By Basil Fernando –
The Federation of the University Teacher’s Association (FUTA) deserves to be congratulated for organising a historic convention on August 17, 2012 on the current status and future direction of state education in Sri Lanka (or “free education” as it is popularly known) where, by way of consensus, 50 national trade unions and civil society organisations made a pledge to protect state education. There is nothing more important to be saved in Sri Lanka than the right of the younger generation to be educated, and this is not possible without protecting state education.
The pledge by the 50 organisations reads as follows. They have collectively resolved to:
- Work towards restoring the value of education to fulfill a larger public good;
- Lobby the government to recognise the importance of protecting and enhancing state funded education;
- Work collaboratively to restore public confidence in the state education sector;
- Advocate for the government to honour its commitments to enhance funding for education to reach at least 6% of the GDP, which is the minimum UNESCO benchmark for state support for education;
- Resist and challenge political interference with the management of educational institutions.
The development of the right to education for everyone irrespective of income levels is one of the greatest achievements of Sri Lanka as a nation. The ability of the Sri Lankan nation to develop a body of thinking that was enshrined in a state policy to provide education for all is a manifestation of a very advanced consciousness within the nation, achieved in the early part of the 20th Century. The policy of education, an important issue to the nation, is able to guarantee equality of opportunity – in reality, not merely in theory – and making education available to the young is indeed one of the most enlightened decisions that Sri Lanka has ever made.
Now this achievement is under threat. Instead of an enlightened state policy, the economic greed of a few has come to the forefront and is undermining the most important principles agreed upon by earlier generations. Therefore, the decision to bravely resist this attack on one of the most fundamental aspects of the Sri Lankan nation needs to be saluted by all. Every Sri Lankan who treasures the body of democratic principles that the nation arrived at during the earlier part of the 20th Century would be willing to support those who have courageously taken this pledge.
While saluting all the individuals and organisations who have taken this pledge, it is only right for each of us to express our own pledge to protect state education, and to do all we can to resist every attempt to undermine this important institution.
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