Thousands of teachers ignoring government health warnings on the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on Wednesday to protest their salary levels, the police said.
The teachers have been arriving from different parts of the country in buses, cars and motorcycles with black flags, chanting anti-government slogans and holding banners.
Teachers have been staging smaller demonstrations for the past three weeks, demanding the government settle a dispute on salary inconsistency, which would give them a salary raise.
Several rounds of talks with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Education Minister GL Peiris and others have failed during the past few days, after the government said it needed 56 billion Sri Lankan rupee (280 million dollars) to grant the raise.
“The government does not have the money immediately, but their demand will be considered at the next budget due in November,” Peiris said.
Sri Lanka teachers in government-run schools have stopped conducting online classes for students. The system was introduced to continue classes as schools have been closed since September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Health authorities and the police have warned against public gatherings in view of the increase of the number of Covid-19 cases.
On Monday, 74 Covid-19 deaths were reported, an increase from the average daily death toll of 50. More than 2,500 infections have been recorded daily.
More than 5,000 demonstrators got close the president’s office to mark their protests.
Sri Lanka has more than 250,000 teachers, with a student population of 4.4 million.