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Sri Lanka cancels school exams for millions after running out of printing paper

The country is facing an economic crisis said to be its worst since 1948

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 21 March 2022 12:16 GMT
Sri Lanka’s schoolgirls look on as they sit in a classroom wearing facemasks
Sri Lanka’s schoolgirls look on as they sit in a classroom wearing facemasks (AFP via Getty Images)

Sri Lanka has run out of printing paper, leading to the cancellation of school exams for millions of students in the middle of a severe economic crisis, the country’s worst since 1948.

The term exams, scheduled a week from Monday, were postponed indefinitely because Colombo is struggling to find the money to finance imports, resulting in the shortage of paper.

The term exams for classes 9, 10 and 11 that have been cancelled are part of a part of a continuous assessment to decide if the students should be promoted to the next grade by the end of the academic year.

“School principals cannot hold the tests as printers are unable to secure foreign exchange to import necessary paper and ink,” the department of education of the country’s Western Province said, according to news agency AFP.

The paper shortage could reportedly hold up tests for nearly two-thirds of the cash-strapped nation’s 4.5 million students.

The south Asian nation is reeling under a crippling economic crisis brought about by a shortage of foreign exchange reserves to finance essential imports. In February, the country's inflation hit 15.1 per cent, with food inflation soaring to 25.7 per cent, according to the latest government data.

People across the country can be seen waiting in serpentine queues for hours to purchase essentials such as groceries and oil with the government instituting many electricity blackouts.

Two men on Sunday collapsed and died while standing in separate queues to secure fuel amid sky-rocketing prices. Both men in their seventies collapsed while waiting for petrol and kerosene oil in two different parts of the country, police spokesperson Nalin Thalduwa said.

Sri Lanka suspended operations at its only fuel refinery on Sunday after crude oil stocks ran out, said Ashoka Ranwala the president of the Petroleum General Employees' Union.

The use of kerosene oil has increased manifold after low-income families shifted from cooking gas due to price increases. LAUGFS Gas, the country’s second-largest supplier, raised prices by 1,359 Sri Lankan Rupees ($4.49) for a 12.5kg cylinder.

Sri Lanka’s central bank floated the rupee earlier this month, causing the currency to plummet by more than 30 per cent.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last Friday confirmed it was considering president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request to discuss a bailout to resolve its foreign debt crisis.

In a televised address to the nation, Mr Rajapaksa vowed to work with the IMF to resolve the fiscal crisis and said the reason behind it was the foreign exchange shortage due to a large $10bn trade deficit.

India on Thursday extended a $1bn credit line to Sri Lanka so the country could secure food, medicines and other essential items.

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