Let’s Rethink And Renew Our ‘Social Contract’ As Academics

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By Liyanage Amarakeethi -

Liyanage amarakeerthi Colombo telegraph

Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi

(Excerpts of a speech delivered at the Arts Theatre, University of Peradeniya, on 29th August, 2012).

Last two months have been educational for me as, I am sure, they have been for all of you. During our trade union action last year, many of us in our generation, those of us who are mid-career academics in this university, learned from our seniors how to stand up for our rights. This time it is our generation that has had to take up leadership in this trade union action though we did have the invaluable support of our teachers at every step. Even though I was active in politics in my teenage-years, guided by my uncle who was the Kurunegala District Secretary of the Sama Samaja Party, and though I have been active individually in politics all along after that, for the last 20 some years I have stayed away from getting involved in any kind of party politics. The same is true of most of us who make the leadership of Peradeniya teacher associations.

Critical distance from political parties

We may have intellectual engagements with the positions of different political parties, but as academics we have kept a critical distance from all parties. More importantly as academics we also keep a critical distance from the centres of power such as the state. We know very well that the state is an institution that is all too easily tempted into assuming that it has limitless power. Therefore, the institutions of civil society, including universities, have a responsibility to keep it in check, watched, and critiqued. To meet that responsibility of universities is our duty as intellectuals. So, we keep our distance from government. We have learned from the greatest intellectuals of our time that our duty as intellectuals is to speak truth to power. Genuine intellectuals speak truth to any centre of power. That is our duty. We have re-learned that lesson during our struggle.

Things I have learned during the last two months have been much more than what I learnt during the years of political activism in my youth. Today, I want to speak very briefly of some of those things. Before that, however, I want to recall what we have been up to for the last two months.

For the last two months, we have been united. No matter what our opponents and critics have said we have remained united. As intellectuals, we are men and women of ideas. We think. We rethink. We disagree. We debate. We rethink. That is our life, that is what we value about our life. Although each of us has his or her own ideas about things, we have come together to fight for a common cause because we know that many of the problems we face in our academic life have resulted from lack of funding allocated to our sector, to universities, creating conditions that made it difficult and sometimes impossible for us to teach and to do research. These things are our life. We come to life when we are busy at these things. We come to life in the presence of our students in classes, in lecture rooms and in labs. We come to life when we encounter great thoughts in the library. We get goose bumps when we see a new truth related to our subjects, to our fields. We know the pleasure of encountering a new idea. We know the pleasure of discovery. We know the pleasure of creativity. We know the pleasure of seeing our students thinking with us, learning with us, debating with us. Every day we find at least some children of our country learning something new with us, and this makes us look forward to what they will learn with us tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

Legacy of Free Education

To see everyday that in what we do together we are passing the legacy of free education to the next generation is also a pleasure for us. That is how we feel that we are in the middle of the stream of history in our country and the world, and it is a joy for us. That is also why we have chosen this life. That is why many of us have returned to this country after completing higher studies in much richer countries where better opportunities were available to us. We did not take them because our conscience told us to return to join the history of our own country, to take part in making the history of our own country, to remind ourselves that own individual destinies are inseparable from the destiny of our society, of our people, of our country.

These are all things that nourish our intellectual life, our creative life.

But of course, our salary is also important. Salary is fundamental for us to live with dignity, to achieve success in our academic endeavours, to live up to our responsibilities for our children and our families. We don’t have to shy away from demanding a respectable salary, a salary that will keep us interested in what we do, a salary that will sustain us through long hours of research, thinking, and writing and a salary that is enough that we do not have to turn away from our chosen and proper duties to eke out supplements to our income that we need to support our loved ones. We need a salary that is just enough that we do not have to go behind politicians to look for extra money. Our true vocation is to create knowledge and share it. For that we need a great deal of independence. For that we need a better salary than we now have, a much better salary. Therefore, the demand for an adequate salary for teachers has to be an integral part of the excellent universities that we dream of, and which we are trying to create for this country.

Academic freedom and autonomy

But we have realised that no amount of money can safeguard the academic freedom and autonomy that are also integral parts of excellent universities. We don’t want a better salary at the price of academic freedom. We want a salary increase but we don’t want the politicization of universities to be the price that is paid for it. We want politicization to stop. We want to to remove the political interference that has already taken root in universities. That is why our demand for better salary is only one part of our struggle, and that this is so is why our struggle is the most wide-ranging, the most socially-significant trade union action this country has ever seen.

For the last two months our struggle has not being limited to securing our own financial interests or even our own dignity, but we have dignified ourselves by drawing attention to the larger socio-political issues related to every aspect of the education sector of this country.

By doing so, we have transformed our struggle into a much larger social force. That is the secret of our success. Within two months, the sign “6%” has become a symbol of justice, of fundamental rights, and of democracy. It has become a visible sign that our goals transcend certain boundaries that we have often taken to be untranscendable. When others have seen in “6%” the sign of all that we are doing, they know that we have renewed our contract with society, to use once again the beautiful Gramscian phrase used by my friend Sumathy Sivamohan to describe what we do in her address last year at the public seminar organised by FUTA.

We can create something extremely important, a history making dialogue, something no political party could even think of. Many of the things that we have learned through this struggle about the importance of education, about democracy, about emancipation, and about freedom are things that are way beyond the consciousness of all of our political leaders. That is why the FUTA leadership is already regarded as harbingers of a new social reality. By talking to people on streets, by writing to the newspapers, by marching on roads, even by attending meetings like this, we have all added to that new reality.

FUTA does have a message. Every day that message grows in meaning as each of us adds to it. Every day that message reaches areas where such messages have never reached before.

FUTAmessage

What is that message? It is the message that free education at every level has been the most important factor for social change in the history of Sri Lanka and we must pass it on to our children and their children. The sense of social justice that the idea of free education brought into our society was unprecedented. Nothing like that has happened before and its importance continues. Its work is not yet done. That message needs to be heard in every village in this country. That message needs to be taken to every neighbourhood in this country. It needs to be shared in every slum in every city. That message needs to be passed to every citizen of this country, not just in Sri Lanka but wherever Sri Lankans have gone abroad to work, it has to be repeated. Only then will a social consciousness about the need of state- funded education will grow and grow and grow. We don’t want this consciousness to grow only for our jobs to be secure; we want the ideals of freedom we hold dear to us to be safe. Some may have other opportunities that education offers, but many like us will continue to have access to education only at these universities. We realised this was our last chance to take this message to our people. We were right. It seems that many people have forgotten the significance of free education. But, when we talked to them on the streets, at public rallies, the preciousness of free education, its absolute social value returned to their minds like the words of a beautiful song that they used to know. Now many of them remember the entire song. They will sing it. We will sing it with them. That will be the song of our victory!! One day, very soon, we will sing that song together!!

Though some of us may like to think that academic ivory towers are possible and they are there, and we can live in them in a peaceful independence, all of us know that the moment we go out of this beautiful university park we see poverty, we encounter social marginalization all around us. We see schools are closing down. The school at Uda Peradeniya, where our former vice chancellor received his primary education faces the risk of closure. It might have already disappeared from the map of that village if not for the poor children who still attend it. During our struggle we realised that hundreds of rural schools are disappearing. They are disappearing from the consciousness and memory of the people who no longer remember those schools as centres of excellent education and the conditions of social improvement.

During our struggle we saw how those memories were being systematically erased. Systematic cuts to funding to rural schools has undermined the very foundations through which the free education was once delivered.

Let’s sing…

I know that some of you thought that we went beyond the mandate of a trade union by talking about these issues by making them our own. But please consider: the very school system that made you educated citizens, that made it possible for you to be here, might not be able to produce anyone like you any more. That school system might not be able to send us students from every corner of our country who can join with us in the joy of true academic pursuits. All these issues appeared in front of us, when we reflected on how we could protect the state education sector in a way that will in turn protect our own academic lives.

There we found that free education has been the greatest social leveller in the modern history of our country. That is our inheritance, let us make it our legacy too. For various reasons our society may need all kinds of private education institutes, but it is the state education sector that can guarantee for all a sense of social equality, which was philosophical and political foundation of free education. For the last two months, we have been fighting for the preservation of our inheritance, this legacy. We are happy that many people have gained a new understanding of that invaluable inheritance. That was why our Colombo rally was the greatest ever public rally on education.

During the last two months, we have been able to put aside minor divisions among us. We have not not succumbed to factionalism. We have put aside personal ambitions. Deans, heads of the department, professors all put aside institutional hierarchies and we have marched alongside each other like equals. That in itself was a transforming experience for many of us. In that we discovered our shared humanity, we understood the value of humility. Our struggle made us all more human and humane.

The most crucial days of our struggle have arrived. These are days that will test our courage, our dedication. Perhaps, this September will bring us the greatest challenge that many of us have ever faced personally. But, as someone who participated in that awesome rally in Colombo and in the very enthusiastic action committee meeting after it, I can tell you that we shall overcome, we shall overcome and someday soon. After being without salaries for two months, our spirit remains unbroken; our courage keeps growing. The government may want to break us and to get us to their feet. We will not give them that pleasure. We are academics. We are the four thousand people in this country with an important role to play in this country. We are men and women who can shake governments and mobilise people with the visions of the future that we can create and share. We are academics, we are Peradeniya academics. Very soon, we will walk back into our classrooms with our heads still held high.

I am not a big leader of the FUTA but I trust my leadership. By the time we return to work in a few weeks, we will have won a significant number of our demands, as well as all our overdue salaries. And we will have reminded the people as well as the government the true meaning of free education. We will have created a public consciousness on education that will last for many years to come. We will have taken our places in history. Let’s stay united so that we get to see what we have set out to do become reality very soon.

Let me end this speech by quoting the title of one my favourite books. This is how two of the greatest educationists of the 20th century, Paulo Freire and Miles Horton named their book: “We make the road by walking.”

Ladies and gentlemen. let’s finish this walk and make the road that will take our people to the land of educated citizenship. Let’s make that road to freedom.

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18 Responses to Let’s Rethink And Renew Our ‘Social Contract’ As Academics

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    FUTA says it is fighting for free education. They are against “private” medical faculty at Malabe. Yet, the Malabe outfit is staffed by Sri Lankan University teachers aka FUTA members. Irony is that the FUTA members are on strike except for the Medical teachers! All the medical faculties are open!! Yet the FUTA is on strike to protest against the Private Medical school!!!!!! FUTA should not be dissapointed for the fact that the Academics of the Medical Faculties are NOT striking. FUTA should understand that the “medical academics” have their own problems. Usually when the GMOA strikes, the doctors attached to the Govt hospitals won’t do private practice on that day. Even the worst strike of GMOA resolves less than three days, there is no real risk of loosing the extra income for months. However if the “medical academics” have stopped their work during past three months as FUTA did, they would loose their private practice. In fact the “medical academics” acted rather wisely (even the private university issue is a medical school thing, “medical academics” snubbed the FUTA and did not mingled with the hoi polloi of FUTA and IUSF the JVP student Union…). While FUTA members were not paid during past three months, the “medical academics” got their monthly salary as well as the income from their private practice!

    Ding Don
    September 5, 2012 at 2:23 am
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      As far as I know the the doctors are in fact supporting the strike and held a one day token strike in sympathy with the FUTA and its demands last week. So please stop spreading S.B and the regime’s mis-infromation!

      Devika
      September 5, 2012 at 9:29 am
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    You say “… I am not a big leader of the FUTA but I trust my leadership. … ” That is very encouraging with the kind of leadership at FUTA … By the way, some people think that the President Ranjith Devasiri and Vice president monk Dambra Amila of FUTA have different agenda called REGIME CHANGE …. If it is so, I think FUTA should be converted to a political party …. That may not be a bad idea considering the lack of opposition to the government … There are some people like Kumar David looking for a guy to take on Mahinda … They were so desparate so much that Monk Sobhitha was at first in the list …. Could you believe Kuma D proposing sinhala budhist monk to the highest position in the land? I feel Ranjith D or even monk Dambara Amila is better suited than any other proposed …. At least they are intellectuals and fighting without any flexibility to achieve %6GDP for education …. Who could oppose that? What about the wisdom of selecting that for a fight hiding salaries, scholarships to private schools for children etc ….

    Bruno Umbato
    September 5, 2012 at 2:51 am
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      Education should have 10 percent and the whole development model based on the crap Mahinda Chithnaya must be changed to put human and social development first. Today there is no rational and appropriate development planning in Sri Lanka – since the Rajapassa brothers have no concept of real human development as a social process and have marginalized the experts and bureaucrats with the knowledge of local development priorities – as Prof Viswa Wrnapala points out. Thusm what passes for development are white elephant infrastructure projects, for which huge loans have been taken to suit the megalomania of the uneducated Rajapakse Bros. while the country sinks in debt and they siphon half the borrowed funds from China into their pockets! This sort of “development” process must end – the Dons must challenge it explicitly as they are doing implicitly by asking for 6 percent GDP to education. The Rajapassa Bros suffer from delusions of grandeur and a form of paranoid megalomania evident in the so called “development” policy of the regime which is in fact a development nightmare and disaster. The Dons must rise to the challenge play their part and liberate Lanka from the Rajapassa debacle..

      Dinuk
      September 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm
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    Nice work Dr. Amarakirti! Excellent discussion – keep up the good work – be of good courage and stay the course FUTA! You folks are doing a great service to the whole country at this time and will be needed to guide the PEACEFUL REGIME CHANGE that is about to happen.. Also, thanks for addressing a most important issue: the task of the academic of SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER – to be independent of politicians and political power and parties.. This is fundamental and addressed at length in the writings of Max Weber in Essays in Sociology and “Objectivity in the Social Sciences” which addresses the need of the social scientist and theorist to be socially and politically engaged but not politicized – i.e. have a norms-based and self-reflexive position in a post-modern world. The new generation of FUTA must become leading PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS which Sri lanka needs at this time. The previous generation of academics had forgotten that they need to lead the public discourse and set the frames of the discussion on “development”, its purpose, process and normative basis because they were running behind politicians for hand outs due to poor salary.. This must stop and the academics of Lanka must rise to the post-war challenge of being CRITICAL PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS and leading the debates. Hopefully FUTA winning its demands will enable this.. BE THE CHANGE FUTA!

    Chanakya
    September 5, 2012 at 3:32 am
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    Thanks. Great piece of work. What FUTA started as a simple salary issue some years back has become a national movement on education now. Some time back, when UNHRC was a hot topic in public arena, government said the FUTA project is an international conspiracy. Govenment did not take sufficient steps in solving the problem. Now nobody says FUTA agitation is an international conspiracy. Now, it a interpreted by some as a movement for regime change. The public has now realised that the govenment funded education is in great danger. It appears that if the government kept on disregarding the issues raised by FUTA, the people might want to do a regime change at the next general ellections.

    Rajasinghe
    September 5, 2012 at 8:18 am
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    All most all theacher in the universities do private practice not only doctors. FUTA says it is fighting for free education and against “private” medical faculty at Malabe. Why not for other facuties? I think Sri Lanka need regulations for private universities. Proper rules and regulation help for quality education. Heigher education is basic human right whether it is private or public. Government can not provide university education for all qualified students. According to the size of Sri Lankan population, we need 40 universities. Government should get Chinese assistant for university education development and not only military. Most people complain MR and his goverment ignored university education and just want to promote technical and vocational educcation. “Education Hub” is dream and just a spice of words.

    lala
    September 7, 2012 at 1:55 am
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    I shall just pick one point of all what the writer says; “… the sign “6%” (of GNP, I presume) has become a symbol of justice, of fundamental rights, and of democracy.” What nonsense! Its no secret that all the government expenses add up to 23% of GNP. If the government does allocate 6% of GNP to education as Dons wanted, the government would be spending one quarter of all its budget. Needless to say development, subsidies, welfare, defense, roads, health, and all the rest have to be met with the remaining three quarter. Is it practical? Only bankrupt politicians who can never come to power would say, ‘yes’. Moreover, had the Dons helped the society by producing good enough learneds who can be gainfully employed in our industries all this time? I wonder? Tell us how many graduates these Dons trained hold top jobs in industry. I bet not many. In my opinion, most such graduates has been a burden to the society waiting for the government hand them jobs and a pension. They are good to find excuses not to get things done. One other thing, no government in the world spends 6% of GNP for education. Get it right; in many countries, that is the percentage that adds up to when all the expenses that educational institutions spend together. Clearly, Dons have a political aim. Leela

    Leela
    September 7, 2012 at 5:34 am
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      There have been many questions raised about this ” 6% of GDP/GNP” and FUTA (and so does the Govt) have failed to explain to the general public in layman’s terms what it is, although they continue to say that that is their main demand. Also, if they are telling the truth ( and nothing but the truth) they should compare SrI Lanka’s such expenditure with some comparable countries such as say India, Malaysioa, Pakistan and Bangladesh ( and not the likes of UK US or AUS please). To prove the point, I am quoting below an article published by a Uni academic who has given 2 other reasons also as to why he is not supporting FUTA’s action. Quote Why some University Teachers are not Participating in the FUTA Strike Action 25 August 2012, 9:25 pm University Of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka by Mahendra Gunawardane Everybody knows by now that the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) has been leading an all out trade union action of university academics. However, it has not been so widely known that there are some lecturers who refused to join the strike action. Some of them continue to teach their students without interruption and I am one of them. Many would find it difficult to understand why some of us stay away from the trade union action while many others are engaged in. The FUTA and its followers may like to know why some lecturers do not follow them. However, unless they ask why, I have no appetite to give them explanations and I certainly refuse to be apologetic. Nevertheless, I am happy to clarify my stance to my students and to the public who pay my salary. My students already know very well why I refused to participate in the TU action, as I have discussed the matter lengthily with them intermittently during the long hours of lectures I had with them during the past month or so. Hence, the aim of this piece is to justify my action in the eyes of general public. I would like to point out also that even if the TU action is over by the time this is published, the arguments would always be relevant. Though many lecturers, including even some who are on strike seem to have no clear idea on what FUTA really is asking for, the demands can be roughly put into three categories. One demand of FUTA is that there must be further salary increases surpassing the unprecedented pay hikes given since mid 2011 until now. FUTA also demands that the government must spend 6% of the GDP on education. The third demand says that the education sector must be left without any political interference and the decision making in the sector must be left to the lecturers. I had pre-planned to keep the students in the university by informing them well ahead of the FUTA strike action that I will continue to conduct lectures. My students stayed en masse, and to do them justice for hanging about for a single series of lectures, I had to take whole days of lectures with them without restricting ourselves to scheduled one or two hours. To do so, what had I in mind about the FUTA demands? Salary and allowances: I and my comrades who refused to join the FUTA action do not suffer from any allergy to money. If there are further pay hikes, it would be good for us as well. However, my conscience does not allow me to stick to such demands so arrogantly at the expense of my students. To me, it is almost like taking them hostages. Therefore, I do not feel like resorting to strike action demanding further pay hikes. Nevertheless, if a salary increase is given under an agreement between the government and the FUTA or as a humanitarian overture of the government or as a result of the government knuckling under FUTA pressure, I would accept the increment without any shilly-shallying. I am sure those of my profession who are on strike will be hopping mad by reading this. How would they be able to stomach the idea of people like me reaping the benefits of their struggle while opposing it completely? I also believe strongly that one has an obligatory social responsibility to join hands in achieving common good. However, here I have to give preference to serving my students instead of joining a TU action that victimizes the students. I am well aware of the fact that a delay in graduation even by a month or two will be enough to delay the progress in the lives of students by years. As we have been given extraordinary salary increases during the 2011-2012 years, the priority in pay hikes should now be given to employees of other sectors. I reach that decision as a supposedly educated employee who must thus have a holistic view on the country, its economy and the people. That is another reason for me not to join demanding a pay hike for university lecturers at this juncture. The FUTA asks for allowances to give private-school education for their children and also to keep their children in fee-levying hostels. I have the self-esteem not to be a part of such wicked demands, which would infuriate the general public if they come to know. The FUTA also asks from the government to take university teaching as a 24hour job and to give allowances accordingly. This is pure insanity, I think. 6% of GDP on education: The Gross Domestic Product of a country is the total market value of all the products and services produced in the country within a year. The FUTA demands that the government must spend a 6% of the GDP on education. 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. I am reluctant to brand the FUTA officials as morons who cannot understand such simple logic. Having said that, I must admit that the FUTA bigwigs have always been trying to duck the question, when pressed to explain how on earth a government can spend that much on education. The fact of the matter is that this demand for 6% of GDP expenditure is not at all a reasonable demand that has been formulated after careful analysis by FUTA on the Sri Lankan education sector. Instead, it is a demand put forward initially by the JVP as an attempt to instigate student unrest, if possible, for another round. There are reasons to believe that this demand was something forced down the throats of other FUTA officials by those who are linked to the JVP. Even those who knew that it would be futile to launch an all out strike on a policy issue like this had to join hands, not to be seen as less enthusiastic in the struggle and thrown out as a result. The source from where the influence comes alone is a good enough deterrent for people like me to refuse joining the TU action. Sri Lanka has been known as a country that gives much emphasis on education. It is legendary that the education is totally free here. Free education and free health are main indicators of our success story. These are achievements appreciated in the world and achievements we all can be proud of. It has been recognized all over the world that the standards we maintain in our education system are among the highest. In the majority of other countries, the parents have to cough up money for their children’s education and the expenditure on education is calculated taking that also into account. This is the reason for some countries to show higher figures of expenditure than us, even though their emphasis on education remains very poor. I am unable to disrupt the education of my students going merely by some theoretical calculations that tend to depend on many variables. Decision making in the university sector and political interference: Some people may not know the fact that all the decisions in the university education are taken by nobody else but university academics. The Vice Chancellor who administers the university, the Deans of the Faculties and Heads of the Departments are university lecturers by profession. In a university, there are various decision making bodies of widest possible participation such as curriculum development committees, boards of studies, faculty boards, the senate and the council and they all are composed of nobody else but university lecturers. Above a university there is this governing body called the University Grants Commission. Who are the decision making officials at the UGC? They are university lecturers. So, it is very wrong to say that there is any influence of decision making, other than that of the university lecturers themselves. Nevertheless, one should not forget the fact that it is the public who spend billions on university education. What the government does is the management of this expenditure. Those who manage the expenditure have every right to monitor how it is spent at the universities. If there are some irregularities, shortcomings or scope for improvements, it is the duty of the relevant minister to interfere promptly, instead of sitting idle wasting public money. The problem, if any, is the lack of interference. In the United Kingdom, there is no government interference at all on the university sector and as a result, the universities have to find money by themselves for survival. They had to increase student fees by many folds, an action that caused the recent student riots. There has been abrupt closure of many departments of studies of which the graduates have no value in the job market. The lecturers there are recruited not on permanent basis but on the basis of three year contracts. Unless you bring in money to the universities by doing research on the request of outside commercial establishments, the contract will not be renewed and you will be thrown out at the end of the third year. Many non academic officials are also taken in on temporary contracts. The education sector in my country is much more stable than that. The main reason behind this is the colossal expenditure the government spends on education, increasing the amount every year. As university lecturers who know these facts, I and some of my colleagues have pledged not to stay away from our supposed to be noble duty of teaching. That said, I have to admit that we too would join any strike action if the government is going to ruin our education system. However, it is clearly evident that it is not what this government is up to. Instead, it has ventured into improving the education sector and to make it capable of even earning foreign exchange. This is the exact meaning of the declared aim of making the island the hub of knowledge in the region. Knowing all these, I cannot refuse to teach my student and, therefore, together with my likeminded colleagues, I refuse to participate in the current trade union action. (Mahendra Gunawardane is Head of the Department,Department of Microbiology, University of Kelaniya)

      Hewa
      September 7, 2012 at 8:53 am
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      The economy has to expand if it is to absorb available graduates. An incompetent govenment, while not doing its job and investing heavily in white elephant projects cannot blame universities.

      sam
      September 8, 2012 at 10:42 am
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        It is one thing for a trade union to demand increase in salaries, improve working conditions and oppose bribery, sleaze and corruption but it’s another thing altogether to stranglehold an elected government and try to force some absurd policies on it. It is now clear that either Dons who are on strike are trying to hijack the right of the government to rule or effect a regime change. And that is no democracy by any standard. And no government in the world would tolerate such acts. If these Dons are so determined they ought to advance their union activity to engage in politics openly. Without hoodwinking the public, they ought to upgrade their trade union to a political party and publish a comprehensive policy manifesto detailing not just how they plan to provide jobs for all that new breed of useless intellectuals that would proliferate from allocating 6% of GNP for education but also explain how they would expand the economy to uplift the living standard of the less educated mass with the meagre balance the government would be left with. And not just that, these Dons should contest elections of their own or by aligning themselves with a political party that tally with their so-called intellect and see where they would end up. I bet, they would be in for a rude shock. Dons, are you ready? Leela

        Leela
        September 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm
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          Leela advises: “Dons should contest elections of their own” There are other ways of dealing with such appalling activities by academics. First MR should ban all trade union and their activities. Second he should abolish all universities. Third send in the white van. I cannot think anything else.

          Native Vedda
          September 8, 2012 at 1:30 pm
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      Leela says: “One other thing, no government in the world spends 6% of GNP for education. Get it right;” Get your facts right. See below a table which includes countries whose educational expenditure far exceed 6%. What is the matter with you? Public spending on education, total (% of GDP) Country name 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Jamaica 5.5 6.2 6.0 6.1 Argentina 4.9 5.4 6.0 Belize 5.7 6.1 Kyrgyz Republic 6.5 5.9 6.2 Costa Rica 4.7 5.0 6.3 New Zealand 6.0 5.6 6.4 7.2 Barbados 6.9 6.7 6.7 Finland 5.9 6.1 6.8 Swaziland 7.5 7.1 7.4 Sweden 6.6 6.8 7.3 Norway 6.7 6.4 7.3 Iceland 7.4 7.5 7.8 Botswana 8.0 7.8 Cyprus 6.9 7.4 7.9 Burundi 7.2 8.3 9.2 Maldives 5.5 5.7 8.7 Denmark 7.8 7.7 8.7 Moldova 8.3 8.2 9.5 9.1 Cuba 11.9 14.1 13.1 12.9 Timor-Leste 11.3 15.7 14.0 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GD.ZS?order=wbapi_data_value_2009+wbapi_data_value&sort=asc

      Native Vedda
      September 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm
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        @ Native Vedda Simply stating all these names and their Educational expenses as a pct of GDP is of no use unless these countries fall into the catogory of comparable countries in relation to SL.There is none except perhaps Maldives which is also very remote. We should instead compare our educational expenditure levels with countries like India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Singapore ( those in the region) or with countries where very high educational standards are maintined, the likes of US, UK, Australia. Not one of these names appear in your list.So this 6% of GDP benchmark is a myth and rubbish. Do you know where this myth came from. Our JVP colleagues, which was then taken over by the FUTA as their so called ” Motto”. This is the political agenda which ‘ Leela’ must have spoken about.

        Hewa
        September 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm
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          Hewa Good point however my intention was to insult Leela’s selective use of statistics to suite her irrational argument. He/she picks up topics and comments without verifying the relevant facts or comparative data as if he/she is an expert of all things or just about everything. Please keep two relevant points in mind. Purchasing Power Parity and Per Capita Expenditure should form the basis of comparison, keeping in mind other factors unique to each country. High expenditure is needed to catch up with internationally expected standards. Therefore less developed/developing countries need to spend more. Highly developed nations need to spend more, so that they could maintain an edge/gap between them and the less developed/developing countries. First Leela should learn when to shut up, I suggest Sri Lanka spends another 1% of its GDP in order to educate him/her. Even then no chance of improving his/her knowledge. Would you agree with me.

          Native Vedda
          September 9, 2012 at 9:50 am
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    Excellent public eye opener

    Upali Samarajeewa
    September 7, 2012 at 5:52 am
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    Another attempt to justify the 6% lie and it will surely be a symbol in the futre for the great big lie it is. These academics pretend that they are saviors of free education in this country but we don’t recall them coming forward to defend free education when the Major threat to free education so far came from International schools. They also never made any noice when the tution culture took root in this country not too long ago. At the present moment every one knows fully well that the socalled free education has had a natural death and who ever gets any education they (parents)have to pay through their noses and those who are engaged in the education buisiness are like blood sucking leeches and sucks to the last drop.

    NAK
    September 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm
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      I think the reasons may be that the proliferation of tuition or the establishment of international schools by theselves will not undermine free education, free education being simply education being available free of charge to all who desire it through a system of government schools and universities. So whether private institutons exist or not will not matter if inadequate funds are not given to improve the education sector. At the moment it is evidently in dire straits. The present claim by these university academics, I think, is that such a system of non-fee levying educational institutions cannot be sustained much longer due to the ever decreasing budgetary allocation for them. So the need is to resuscitate the dead or dying so-called free education system.

      das
      September 10, 2012 at 9:55 am
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