By The Economist | Colombo –
The pair, both in their eighties, were among hundreds of protesters who met at Colombo’s Hyde Park on August 23rd to demand a dramatic increase in the government’s education spending. “Darling, I’m nobody,” the old woman said. “But poor people are having trouble getting their kids educated.” And she wanted the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to take note.
Sri Lanka’s state-run universities have been crippled since July 4th, when nearly 5,000 lecturers went on strike to call for a 20% salary increase. The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) said droves of academics were leaving Sri Lanka because of poor wages.
The union’s wish list expanded significantly as negotiations with the government broke down. It now includes a stipulation that the government should increase expenditure on education from the current 1.9% of GDP to 6%. This became the battle cry of a determined—and growing—movement that has rattled the government so much that on August 22nd it shut down all universities indefinitely.
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