‘Save State Education’ in Sri Lanka: Photos and video from FUTA rally in Colombo


Image courtesy Vikalpa

As noted in the mainstream media, “thousands of university teachers, undergraduates and trade unionists marched to the Hyde Park yesterday, accusing the government of turning a blind eye on their grievances. Lecturers representing all universities in the country participated in yesterday’s protest organised by the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA).”

Vikalpa was present at the rally, and captured these photos and video.

  • Mangala Pethiyagoda

    Sri Lanka Government is mismanaging Sri Lanka economy. There is no money to pay for education, healthcare and people’s welfare. But there is plenty of money for guns, bullets, soldiers. In Sri Lanka the militarization is preferred , police state is a norm … plenty of money to build more jails, military camps but there are not enough money for schools, hospitals and childcare.

    Sri Lanka teachers union complained to BBC that Rajapaksa Government wants to militarize the universities. Are the Sri Lanka military want s to militarize the thoughts , the ideas, youngsters minds and the civil society as whole or imprison the young men and women thoughts, imprison ideas, imprison freedoms and civil liberties by militarising the universities?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19325358

    God help our education system!! :( :( :(

  • Citizen

    The country has been hijacked by a select group. The constitution and laws of the country are been amended to cater to their wishes. The legislature is under their control. The military and law enforcement authorities are under their control. The economy and wealth of this country are under their control.

    The ordinary people can be hoodwinked and lead up the garden path. However they cannot deceive the educated masses. They may buy over a few with money and positions but the vast majority have the wisdom to think and decide on their own. They can decide what is right and wrong.

    Let us hope that the educated people of this country who are priviledged by virtue of their education will fullfill their obligations to society and stop the destruction of the country not just be satisified with a salary increase or 6%. Speak up and do what is right for every humble citizen of this land irrespective of politics, language, race or religon.

  • Karunaratne Divulgane

    As always, uneducated village idiots from our government utter nonsense to deceit us and shut our universities down !!

    The Sri Lanka Government is incapable to run our country and in total disarray !!

    They are dragging our country from one crisis to another..

    If the Government fails to do something and things get difficult it puts the blame on international conspiracy, Diaspora, etc, etc, etc…

    That’s an easy way to get out of the situation and hoodwink the uneducated and the gullible..

  • walter

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Sri Lanka has been groomed to be a “gratis” Country.
    C.W.W.Kanangara introduced “Free Education”
    Our population was about 7 million, the student population would have been about 1.5 million at that time.
    While we can happily applaud anyone who wants to give anything free, yet the consequences and the cost of “Free Education” was not evaluated.
    Today our student population is about 4.5 million, and we are on the road to be the “miracle of Asia” but we have set aside a paltry sum of money for our education. The lowest by even Asian standards.
    That is because we really do not have real educated people in the Cabinet.
    The degrees they are claiming are supposed to be through the back doors.
    My view is that this Country will never get off the ground rationally and realistically, all because the majority 71% Sinhala Buddhist have blindly and by their indifference have allowed the Sinhala Buddhist Politicians to Hi-jack the Sinhala language and Buddhism.
    Until this Country separates the Sinhala Buddhist ideology from the functions of the State nothing will be crystal clear.
    The Politicians are clouding every issue with Sinhala and Buddhism.
    This Country has got caught to a whirlwind the worst is that most of the people who are affected ironically are Sinhala Buddhist’s.

    • Off the Cuff

      Dear Walter,

      Sinhalese in general and Buddhists in particular had been the whipping dog for anything and everything that happens in Sri Lanka.

      You say “ ……….because the majority 71% Sinhala Buddhist have blindly and by their indifference have allowed the Sinhala Buddhist Politicians to Hi-jack the Sinhala language and Buddhism”

      Please explain the following.

      1. The JHU, the only political party that was led by some members of the Buddhist Clergy, has not been able to form a govt in this overwhelmingly Buddhist country.

      2. The extreme Nationalist Sinhale Bhumiputra Party is nowhere to be seen in the current political spectrum when over 70% of voters are Sinhalese.

      3. The UNP and the SLFP / MEP which had a high number of supporters from amongst the Sinhala community, had to depend on Minority parties, to form govts

      If as you say, the Buddhists are blind and polarised as Buddhists, then today this country would be governed by a Buddhist Theocracy.

      If as you say, the Sinhalese are blinded by extreme Nationalism and Racism, the Sinhale Bhumiputra Party would have form the govt today.

      If as you say, the Sinhalese are polarised as Sinhalese, not a SINGLE govt since independence, would have been a coalition with Minority parties.

      You see Walter, the Sinhalese in general, are not Blind.
      The Buddhists in general are not Blind. They have been trained by a Philosophy that invites a Critical inward look, at even the Philosophy itself.

      As a senior person in his seventies or eighties, you should be restrained in your writing, lest that sometime in the future, either the Sinhalese or the Sinhalese Buddhists, get polarised, as a defensive counter, to these incessant and unjustified attacks on them.

  • Navin

    The reality is, these guys are just doing politics for the JVP. Some faculty members realized this from the very outset and hence they didn’t join this strike. Of course in typical JVP style FUTA had yellow posters put up inside universities asking them be sent on early retirement! What else can one expect from followers of Dhabara Amila Thero!

    If they are really interested in students, there is lot more that they can do inside universities even with the money that is currently available. Alas, that is too much to expect no eh?

  • http://yahoo Sandy

    While One selfish family and their fawning followers

    live off OUR land, we have to watch our precious children

    go without their basic right to a sound Education.

    For Shame you lot..for shame!!

  • walter

    Off the Cuff

    The Sinhala speaking Nation and the Buddhist’s among them are not blind in the sense, that you may have understood.
    They can see how this Country is being robbed.
    They can hear all the blatant lies spoken on behalf of this Country.
    They can smell how rotten the system is.
    They know that the Law and Order, the Judiciary, the Administration of this Country is corrupt to the core.
    So what is the majority doing? they are the ones who have elected all these people.
    The minority Politicians in the Government have been recruited so that they wont rock the boat. They too have been given all the immunity to rob this Country.
    Make no mistake, many Tamil and Muslim Politicians are all rogues, but sadly it is the majority that has to take the blame, because they have been recruited to prop them up, to give a semblance of Democracy.
    You tell me why would the Mahanayake of Kandy bless a mass murderer?
    Pillayan was blessed with all the T V crews, why would they want the T V crews?
    This is to sell to the Nation, now don’t worry, he has been forgiven.
    His crime is of National importance, Priests and Bishops cannot forgive a crime.
    It has to be done by a court of Law.
    Why cant they forgive the former LTTE combatants?
    A crime is a crime.
    So my dear Off the Cuff
    Before 1948 or just after the term “Sinhala Buddhist” was never heard of.
    What happened was that the Government altered the Constitution and made Sinhala the Official language, later they amended the Constitution again and made Buddhism the first place.
    In other words they automatically made Tamil and other religions second.
    By these amendments the Government made the rest of the population accept that it was the Sinhala Buddhist’s who took total responsibility on all maters concerning the running of this Country.

    NOW IT IS ESTABLISHED TO THE MINORITIES THAT THE TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY FELL ON THE SINHALA BUDDHIST’S.

    THE SINHALA BUDDHIST’S CREATED THIS TITLE AND PUT THIS CROWN ON THEIR HEADS.
    IN REALITY THIS CROWN IS HEAVY AND IRONICALLY MANY OF THE SINHALA BUDDHIST’S DO NOT KNOW WHAT ALL THIS IS ABOUT AND UNFORTUNATELY THEY TOO HAVE TO CARRY THIS STIGMA WITHOUT SUBSCRIBING TO IT.

  • sinhala_voice

    There is ABSOLUTELY no doubt that Sri Lanka MUST increase education spending in ALL it’s aspects….Continuous learning that is….

    We have to look at ways of SOME payment for their first university degree once you are employed here in Sri Lanka or abroad after your degree is completed. Because , the state educates you for your OWN private WEALTH creation endeavour….So you MUST pay your debt for that…

    There has to be a system where FULL PAYING students are admitted to the current universities without reducing the normal intake…

    That is those that can get admission to foreign universities BUT who can pay their way SHOULD be admitted to Sri Lankan state unniversities at upfront payemnt to the course per year is paid to the UNI…

    So the country and the whole student population benefits from peoples’ wealth….otherwise they will go abroad and give money to other countries…So Sri Lanka lose…money as well as human resource captial..plus investment in higher education costs…

  • Navin

    “According to recent statistics, the government income is about 14% of the GDP while the government expenditure amounts up to about 24% of the GDP. A 6% of GDP is therefore exceeds 40% of the government income. It is also about one fourth of the total expenditure. If one fourth is to be spent on education, only three fourth would be left to spend on all the other things, including health, agriculture, salaries, pensions, etc. and for development activities. The reader will immediately realize the difficulty in allocating a good one fourth of expenditure on education.”

    The above was taken from “Why some University Teachers are not Participating in the FUTA Strike Action”, by Mahendra Gunawardane, Head, Dept. of Microbiology, University of Kelaniya.

    The Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Moratuwa has also not joined this strike.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    I have been closely following the evolving scenario at the Universities and comparing it to the scenario when I was a student and faculty member at Peradeniya (1966-1977). The student strikes of that era have evolved now to also include the faculty. It is interesting that the faculty of medical schools are not on stike. The enginnering and IT faculty in Moratuwa are also not on strike. The student strikes were also largely centered on the arts faculty with the reluctant participation of the science faculties, then as now. Medical, dental and veterinary students did not participate in strikes then as now. I remember the time a dog with the name ‘Veterinary faculty’around its neck was taken around in a procession by striking arts students!

    The strike phenomenon whether it be from students or the faculty, seems related to future propospects and national relevance. It seems to be connected to an evolving class situation. Those who can look forward to gainful employment and a secure future had no need to stike even as undergraduates. There was no solidarity as undergraduates, because they were evolving into different classes even as undergraduates!

    The rapid evolution of University education from one to the present twenty one institutions, all providing free-education at state-expense without a proportionate increase in state-resources, has definitely had a negative impact on the universities. The rapid quantitative increase has had its impact on quality. Quality costs, whether it is in education or brooms! Universities have slowly and steadily declined towards the high school model, although what is taught and swallowed matches international course content. This is the standard, many faculty insist they are maintaining. University education is something much wider and deeper than the syllabii taught! Faculty must have the luxury of quality time and resources to explore, think and impart. The students should have the climate and conditions to learn to think, question and imbibe through not only the lectures, but also reading,interactions with the faculty and fellow students. Our universities do not provide this environment. The students should also feel secure about their future. The days of Sarathchandra, Swami Vipulananda, Ludowyke, Gananath Obeysekera, Seneka Bibile, Peter Seneviratne, Prof.Appadurai, Prof S.T.Fernando. Prof.Lelie Gunawardene and the like, are long gone in our universities!

    Further, should there be intermediate institutions like community colleges to absorb a substantial part of the many who seek university admissions now? Should university education be open to only the very best, in terms of not only Advance Level results, but also aptitude and intellect? Should we be churning out arts graduates in such large numbers? Should not the very best be going into the arts faculties, as are now clammering to get admitted to medical schools? Community colleges can be geared to produce the para-medical personnel, technicians, teachers and skilled farmers we need, at less cost and more equipped to meet the needs of the country. The courses and programs they conduct, would also be more amenable to changes to meet the evolving needs of the country. They will also ne close to the communities, than the universities ever could be.

    Further, salaries are an issue at all levels of society now. I was shocked to hear on TV that new entrant teachers will be paid Rs.6000/- per month. A unskilled worker can earn Rs 30,000/= per month now! What would be the quality of teachers we attract to teach our children at such salaries? How could they devote their entire energy and concentration to the education of their wards, if they have to worry about the next meal for themselves and their families?

    Further, to retain the best faculty to teach in our universities, their salaries should be the highest in the country. A university teacher is not only a teacher. He/she should be the thinker and the conscience of the nation. He/she should be the leading intellectual in the country, in relation to his area of speciality. He/she should have the spare money to invest in books or at least photocopy/ print what he/she wants to read. He should have the wherewithal to live without worrying about the needs of his family. The modern day teacher is not a recluse to live on the minimum, as in an gone by. Further, the best and the brightest in our country should be attracted to the teaching profession, whether it be in our schools or universities. This cannot be done, unless the position goes with the required attractions and perks. The salary and perks today determine social status and. No student or undergraduate with the capability and ambition to go with it, will aspire to be a school teacher or university lecturer now!

    Privatization of education at the tertiary level, while not compromising on the quality of free education and principles of social justice, is probably unavoidable now. The government should probably spend its resources mainly on community colleges and a few national universities-centres of excellence. Free education at the state-universities should be only for those who cannot afford it. Those who can afford, should pay fees proportionate to their financial status.

    The other universities should be totally or partially privatized with schlarship and student loan schemes for those who cannot afford the fees. Private universities should also be permitted to function within a national policy framework, for those can afford it. Scholarship and student loan schemes should also be available for those in these private universities.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • ls

    To Dr. Rajasingham and to whom it may concern.

    I carry no prejudice with anyone within this column or outside.
    My views expressed here is only intended to awaken the Sri Lankan Society, however I am convinced that it would take several generations more, for Sri Lankans to come out of this abyss, into which they have fallen voluntarily.
    Dr.R.N.
    Has laboured in length to explain and elucidate the growth and the failings of the Sri Lankan education.
    I have never been through a university nor a High School education.
    My surmise is only emanating from my experience and understanding of Education, and other events in this Country.
    Since Independence the powers that be encroached into all aspects of our Society.
    They put their inexperienced fingers into
    Running of Hospitals and dismantled the proven administrative system.
    They took over private schools, without any substantial planning,that is why International Schools have mushroomed.
    They took over the private bus services and created the C.T.B. which became a total liability.
    They amalmagated the Port Commission and the Port Cargo Corporation and created a giant, so that the Politicians could load it with excess labour.
    They took over the Insurance business.
    They took over the Estates, and now it is being plundered by “Plantation Companies” and the Plantation trade union chief’s.
    They took over excess houses, and quietly gave some to their “catches”
    OK, they took over, say for the benefit of the Country as a whole.
    But can anyone say that this eventually helped Sri Lanka or helped so many cohorts.
    You see the problem is not merely in the Educational system, yes this column is talking about the mess in the Educational system, I beg to differ.
    The problem is that this Country is entrenched in all sorts of dubious machinations, and therefore nothing is clear. Education is only one.
    The Politicians from the begining removed all the clarity from the first Constitution and polluted it in every conceivable manner conducive for their manipulation, or they were totally ignorant about the consequences of their manipulations.
    The students of this Country along with their parents were made to believe that if you “Sinhalafy” the educational system all problems will be solved. So Bandaranaiakya did this in 1956 and came to power.
    Now five and a half decades of this hope and expectation is still lingering and burning alive, but with zero fulfillment.
    The J.V.P. is a product of this, they are behind the University chaos and confusion.
    One cannot blame them for they have indoctrinated themselves into believing, that what was promised, must be delivered.
    Therefore my belief is that the citizens of this Country mainly the “Sinhala Buddhist’s” must change their belief and culture in believing that, only the Sinhala Buddhist’s Politicians, can bring this Country out of this quagmire.
    This culture is naturally rooted due to its propagation for over fifty years, and therefore it will take more than another hundred years for this to be reversed.
    WE ARE REAPING WHAT WE HAVE SOWN.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Is,

    Thanks. I endorse your thoughts. However, it is the citizens of this country- Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims; Buddhists, Hindus and Christians- who have to decide to exercise their vote wisely. Unfortunately, the system of voting within the proportional representation system, involving party lists and preferencial voting, distort the franchise. We -Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims- are electing many ‘????’ to govern us even now. Most politicians are a burden and we do not have many choices.

    Further, all Sri Lankans talk a lot of politics, but are very poor at collectively expressing our opinions/ feelings about how we are governed. We are also a very naive people, who tend to believe everything we hear, without thinking and investigating. We are an easy prey for our politicians and our media!

    Just because the Sinhala-Buddhists, being the majority, cast the most votes, they are not solely liable for our problems. The democracy practiced in this country is a charade and we vote to elect Kings/Queens. If they are benevolent and wise we are lucky, if not we pay a heavy price. Whether benevolent or cruel, most people whom we elect govern us, care tuppence for us and hence we end up being losers either way, though more with the cruel than with the benevolent.

    We have to change,if we want our rulers to change. If we are unwilling to change or incapable of doing so, we are only left with the option of praying.

    In governance and a person’s life, ‘good intentions’ are not enough. They should be followed by ‘right actions’, to result in ‘right results’.

    In Sri Lanka, some intentions of the ruling politicians were good, however their actions were shortsighted, stupid, unwise and sometimes plain dirty. Hence we did not have the right results.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • Concerned Citizen

    In a perturbing turn of events, the Law Faculty final year undergraduates are now being held hostage by the FUTA in their adamant strike against the Government. The undergraduates find themselves in a pickle as the strike is delaying the release of their results which is imperative for them to enroll at the Law College for their bar exams which are to commence in October. While the Law College generally grants an extension to the Law Faculty undergraduates to enroll, this year the strike has postponed the release of the results indefinitely. Moreover, the Law Faculty usually has to request for this extension, however due to the uncertain date of the release of the results, the administration just shrugs and waits for the strike to be over.

    These unfortunate circumstances should be brought to the attention of the Higher Education Ministry as well as the Law College, for none of the undergraduates can come forth and make any sort of commotion for the results may prove to be fatal for the particular individuals that do take a stand. The selfish pursuit of the FUTA and the uncompromising nature of the Government have left the undergraduates in a situation where their whole careers will become bleak and uncertain, but this I believe is something the politically motivated FUTA and the uneducated Government officials would probably disregard.

    • unistudent43

      Concerned Citizen,

      Its interesting that you seem ‘perturbed’that ‘the Law Faculty final year undergraduates are now being held hostage by the FUTA in their adamant strike against the Government’. I was at Eran Wickramaratne’s Forum meeting and there were heaps of Law fac students quite sympathetic towards FUTA’s demands. While my sympathies lie with the law fac students – as an undergraduate in campus i’d like to say that undergraduates (even those like me who belong to other faculties outside of law) all find ourselves in a ‘pickle’. Some of us are in our final year trying to pass out as graduates and start our lives by applying for masters degrees abroad or jobs but we can’t because we have not completed out basic degree. If anyone should be complaining about this strike it should be us.

      Lecturers can choose to join the strike genuinely, pretend to strike but earn their bread and butter on the sly , or completely disassociate themselves from the Strike as the Moratuwa uni and the medical faculties have done. But us uni students have no other alternative. The only option we have is to keep hanging on the glimmer of hope that the government and lecturers will come to some kind of agreement soon. (after participating in today’s forum however that glimmer was pretty much snuffed out).

      Yes you are right to say that this strike leaves “the undergraduates in a situation where their whole careers will become bleak and uncertain” but I still feel that its high time the government decided to at least listen to FUTA and their demands. But until either of these parties reach an agreement or rather decide to budge, lets face it – us uni students are the ones who are losing the most!

      Frankly, as a friend of mine said, it is clear that the education system is a mess and anyone who thinks otherwise should try lugging through it like my batch mates and I have. I think what we need is a person, or a few people brave enough to become unpopular and take a bullet (pun intended)on behalf of a cause (in this case education) that they truly believe in. Unfortunately I have yet to see such a martyr.

      Ps: (directed to public in general) – it might be of interest to note that temporary lecturers are being paid if they come to campus and just sign an attendance book as they are not ‘actively’ involved in the strike. We have hot shots like Rajeeva Wijesinha shouting about mis-management of funds and the need for a policy change. Can someone please explain to me why temporary lecturers are being paid for signing an attendance book? And if they are being paid why can’t they lecture? I suppose another question I might raise is – Why isn’t stuff like this brought the public’s attention???