Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

Must we mix sport and politics at the Football World Cup?

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The belief in the power of football to make positive contribution to progressive and sustainable change in the world was met with opposition before the start of the tournament in Doha, Qatar.

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino wrote to the chiefs of 32 competing teams, demanding them to focus their time at Qatar to focus only on football. There was nothing wrong with this.

But each of the competing Football Associations felt it was tantamount to giving them a lesson how to play the game. It was considered as fighting talk, an intrusion.

The teams instead opted to send a reminder that neither FIFA nor the hosts, Qatar should declare war on the national teams.

Last month, (November 2022) the findings of a new research study led by Dr. Adam Scharif of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that international sporting events tend to trigger unwarranted repression, when host nations that were autocracies, some even dictatorships, used the different games as a way of persecution of their political opponents.

Anti-discrimination rainbow coloured “# One Love” arm-bands worn by thecaptains of teams was banned, with severe penalties – Yellow and Red Cards. England and Welsh Captains at the last minute had to change their bands before their matches on 21 November 2022. This made a large proportion of their fans feel very uncomfortable.

Besides, a former England football manager, Harry Redknapp told a news agency on the controversy surrounding Qatar, hosting the World Cup. We know the host country has strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws. “How they got it in the first place I don’t really know. But they got it, it’s there, we’ve gotto get on with it now”.

David Seaman, former England Goalkeeper also shared his thoughts stating; “Football is for everyone and not everyone can go there to watch the games.”

Both of them were in full praise for England’s squad. “I think we’ve got a fantastic group of players,” said Harry, which was echoed by David.

The bravery of the England’s Three Lions team kicked off their World Cup game with a historic 6-2 win, but it was opponents Iran who won the praise for their courageous protests over human rights violations, by risking their safety at home, by refusing to sing the national anthem, but fans booed them or made thumbs down signs. Female supporters were also seen with placards, “Women, Life, Freedom,” they had smuggled into the Khalifa Stadium in Doha to protest at the crackdown on women refusing to wear the hijab.

FIFA according to some fans have acted to brush criticism of human rights under the carpet.

Can FIFA or anybody stop protests?

The more you stop wearing of rainbow arm bands, and the hijab, or placards, the more it is counterproductive according to someobservers.

Harry Kane, England’s captain had to wear a FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” armband.

But, it did not stop Manager, Gareth Southgate’s men “taking the knee” before kick off in a symbolic gesture against racism.

Wales in their drawn game (1-1) against United States, on 21 November 2022, were also among seven European teams hoping to wear the “OneLove” armband in a country which outlaws same sex relationships. Through their Federations stated they would have paid the fines but “could not allow their players in a situation where they may be booked or even forced to leave the field.”

In addition, we were told that sixteen of Iran’s 25 Football squad, play for foreign clubs and so it is more or less impractical to enforce rigid rules unless for security reasons.

Alcohol sales are banned at all World Cup stadiums in Qatar, but that did not stop fans “rocking up” at their hotels, with wild parties.

Who is behind all these “antics” is anybody’s guess? Do they “act their age” or “is it human nature to rebel?

The mismatch between grades and knowledge

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With students heading and parents worrying about impending school exams in a month, it is not a waste of time to delve into why students are in school and why their child may be having some common anxiety among others, such as handwriting difficulties or the understanding of maths concepts. What are some ways how to support them?

One of the things expected of teachers, perhaps of parents too of secondary school students, is fast, fluent, legible and neat handwriting. Teachers require students to be able to take down class notes quickly. Secondary school is ruled by time constraints, class periods, and the need to move from one subject or task to another quickly to cover the curriculum. Not every school has students with laptop computers, or are allowed in class.

Neurodiversity or neurological differences exist not only in society but also among students. They are not to be rejected but respected, just like any other human variation including diversity in race, ethnicity, gender identity, or religion. Human variation exists;

Students no exception. Thus some students have difficulty with Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (the three R’s).

Handwriting

Handwriting is just one part of literacy. When students enter secondary schools there is a noticeable variation in their handwriting skills.

In primary school, when I was a student, there was the Handwriting book, unheard of today.  Thus students may have two styles of taking notes and writing. One is produced quickly, called the rough Note Book, used for note taking and might appear untidy, but still legible to the student, the other is a good quality script, used for more formal purposes.

Teachers reading answers of a poor handwriting student whose writing is illegible, due to handwriting or spelling or both, may have to guess the word(s).

Theories for bad handwriting

Various theories are proposed as the underlying cause of handwriting difficulties. Some focus on the student whereas others locate the problem within the structure of the education system, like inadequate teaching, a failure to provide opportunities to consolidate learning and missed opportunities to practice, especially during COVID-19.

Research shows us handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed. An average secondary student produces legible handwriting in Year 11 at 16 words per minute, whereas a Year 7 student does it in 13.8 wpm.

We need to discount other factors including underlying learning difficulties, fatigue, whether English is the second language and whether students know what they want or need to write. Besides, in Secondary Schools, they don’t have the time to teach handwriting in other curriculum contexts.

Hand-eye coordination is required to develop fluent writing, besides letter formation and organisation. This condition is called “dyslexia” which can also cause difficulty reading numbers and following word problems. 

Possible intervention to prevent bad writing

  1. Visual focus
  2. Letter Formation
  3. Organisation
  4. Technology

Poor in Maths

There are a number of reasons why a child/student may be having problems with Mathematics at school. These vary from low motivation caused by Maths anxiety to a poor understanding of how to apply and perform mathematical operations.

But sometimes, the root cause of underperformance is something quite different, like motor skills difficulty. The medical term is “dyscalculia”, which some individuals struggle with performing basic calculations and having trouble manipulating numbers. This condition can cause to “re-order digits” when solving problems correctly, but recording the answer in the wrong way. They may even skip a step or struggle to focus and be unable to re-check their work when they have finished a problem. The real reason is that they become distracted by number formation that they make careless errors or get the steps in an equation in the wrong order.

Maths is poorly understood by children in Schools

Maths is mostly poorly understood because pre-school maths, is about practical problem solving, noticing patterns, recognising shapes and learning to count, mentally. While Secondary School Maths instruction becomes abstract. It often focuses on rote learning and solving equations, “think arithmetic and times tables”.

Many students complain that Maths is boring. They do not see the point in learning Algebra, or Geometry or they may not be able to do basic Arithmetic when answers can be found using a calculator or a computer.

Number crunch is all around us today. Being able to work with them quickly and efficiently is a skill. Calculations in Arithmetic is a usual or normal in many professions, especially in carpentry to retail jobs. But Mathematics is much more than Arithmetic. It is identifying the problem and selecting an appropriate approach to solving it, but following the proper order of operations.

Students are marked not only for getting the calculation right but to show how they arrived at their answer. There are children who leap to the correct answer intuitively but cannot analyse how they got them.

The main cause of disillusionment with Maths

Anxiety is the main cause of why students “freeze” in Maths exams. They can have difficulty finding a way to “visualise a problem”, leading to anxiety, sometimes “over anxiety,” thus making careless mistakes due to stress.

Many students have a very short “attention span”. Maths requires concentration. Attention difficulties can affect Maths skills. If a student drifts in and out of attention, they might find it difficult, if not challenging, to follow a teacher’s demonstration. Maintaining focus without distraction is a problem for certain types of learners, hardly explained by teachers.

Thus it is to these students that teachers should devote their attention. Students in turn should find a way to form an interest.

Why is education a mismatch between grades and knowledge?

The skills that students possess with grades and market requirements are at variance. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (3 R’s) are very basic for today’s world. The lack of effective communication, strategic thinking, abstraction and research skills are the main causes of today’s educational mismatch. The educational system is an effective vehicle for producing the skills required to maintain growth in the economy and productivity. There is either a vertical mismatch when the level of education required for the job is more than that necessary. There is a horizontal mismatch when the field of study and the job is at variance. The lack of coherence between required and offered education levels causes the disparity.

The dilemma of “Climate Cash”

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A day of reckoning has arrived at COP 27 as world leaders and other environmentalists gathered at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for the African Continent’s turn to host the annual UN Climate Change Conference.

Amid a cost of living crisis, the Developed World is under pressure “to agree to a costly deal on reparations, at the same time as plans are being drawn up for sweeping domestic rises and spending cuts in UK,” said the Daily Telegraph.

By contrast, it is predominantly countries in the developing world particularly in Africa, (famine and drought); in South Asia ( floods) and small island nations like Maldives and Sri Lanka, and Islands in the Pacific (low sea levels) that are particularly most vulnerable to climate disasters, despite having played with partly causing them.

History has been made

History has been made at the beginning of COP 27 to include talks on “loss and damage payments to nations impacted by climate change. With costs estimated to reach a possible $1 Trillion by 2040, for past emissions and for global warming, according to Al Jazeera. This sum is in no comparison to the $30 Trillion spent controlling COVID-19.

Public opinion in rich economies has we hear, has softened also according to Daily Telegraph. This was seen in the stance of UK which has suggested it is open to paying “Climate Change Reparations”.

The idea of “loss and damage” compensation has been under debate since the beginning of the early 1990s as rich countries have not wanted to discuss who pays.

The Floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh

The unimaginable flooding last month (September 2022) which left large parts of Pakistanliterally underwater, submerged, causing more than 1,700 deaths and 33 million people ousted from their homes, has somewhat woken the world. The ravages of global warming according to the Financial Times, have put Pakistan at the forefront of the evolving new thinking of who should foot the bill for global warming.

While Bangladesh is among the countries leading calls for loss and damage payments. World Bank reports state one-third of its agriculture could be lost by sea ingress damage and its GDP could fall 9% by 2050.  Sohanur Rahman, Executive Director, of” Youth Net for Climate Justice” has clamoured for loss and damage financing. He is quoted as saying:

“We are not asking for charity or debt from developed countries, but rather reparations for their historical legacy in the climate change crisis”.

The priority given to nations at the “Conference of the Parties” COP 27, was noticeable in the photo opportunity at the beginning of the sessions in Egypt.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif and the President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, were accommodated in the back row far apart, for the photo opportunity of all leaders attending, on the opening day of the Conference. There were more African Presidents and Arab leaders in prominence, in front.

Why Africa is now the paramount chief in the Climate change conundrum?

During the two-week conference, government and non-party stakeholders will deliberate to ensure a transition to a net zero global economy. Representatives of over a billion Africans are represented at COP27.

While China, India and Australia among the major consumers of fossil fuels are notably absent at COP 27, 54 African voices of the African Union are taking centre stage. The grievance of Africa is put on a show at COP 27.

The African delegates are quoted to state: “Delegates from each regional bloc of the world will enter the conference to protect its self-interest. The West’s strategy will not be to take responsibility for their complicity in causing climate disaster. Though the West will acknowledge the astronomical cost of the transition to net zero as a manifestation of the “white saviour” industrial complex, they will offer to help by giving loans or aid, which will no longer compensate for the damage done. Africa must present a united front embracing the spirit of Pan Africanism to negotiate from a position of strength.”

Africa the epicentre in litany of Climate Crisis today?

“The African Continent has become a global epicentre of climate crisis ranging from the unprecedented rising of extreme weather, severe storms, and erratic rainfall, catastrophic flooding, outbreak of water-borne diseases, displacements, armed conflicts, desertification, abject poverty, biodiversity loss and drought, to mention a few”.

The African Continent contributes the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions compared to its counterparts of the EU, Asia and the USA, due to their industrial and Large Combustion Plants (LCP). Yet it is unfortunate that climate disasters are its greatest concern.

United Nations is the conscience of the world and Climate Change is more than a disaster for poorer nations of the world, particularly in Africa. Will COP 27 help Africa more than the world is a conundrum on the minds of all Africans?

Life and times in England today?

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There is so much going on in England that it is hardly necessary to describe the plight of the British.

One of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches was unrecognisable at the weekend after a huge sewage and mud spill, according to The Times, tainted the environment.

“Last Sunday morning showed the usually pale blue water transforming into a murky shade of brown.Environmental groups have described the scenes as shocking and the government is being called on to review its sewage action plan.South West Water confirmed that the storm overflow at Agnes, in Cornwall, had triggered ‘briefly’ but claimed that mud dislodged by heavy rain had also contributed to the discolouration of the water”.

Inside the House of Commons, and on the front pages of most major papers and news websites this morning, embattled Home Secretary, SuelaBraverman, literally “came back from the dead on Halloween”. She has come under fire for her handling of the migrant boats of Albanian economic migrants crossing the English Channel from the French coast. She sparked outrage for calling the situation “an invasion”, deemed unwarranted by the Labour Opposition. Refugee charities and pressure groups have also accused her of overcrowding these economic migrants at Manston, in Kent, and allowing them to sleep on the floor, while awaiting processing.

It is well known that over 30,000 Albanian economic migrants have flooded into UK in the past year, after working on parts of the Continent including France as cheap farm labour, flooded with cash to find a home in England. 

To avoid the accusation of bias against the Home Secretary, past Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has been blamed for a security breach on her phone being tapped by outside agents. Blame is the name of the game.

Does anyone want to be Prime Minister of UK at this time?

An elderly woman patient at Kingston Hospital in Surrey confronted Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, during hisplanned visit to her ward recently. She warned him to pay nurses more and when the Prime Minister said ‘the NHS is important to him and to the country’, she retorted, “yes, you are not trying, you need to try harder”.

People generally want to “shove the blame” for all the ills of England, on to the English born, first Asian Prime Minister. Is there a taint of prejudice, who knows? So why is the Prime Minister working all the given hours of the day to put things right? Why is he wanting to turn Britain around, what his motive to prove himself capable, while people name him as Rishi, and not call him by his official title as “Prime Minister”?

Whilst all this is happening, is there is a hidden agenda?

There is a“method in the madness”?  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Hunt is eying ways to cover  a multi-billion hole,(£60 billion on estimate fiscal black-hole) with plans that vital public services could be cut on the 17 November 2022 Mini Budget Statement. This is argued is close to the heart of the Prime Minister.

The English are thought to detest the French “froggies,” but want a French speaking Mauritian- Indian, Home Secretary, SuelaBraverman, to broker a deal with her French counterpart, to help curb the flood of migrants across the English Channel. She too is working round the clock to prove that she can deliver, and/or better the English “speaking French with the French”, by stopping criminal Albanian drug economic migrants flooding into UK.

People smugglers are being watched after the Home Secretary’s intervention, now more closely monitored by the French and British authorities. In fact, the Home Office may sooner than later, pay a sum to the French authorities, to curb the migrants coming across from France, rather than accommodating migrants at hotels at state expense.

The Battle of the Wits

While the Asians in high office are keen on showing off their talents, it is not strange that the English are being driven to work harder to survive. Most working people first want to go on strike to claim better wages. Understandably, they are worried that there could be cheap labour flooding in from abroad, such as Nursing Staff and other factory workers, plus boat loads of migrants, to accept low pay and conditions. Doctors and surgeons, in specialist hospitals in England, are thus performing more operations per day with the assistance of Anaesthetics, to clear the backlog due to COVID-19.

The Nurses at Hospitals are soon to ballot their members, as walk-outs are looming. They like the Train drivers want to hold the country to ransom, by demanding higher wages amidst soaring inflation and the oncoming winter.

Civil Service administrators are also worried that the new Chancellor may use his axe to chop top heavy government departments.

The one thing is for sure, there is a hue and cry for more wages as inflation soars. At the same time, market forces are demanding to cut to size of the economy, which is the vision of both the Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer. Clawing back the excessive profits made in recent days and months by the Energy Companies in UK, is sooner than later envisaged by the Government and is welcome by both the Opposition and the general public.

Global warming and consumer energy bills

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We are changing when we see our climate change. Climate has changed when our Earth has warmed and cooled over centuries. But in the past century, another force has started to influence climate. That force many believe is the interaction of mankind on our environment. We make it happen more rapidly than past natural events. This does not mean other natural causes don’t exist. It means that the effect of natural causes is too small or they occur too slowly to make an appreciable difference.

Young people the world over, shall we say the developed world, are the forerunner activists of climate change. They have the strongest belief about climate change and they are in need to take action immediately. Recently, we saw two youth trying to galvanise action in their known way of tossing a can of tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting at the National Gallery, London. They were part of the “Just stop oil” demonstration in the UK who want to voice their grievances, their theatrical agitation against fossil fuel extraction.

But as is known climate is an especially difficult issue to mobilise public opinion, especially in the present context of high energy prices in Britain and around the world. Voters it seems, are in no way enthused about climate change at present. There is a big gulf in public perception of the urgency of climate change, when their energy bills, to keep themselves warm during winter, has trebled since 1 October 2022,with Energy Companies in UK increasing prices and the Government having to increase the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) to £2,500 until April 2023.

The main renewables – solar and wind do not produce heat leaving UK households highly dependent on gas boilers. But renewables are helping to limit price rises for electricity, as they reduce the amount of gas needed for electricity generation.

What then would help lower energy bills?

The longer-term solution for energy bills, climate change and geopolitical risks from Russia, according to Paul Massara, ex CEO, Npower, is greater investment in energy efficiency programmes.

With the UK Government’s Bill Support ending in April 2023 all eyes and ears are not on Climate Change, but on the money households and businesses would need to spend on energy. Whilst macroeconomic stability is the new priority of the new Government of PM Rishi Sunak, a precondition to economic growth.

Of MP’s and Markets in Britain?

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Pound Sterling has “skidded” by more than one US Cent to below $1.10 after the announcement that the Bank of England was pulling out of its intervention in extending its £65 Billion emergency arrangement to prop up the pound, beyond 14 October 2022. But, it will intervene, if found necessary?

MP’s in Parliament were also relieved after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng announced he was “rushing forward” his Debt Cutting Plan almost a month earlier than planned. This is in a bid to reassure jittery markets following weeks after his “Fiscal Event Statement,” which he made on 23 September 2022. 

The markets may be calmed when the Chancellor sets out more details about how he “intends to manage or massage the public finances”.

We are told, he will then release the forecasts on the State of the Economy from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) by 31 October 2022. 

Supply-side Economics

Supply-side economics, now also named “Trussonomics” by journalists, is based on the idea that the supply of goods and services within an economy is the main “driver of growth”. For many laymen, it is based on the idea that targeted tax cuts are more effective than general tax cuts to boost a falling economy, along with further post-Brexit deregulation of financial services. 

Many will know this same theory was tried out in Sri Lanka, of lowering tax rates to boost government revenue, through higher economic growth during the years of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. I need hardly state that it faltered and failed. It benefitted none other than the rich, who got away with paying fewer taxes, while those others who should have been liable, got away without, using the known excuses, only to us.

With markets in command today, there is little that the Bank of England or for that matter any Central Bank can do, like what our own Central Bank of Sri Lanka did until recently by “Quantitative Easing” (Q.E). We know the Bank of England dare not print more money for circulation. 

What are the options available?   

Every new government wants to better the previous government “testing out” innovative ideas, to curb inflation. But how much of it is achievable?

The Truss Government has repeatedly stated that what it wants is “delivery”. That “it’s plan will work”. We all know it is “doable” in normal times, but need I say these are not normal times? It is well known that governments as much as its citizens can take recourse in the fact that these are turbulent times, requiring the tried and tested, even though innovative ways are necessary, but take longer. 

Commentators are all ganging up on the Truss Government, perhaps, as a woman, they “think” she can be manipulated. But still, others know, “she is not for turning,” Some MPs of her party are at her throat now, because she rewarded those loyal who stood by her and may I say appeased others who contested her. Apparently, she has won over the voters in the Conservative Party in the country, but not her own MPs who “think of none other than the next election” and don’t see her leading them “up the hill” to victory. 

P.M. Liz Truss has been entrusted with a poisoned chalice. Besides, she has upset both President Joe Biden with her stance on Northern Ireland and of course President Putin. Like in Sri Lanka, you cannot please all the people all the time.

By trying to stimulate the British economy at a pace it is not ready, she has got a coloured Chancellor, to take on “more than he can chew and renegade on his fiscal statement”. Besides, she has got a Home Secretary, SuellaBraverman, to repel migration, who for what reason we don’t know, has criticised migrants from India. This has rightly angered India and according to reports (unverified), UK’s Trade Deal negotiated by Boris Johnson is on the verge of collapse.

Now, who knows, the Brits will be easily placed to blame others for all the blunders, including the IMF for chastising the Government for its intransigence.

The Brits, as far as I know, will always have a way out strategy, to get out of the mess. It was all planned well in advance not to have the OBR oversight along with the Fiscal Statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now the OBR will try to undo his overly anxious and ambitious plans to save the situation. Alternatively, there will be another “fallback strategy” as a diplomatic cover-up to the war in Ukraine. Who knows, they have a plan for the production of armaments, during the extended “Cold War with Russia?

Why is education in Sri Lanka not meeting future challenges?

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You have heard it said that our education system is broken, it is in a perilous state. For that matter, we read in social media stories of political appointments to Government schools, tinkering with education? Parents are feeling desperate where their children are going to end up, not only in social status, but facing life in the future. The educational system “as is” may not be able at present to think for future needs, for a “future ready society”.

When I was growing up, we imported educators from abroad to train our teachers, to raise our standards of education “to compete in the world.”

We saw the arrival of the American and other religious missionaries to our schools.  Examples were Rev. Robert Stopford, an Anglican missionary principal of Trinity College, Kandy, a Cambridge educated principal, Rev. Fr.T.M.F.Long at St. Patrick’s College, Rev. S.K. Bunker at Jaffna College and many others. The view at that time was learning from the experience of educators from abroad, was essential. In turn our own educators, were sent abroad to get the best qualification in teaching.

I for instance, was not good in Tamil, but that did not put me off. I devoted much of my life, to what I was good at and benefitted.

Today, none of it is possible, without the political will, the long term planning and the continually evolving, change in line with economic growth and future demands of society.

No forward thinking education?

We are warned to think for the future, “a future ready society”. We need to rethink our ideas how our learning systems are currently organised, resourced and supported.

We need to think and teach higher level thinking skills and develop key competencies using technology to prepare students for the 21st century. We need a personalised approach in the classroom, where students can take control of their own learning.

I call this “Personalised Learning”. It means students understand “how they learn, what they learn and what drives their learning”.

Students now have to learn their learning needs, their interests, and their capability to determine the pace of learning. In this environment, the advantage of technology is that students can use the content and be the experts in their subjects of interest, which society demands for a worthwhile career, assisted by their teachers. They can create content they need for the future with the resources that have not traditionally been thought of as part of the schooling system. Education must be able to provide how to think like a mathematician, like a historian, like an environmentalist.

Education for the future?

We face unprecedented challenges – social, economic, environmental – driven by war, accelerated social integration, women not being allowed an education, globalisation and a faster rate of technological development.

These challenges are at the same time providing new opportunities for advancement. 

Change is the only constant in our present lives. The future seems uncertain. Schools of the future should be able provide the skills, attitudes and values to thrive students to shape their world.

There is no forward thinking in education at present in our education system. There is no ability driven education. The days are gone when specialisation in career education was required. Today, students must be given a challenge to find out for themselves how humanity will address the problems of the future, including those linked with sustainability, globalisation, non-globalisation, citizenship and enterprise.

We in Sri Lanka do not allow our students to think about their future lives, the interests they have ingrained, and the challenges they have to meet head on.

Let us go back in time to education among Sinhalese and Tamils some 50 odd years ago, why, that far, say some 30 years ago. Most Sinhala students were generally very good in spoken English and literature; Tamils were predominantly scientifically minded, excelled in Maths and Science, and had an aptitude for theories. Both wanted to be Engineers, Doctors, and Accountants. Today, it seems students are all satisfied with ordinary jobs.

Have our students within a generation or two, “lost their brains”? Have they “lost their ambition”? Has society forced them to be complacent? Has our recent history made us indolent, not enterprising?

What kind of people do we hope our students will become by the time they leave school in 2030? What kind of career jobs will be open to them when they leave school? Will they have to create their own jobs, or fit into the market niche?

These are some of the serious questions that educators in our land have to address themselves. We know each of our students have hidden talents, which need to be explored and teachers must be able to be talent scouts.

We need to explore the advantage of expertise in technology. To navigate through such uncertainty, students of today first need discipline, they need curiosity, imagination, and resilience. They will need to cope with failure and rejection. They need to move forward in the face of adversity. Their motivation will be more than getting a good job, a high income.

Challenges are not new. Sri Lankans had many hurdles to overcome. Sinhalese students went abroad to advance their professional skills. Tamils who were uprooted and went as refugees abroad, were forced to learn a new language, German, French and or spoken English, to survive.

Today, all students needed to think of their new environment, either in the land of tomorrow in Sri Lanka, or abroad, how they are going to cope with “climate change,” with new types of disease, with sustainable living. They need to shape their own lives and contribute to the lives of others, to make life meaningful.

The risks and rewards of education in today’s world are many. Educators in Sri Lanka have a duty to think well ahead into the future and provide an education for a “future ready society”.

The War and Peace in Europe

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Russian troops foundering in Ukraine, a Russian TV Presenter, Vladimir Solovyou, on “Russia 1 Show” unlike President Putin described the conflict as a war as opposed to a “special operation”. He was speaking at a time when bit by bit Ukrainians are recapturing village by village. They have surrounded town after town, cut off Russian troops, running out of ammunition, abandoned Russian weaponry.

It looks as if the bid to force into combat the 300,000 reservists is falling flat, as we hear the Russian youth stream towards neighbouring Republics’ borders in desperation. The surrounding Republics like Kazakhstan do not know where to house all the Russian escapists.

At a time when Ukrainian forces are making significant gains in the east of their country, reaching a key town like Lyman at the weekend, President Putin is hardly unnerved. He has said that the West wants to destroy the very existence of his country. He said on Wednesday, 5 October 2022, “We always and even today despite the current tragedy, hold great respect for the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian culture, language and literature.” However, he has vowed to “stabilise” the situation in the four regions of Ukraine whose annexation he proclaimed on the same day as above, as they accordingly are citizens of Russia. We also know that the transition period will last until 2026.

French President Macron’s ambitious European Political Community

Not wanting to upstage the European solidarity with Ukraine, and to tie up the loose ends as it were in Europe, with the demands of a two stage development in European Union, with Hungary, Poland and Italy, all desiring greater freedom, and with Brexit Britain, outside, President Emmanuel Macron’s new “Political Club EPC” had its inaugural meeting in Prague on 6 October 2022.

Leaders of 44 European countries, including 27 EU members, plus 17 others, some seeking EU membership, like Turkey and others like Azerbaijan, in Eastern Europe, plus long-time foes like Serbia gathered in Prague. All they had in common was they wanted to ease tense relations amongst themselves, economic situation, climate, migration and mobility.

The other common factor was they were all against Russia and Belarus, both of whom were uninvited to the Political Club of Europe.

No formal policy statements, no resolutions or declarations were issued. However, what was achieved in one day, would have taken years to resolve.

Although it is too early to judge, the EPC, like most alliances of likeminded democracies now demanding to form a united front against Russia. At the same time, it is not a replacement for existing defence alliances, like the NATO. It gives credence to what President Putin has maintained all along, an expansion of European influence on the borders of Russia. Here, we note President Putin’s fears have been answered,

At the same time, it has united the leaders of all of Europe, including Brexit Britain and P.M. Liz Truss and President Macron who used the occasion to have a bilateral meeting at the side-lines to trash out their differences. After criticising President Macron as “friend or foe” during her election rallies to become Prime Minister, Liz Truss stated yesterday, “President Macron is a friend of Britain”. President Macron replied in kind, stating it would mark a new start for relations between Britain and the EU after Brexit. Did you know that all along they were playing politics, while there is much good will between each, with President Macron going the added mile by sending his border guards to “the beaches of

Normandy,” to stop illegal migration across the Channel.

All of Europe, or rather most of Europe is laughing at how President Putin has united once enemies, the countries of Two Speed Europe, Hungary and Poland, who threatened to veto the EU Multi-Year Budget in late 2020 over plans to create a “rule of law mechanism”. Besides, it has given much recognition to Turkey in its admission to EU Membership. More than anything, it has made Poland satisfied for the time being, in its demand for nuclear arsenals to be located to protect itself from Russian invasion.

Vive la France!

What two Labour Women MP’s said at the “Labour Party Conference”?

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I quote the report by PA News Agency in today’s National Scot for my readers:

“Labour deputy leader Ms Rayner took aim at the Conservative prime ministers since 2010 during a joke-laden speech to close her party’s conference in Liverpool. In a bid to rally party members, Ms Rayner ran through the policy pledges made in recent days and insisted Labour would be “radical, responsible, realistic” in power.

“By contrast, she described Liz Truss’s new Government as a “ministry of all the talentless”, adding: “When I looked at the benches opposite last week, I thought the clowns had escaped the circus.

“On Mr Johnson, ousted from Number 10 after a series of scandals which included lockdown-busting events in Downing Street, Labour MP Ms Rayner said: “I do owe him one apology.

“I said he couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery. Turns out he could organise a booze-up pretty much anywhere, just a shame he couldn’t organise anything else.

“We’re a party with a serious plan, he had a plan for a serious party.

Taking the mickey

“I’ll miss one thing though. As inflation ran out of control, at least his jokes were one thing that got cheaper every week.“But the real problem wasn’t that his jokes were so cheap, it was that his mistakes were so expensive.

“He ended his time claiming he was forced from office by the ‘deep state’. The only deep state that forced him from office was the one he left our country in.

“Sorry conference, I had to use all my Boris lines now while he’s still remembered and while everyone knows who he is before he becomes a footnote of failure in the history books. “At least that’s what the new Prime Minister must be hoping for because he’ll be sat on the backbenches plotting his comeback, with a glint in his eye, thinking: ‘I wasn’t so bad after all was I?’

“What a sorry state of affairs.”

Ms Rayner earlier mocked Ms Truss for having “crashed the pork market”, a nod to the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for the sector when environment secretary.

She said of the Conservatives: “Tough on crime? They brought crime to Number 10. “Defenders of the free market? The market’s in free-fall. England’s green and pleasant land? Frack it. From the party of stability to causing earthquakes. From the party of business to a slap down from the IMF. From the party of serious government to the party of parties. “Liz Truss has even crashed the pork market. Now that is a disgrace. You’d think that snouts in the trough was the one thing they could manage.”

Labour’s conference concluded with renditions of The Red Flag and Jerusalem, with Ms Rayner and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer joining in” –unquote.

A hilarious event, it could happen only in England?

Whilst the above enthralled the Labour Conference at Liverpool, I call it another hilarious incident, that took place at a Fringe Labour Event entitled: “What’s next for Labour’s Agenda for Race,” on Monday 26 September 2022.

Ms RupaHaq, Labour M.P for Ealing Central and Acton, of Asian origin, while addressing this Fringe event was quoted by The Guardian, to have said,(about, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt.Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng,) “he is superficial, he is a Blackman, but again he’s got more in common – he went to Eton.”

Ms Haq has since apologised direct to the Chancellor, but it has opened up a hornet’s nest. She has been suspended from the Labour Party Whip in the Commons.

Responding to the controversy, MP Haq is also reported to have told “The Guardian”: her comments were made while praising the recent ethnic diversity in Parliament. She is quoted to have commented: “Obviously, I know you can be brown and be a Tory – I’m not that stupid”.

We know there are occasions when coloured people become the scapegoat for racist remarks. Taking the mickey on native English is acceptable, but “taking the mickey, on others, is sacrosanct.”

What has happened to the British Pound?

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“Working people are paying the price of the Tory government’s casino economics. Labour will cut bills, create jobs and secure energy independence for Britain by 2030.”  ~ Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in response to the chancellor’s mini-Budget.

When I came to Britain in 1966, the pound bought me US Dollars 2.40 and today it is at a record low against the Green Back, as early trading in markets in South East Asia, collapsed the Pound to $1.0327, the lowest since decimalisation in 1971. Luckily it regained ground to $1.07. What really happened after Black Friday? (23 September 2022).

Markets are volatile and naturally, they seem to have taken fright after what our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. KwasiKwarteng stated at the weekend that he was ready to slash taxes even further, more than the £45 Billion cuts in his Mini Budget on Friday.

Speculation was growing that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee might have to intervene with an emergency rate hike, sooner than expected.

Need I say, if Sterling Pound falls to parity with the US Dollar, it could trigger a rebellion among Tory backbenchers who could refuse to vote for the Government’s Finance Bill, or even submit letters of no confidence in PM Liz Truss, said the Daily Telegraph.

Labour Opposition at Party Conference in Liverpool

The Labour Party at its Annual Party Conference in Liverpool, with Parliament in recess, accused the Chancellor of “fanning the flames” of the crisis and calling the City’s regulator to investigate leaks in his Mini Budget.

Labour has challenged the “Growth Plan” in the Mini Budget. The fallout has given Labour a well-timed opportunity to lay out an alternative economic plan at its party Conference but does not want to divulge its plans, in advance of a General Election planned for 2024.

Can Labour win the next General Election?

After 12 years of Conservative Government, the public is asking this question. As it stands today according to a poll Labour is on course for a sizeable majority whenever the next General Election is called. It is increasing looking like a “Government-in-waiting,”  unless it spoils its chances.

Polls give it today a 12 point lead over the Conservatives, which would land them a comfortable Parliamentary majority, estimated at 56 seats.

What the Pound record low means for UK?

We know a consideration and delivery of measures announced in the Mini Budget will, however, create new opportunities for an innovative start-up and will help unlock private investment.

The Mini Budget announcement has envisaged an economic growth goal of 2.5 percent, before the next General election.

A Tory Grandee says the current crisis will pass. Some others have been scathing in their views. Still, others have urged colleagues to be patient and not panic.

In my view, it is like Boris, the British will always rise to the occasion, which is a trait I have learned in England.

In my view, a decrease in the wholesale price of gas will over winter make a big difference.

People cannot only be bought over with “tax cuts”?

Innovation is the mantra which is built up from a foundation of ideas and knowledge, which the Conservatives have acquired over the past 12 years in Government. This experience is priceless.

But at the same time, a weak Pound will no doubt fuel the cost of imports depending on the cost of living crisis. The Governor of the Bank of England has ruled out any emergency increase in the Bank Rate in the immediate future. That’s “cool” in the colloquial.

How the Conservatives want to play their cards when Parliament reopens will to a large extent determine the outcome of the crisis?