does not end there. Recently a friend of mine told me,
"I have to take my child to the scholarship classes..."
Then I asked, "If so are you going to school now?"
"No, no, not yet, the child is still in the Montessori."
"That is a fine thing...."
"This is my wife's doing."
That is the story. Because his wife wanted that small child sent to a scholarship examination class. I really don't know! Mothers are like that. I am attending classes to sit for the Administrative Services examination, these days. My mother is looking into that too.
Among thousands of such classes there is another amazing type of class as well. I was told about this class by someone who had attended one.
'Our class is unlike all those other classes."
'Why is that?'
Who is the Sir?
'(He mentions a name), however it is not special because of that name.'
That is what that student told me.
Then what is so special about it?
At that time this was not a great problem for me. I simply asked because I wanted to know. However, it was only when I heard the ending of the story that I realised what a truly amazing story it was. The final part of the story was this; you read further and see...
"Before the class starts we are given a tablet."
This is the point.
'What is that tablet?'
'We do not know. We are not told.'
What happens when you swallow the tablet?
'Mmm... there is no change. But your memory increases. That means that your retentiveness or memory power improves.'
It is amazing but true at the same time!
'No, no it is not a joke. Our Sir completes the classes ahead of time, about one or two months ahead of the exam. It is a wonderful thing...'
This story the child told me was simply amazing. What is the memory tablet that is being given prior to starting classes? We cannot even imagine what it is. What are these teachers giving these students? Actually is it a type that increases memory retention?
"So, they are memory tablets?"
Now, the assumption we have reached is this. Let us believe that this tablet is being given with some responsibility. I am asking you to think like that. It is possible that there is no responsibility at all. We do not know about that. The other thing is we take tablets by the kilo and if we can retain memory...then what...You take the tablets and sit for every examination possible in Sri Lanka. Now let us think in a different way about the point of memory. Let us assume that this tablet is for something else. Something to increase retention of memory...I really do not know about these things...
Is it alright to take such tablets? We do not understand. There may good varieties too. However, taking medicine regularly is not good for the body. We cannot even imagine the damage that it causes. Do the Sirs in those classes take responsibility for it?
That particular Sir will not reveal what that tablet is and what will be the next tablet he gives? What we said from the beginning is that teachers are not bad people. All of them put in their maximum effort for their students. However, within this, tuition is also a business and it is at the most attractive place that students gather. If the tablet that is being given in order to get the most number of students to gather is by chance a narcotic, it will become a wave. Students will also come. How dangerous could that be? Therefore, parents should begin to be alert. This is a very bad period. Many things are solved in the most unimaginable manner. In a short time it is possible that the 'class tablet' will become indispensable. Then, if you want to study, it is possible that you will be forced to take the tablet. There is room for all this to happen. Then those tablets that will be given will have to be investigated too. A pharmacist too will have to be recruited to the class.
This is because medications cannot be issued without a pharmacist. Then it is possible that these classes will acquire new sponsors. We do not know whether pharmaceutical companies will take the teachers away from these tuition classes. Whatever happens, our question is whether they are that beneficial.
Coordinators from tuition classes or anyone else from these classes, please do not call us to find out what that tablet is. Even the persons, who dole out tablets, please do not call us. If so, we will publish in the newspaper the name and place of those persons and the name of the tablet that is being given to students.