By Lakmali Hemachandra –
Universities around the country will be closed during the whole of next week and the purpose of this sudden decision according to the Chairwoman of University Grants Commission, Kshanika Hirimburegama, is to allow the students the opportunity to experience the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) that is scheduled to be held next week. Speaking to media, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo cajoles, the students that this is in fact a great chance to learn and gain knowledge and asks them to study, the event (from home) and prepare their own reports. Kshanika Hirimburegama during her days in the University played the mother to thousands of students who were away from home, she would reprimand the students if there was a strike, make sure that their activities were under surveillance and keep them on a tight leash, because every mother knows that young children are impressionable and the world is waiting to devour them! However the tiny detail she missed back then and seems to be unaware of even today is that university students are above the age of 18, all of them can vote at elections to decide on the government that is entrusted to appoint all the administrative officers like herself, most of them are allowed to drink and get married without parental consent, allowed to enter to into contracts of employment and allowed in general to make decisions about their lives for the simple reason that they are capable of doing so. To be protected when one is a child is to feel loved, to be treated like children when you are grown up adults is condescending and demeaning, to be treated like idiots when you are engaged in serious academic activity is outright insulting and offensive and that is precisely what Hiriburegama has done with this bogus reasoning for closing universities during CHOGM.
Not only is the government attempting to silence voices of dissent of the students, they are also trying to make us believe that such malicious agendas never even cross their minds and that all of this is done with the perfectly innocent motive of expanding opportunities for knowledge. The government and especially Mrs. Hirimburegama must be knocked down to earth, where she is the Chairwoman of the University Grants Commission, an academic who is capable of serious thought and engagement and she should be reminded that her pseudo mother act is not only insulting to university students but also to all mothers who genuinely care about their children’s wellbeing an education.
In all seriousness though, why would the government close universities across the country, so suddenly (for some universities even have examinations scheduled)? The answer lies in the recent education reforms that the government has been pushing for in the direction of privatization of education. The latest attempt of the government is to create ‘free” education zones, where the private sector will be given government land and other resources to open private universities in order to relieve the government of education spending (not that it spends for education anyway). Needless to say, that this trumps all other efforts made by any government since 1977 to privatize higher education of the country. S.B.Dissanayake is dreaming big and he is going in for the kill mercilessly! It is rumoured that Prince Charles will be opening up the first private university under the scheme, during the week of CHOGM and Minister S.B is going to great lengths to make sure that nobody, especially from the university community, can rain on his parade. Therefore all this talk about giving the students a chance to learn about CHOGM is just in reality as genuine and honest as Kshanika Hiriburegama’s motherly act!
Behind the ridiculous reason that Hirimburegama gives for closing down universities there is also an ugly story about how the people of Sri Lanka are always treated as idiots who can be deceived into cutting off their own lifelines, and this government has in fact mastered the cruel art of using the language of the people against them. That is why the education trade zones that actually put a price on education are called ‘free’ education zones, because free education is associated with a system that gives every child a fair chance in life, irrespective of the wealth of their parents, it is associated with thousands of success stories of poor children, it is associated with the story of a country that boasts about its literacy and it is associated with the dreams of millions who will be losing the only chance in life when education is privatized and sold at a price. Therefore by calling this project of privatizing education ‘free’ education zones the government is tainting the idea of free education and what is has meant and continues to mean to the people of this country. S.B. Dissanayake and Kshanika Hiriburegama are stealing the dignity of a people by mocking what is precious to them, one with his ‘free’ education and the other with her motherly kindness.
What is particularly problematic with Hirimburegama’s behaviour is that she assumes she, along with the Higher Education Minister, possesses the all conclusive knowledge to make the choice on behalf of twenty million people to privatize education and that every member of the academia should play the same demure housewife role that she plays. However, Mrs.Hirimburegama should be enlightened to the fact that privatization of education is resisted with a vengeance all around the world and that even in countries like USA where higher education is largely privatized the demand for free education is getting louder and stronger each day. There are enough struggles for free education and failures in private education to show that privatization of education, is harmful to the wellbeing of the citizens of this country. The students that both the Minister and the Chairwoman look down upon will be more than willing to tell them about what has changed in the world in the last five years.
The inability of both the higher education minister and the UGC Chairwoman to engage in the debate on privatization of education without these shams and lies only proves that they are not willing to listen to anyone else’s opinion and it is especially tragic that those responsible for university education are neither willing nor capable to see beyond their pre conceived and outdated ideas about education. Therefore when Chairwoman Hirimburegama advices the students to stay at home and write reports about CHOGM the students are left with no alternative but to convey her the very obstinate message that we would rather not.
Sumith / November 8, 2013
Scared of university student woulds some demo in middle of CHOGM?
UPFA is had become of paranoid of anything that moves on earth. -:)
Don Stanley / November 8, 2013
Lakmali thanks for this – you are a brave student!
Your Dons however seem to be asleep on their job and have not made any critical analysis of the CHOGM circus on which Rajapassa has spent billions of borrowed funds!
The University Dons of Lanka today are a disgraceful lot! They do not do any cultural analysis or culture critique – just accept the SPIN and Hog Wash that the Rajapassa regime dishes out.. The British Commonwealth has NO geopolitical or economic or social purpose. CHOGM has NO substance, just cultural Pagaentry and Raj Nostalgia.. The lesser the substance the bigger the “CULTURAL” show and the larger the number of gyrating DANCING GIRLS.
But I have not seen a singe post-colonial critique of the CHOGM circus from a University Don!
Mahinda Rajapassa has embraced the WHITE MAN’S BURDEN and is about to put on a crown of thorns as Head of the Commonwealth – he has walked into an international trap to celebrate British Colonialism having spent huge sums to entertain British royalty and the White Commonwealth including Racist Australia that pays Rajapass’s Navy to keep refugee away from white Australia!
IOSalli / November 10, 2013
All these brave students support hazing they are the one drive freshers to dangerous situations. Most of the freshers are abused at the end of the Hazing.
So don’t support these people.
if you support people like this you would have a new government but it will not different from present one.
And if you want to criticize government definitely do it peacefully without putting your life and other life into danger.
Dinuk / November 8, 2013
Uni Students should organize protests outside CHOGM and brave the Rajapassa dictatorship!
They should not wait for the clown called the leader of the Opposition who leads from his Ass – Ranil Wickramasinghe – to literally close the stable gate after the horse has bolted! Ranil the UNP clown has planned protests AFTER the Commonwealth Circus is over on November 15, rather than during the summit! This is keep his white and brown bosses – Rajapassa and Prince Charles happy!
CHOGM is an opportunity for Lanka civil society and the opposition to tell the world the TRUTH about the Rajapassa military dictatorship and DEEP STATE with its facade of democracy!
Dodo / November 8, 2013
Well the news is in! NDTV has announced that Indian PM Manmohan Singh will NOT attend Rajapassa’s party to celebrate the “arrival” of his military dictatorship and the END OF DEMOCRACY in Lanka – the CHOGM circus that also celebrates British Colonialism !
Sri Lankan civil society, Trade Unions and university Students needs to show some GUTS and take to the streets of Colombo – regardless of Gota the Goon’s military security apparatus to PROTEST the CORRUPT Rajapassa brothers destruction of democracy – especially since the Commonwealth Circus claims to be about Democracy and Human Rights… and Gota will not dare shoot students with so many foreign heads present as he did in Weliweriya! The International Bar Association Conference on Democracy and Rule of Law which has been cancelled since Rajapass does not like either and despite Democracy and Rule of Law being the so called values of the Commonwealth of Clowns!
Point of View / November 9, 2013
Charles may get very bad tummy bug and may not visit SL. :)
PalmSquirrell / November 8, 2013
Before I got even a 1/4 way through, I was already thinking that this is a pathetic excise by Rajapaksa Regime to prevent any Student marches, sit-ins, demonstrations, dissent etc..
Jay Pathbey / November 8, 2013
You seem to know it all. So there is such a difference between a 17 year old and a 18 year old according to your logic? You got some nerve you idiot.
JP / USA
Point of View / November 9, 2013
Way to go girl !
Palayang yako! / November 9, 2013
Coming from the land of Bush Junior and the Tea Party, your idiocy is understandable and, speaking of idiots, you should look in the mirror every morning because it just might keep you humble and stop calling other people what you see in that mirror!
Sidney / November 8, 2013
Finally it seems university Dons ans students have woken up from their stupor!
We need critical and academic analysis of the BIG PICTURE of the CHOGM Circus at this time. Unfortunately, post-colonialism studies seem to have be a forgotten subject in the Sri Lanka University and in social sciences, humanities and history. Indeed it is true that University students should indeed make a CRITICAL study the Commonwealth of Nations as the Head of UGC suggests, in the context of:
1. British Colonial history and post-colonial theory, including the Old White Commonwealth and the New Commonwealth
2. The extreme irrelevance of the British Commonwealth of Nations organization which has NO geopolitical, or economic or social or moral reason to exist in today’s world (and compare with other organizations),
3. Make a concerted argument for the Commonwealth which today celebrates third world military dictators to be shut down rather than let an Asian Despot takes over as Head.
Sidney / November 8, 2013
Analysis is needed to EDUCATE the suffering masses re.:
1. The Commonwealth of Nations and CHOGM circus in relation to post-colonial analysis and critic of the “White Man’s Burden” (superiority of white man and need to Civilize Asia and Africa and the Americas) and other theories of “Asian Despotism” and scientific RACISM that legitimated British Colonialism and exploitation of Asian and African peoples, histories and cultures.
Ironically today an Asian Despot, Mahinda Rajapassa is holding a British Colonialism celebration party and spending hideous amounts of borrowed funds after mortgaging Sri Lanka – to boost his family image and military dictatorship.
2. University Economists should be calculating the total bill of the CHOGM circus.
3. Political scientists should analyse the silence of the Lambs – Pathala Champika and Wimal Balu Wansa and the BBS about Rajapassa’s British Colonialism celebration party. What has happened to critical left academe?
Rajapakse clearly loves WHITE ELEPHANTS such as the Colonial relic, the British Commonwealth of Clowns and Chinese Hambantot Port and Airport!
Dodo / November 8, 2013
Contrast the gyrating dancing girls for Rajapassa’s CHOGM “cultural” pageant at the sinking Chinese Nelum Pokuna with the denial of visas for a conference on Human rights by the International Bar Association, and the truth about the Rajapassa regime and the Commonwealth of Nations a.k.a. clowns is clear: the difference between SPIN and REALITY!
Commonwealth of Clowns should be SHUT DOWN!
Fedrick / November 8, 2013
Do not close Universities. They are full of jokers because you see while whole country is going to disaster not any single words from so called University teachers. Universities are no different from country’s media, Parliament or any other place. No one is talking about country’s real issues and problems. The main reason for during last 25 years Universities are filled with out-door connection appointments. Take example as a family dept in Colombo University Arts Faculty. Now grand father is an Emiritus and whole family members and emiritus’ henchmen are professors.
Sanjaya / November 8, 2013
very good and interesting article. Sri Lanka don’t have Universities but perhaps high schools. VCs are like Principles of Maha Vidyalaya. UGC is the Police of these high schools………..
Ahamed / November 8, 2013
I think Sri Lanka should give free and compulsory education only up to Grade 8 (or Age 14). Thereafter, from Grade 9 onward,a nominal fee should be charged to meet the cost of education. Underprivileged but well performing children could be given scholarships and loans to pursue education. In the modern world education is an industry and not a service. This is proved by the fact that even some Sri Lankan medical students are going for tuition. Tuition culture is an informal privatization. There is no harm in regularizing it through free zones. It is a known fact that many rich Sri Lankan students are studying abroad. Why should you block them if they are able to pay and study here?
PalmSquirrell / November 8, 2013
” In the modern world education is an industry and not a service. “
That depends on the country. In the UAE, it is indeed an industry..for the non locals. In the UK, citizens get free education. In the US if one is from lower income background, education can range from free, to a greatly reduced fee.
Free college/uni eduation should be provided for all in SL, because education is absolutely necessary to lift people from poverty and away from digma and superstition. Provodong free education to only those poor who score high on exams will many poor people because there are many extenuating circumstances that prevent poor people from applying themselves.
Ahamed / November 8, 2013
The free education is a tested and failed theory. In Sri Lanka we were providing free education for over fifty years now but it did not lift people from poverty and superstition etc. How many more decades do we need or how much more tax money do we have to spend on this? People are just studying because it is free. If we put a charge for it after Grade 8 (free education up to Grade 8 to ensure literacy), only those who seriously want to study further will go to schools and Institutions (if they are poor, they can get loans or compete for scholarships) while others will enter vocational life.
Yoosuf / November 8, 2013
You nut, you are wrong from the begining of your both comments.
JULAMPITIYE AMARAYA / November 9, 2013
Rich IDIOT, Go to Saudi Arabia and fly a HAND kite.
Ahamed / November 9, 2013
Both of you Yoosuf and Amaraya rightly demonstrate as to why the free education should be abolished in Sri Lanka. You study because it is free. But you cannot listen, understand, think, analyse and express and, finally instead of being a breadwinner, become a burden to the family and the country.
Yoosuf / November 9, 2013
You nut again, why have not really assesed what free education provides for the poorest of the poor in the country. Only a handful of rich guys can efford payed education. Providing free education as a common policy of enshrined on the constition. Just because some guys playing pandu with freely got education, you just can’t suggest to get rid of it. That’s why we pay taxes through our noses. You know just because of the opion like you guys, the politicians try to reduce the expenditure on education and hoodwink us by spending those money on un-necessary projects, such as Mihin lanka, H’tota airport and harbour etc.
Don’t you realy think instead of wasting money on such white elephants, investing free education is worthwhile. Think man, think.
There is saying in sinhala- ‘Labbata thibba atha thamai, puhulata thiyanne ,.!
Ahamed / November 10, 2013
Actually Yoosuf, I thought giving free and compulsory education up to Grade 8 or Age 14 would make a person literate and thereafter, the student can decide whether to continue the education or start working. But after reading your series of comments on my suggestions, I realize that even if we give free education up to PhD or Age 32 years, we cannot make people like you ‘literate’! So keep it up and continue the free education as long as you wish. The people are there to meet the cost. Once you decide enough is enough, you can dye your gray in the groin and go for the interviews with father’s tie and brother’s shirt.
PalmSquirrell / November 10, 2013
How do you know it hasn’t helped people ? Some would have been helped and some not soo much.
Why should free education be curtailed because many people still believe in dogma and superstition , when it is the curriculum that should be addressed.
If free education was a failed theory then why do Western nations like the US and UK provide free or close to free education?
Putting a price on education in a poor country like SL will disenfrancise millions .
I am Sri Lankan Muslim / November 8, 2013
when Sri Lanka become Non Budhist then you can see teh devlopment, untill Time wasters like Monks control this stupid country this will be a worst place forever. De Ja Fuku like Amarasiri says
Bensen Burner / November 8, 2013
Lakmali, you write very well and pls. keep it up. Perhaps your remaining at home and doing some writing on the CHOGM to show Kshanika would be of help. You have some growing up to do for you take these jokers too seriously. Do not worry. We learn that although SB Dissa was frantically learning something like Spoken English for Adults as a second language in order to converse with Prince Charles though only for a few seconds, it now transpires that the Prince will not be opening any university of the sort as referred to by you. Good Luck.Bensen
Spring Koha / November 8, 2013
It is of course a nonsense that the business of this country should come to a halt because the President is hosting an anachronistic gathering. You are brave and right to rile against the baloney that is to be perpetrated on the students and other ordinary citizens of this country in the coming week.
Lakmali, you write……’S.B. Dissanayake and Kshanika Hiriburegama are stealing the dignity of a people by mocking what is precious to them, one with his ‘free’ education and the other with her motherly kindness’…..
A couple of points: there is no such thing as ‘free’ education. A proper education system is recognised as an investment in the one true asset of a community/country – its young people. And only a foolish government would exclude the development of any part of this valuable asset. Sadly for the young people of SL their great misfortune is having someone as incompetent as SB guiding their destinies.
Re Kshanike you write ‘motherly kindness’…..from what I hear, I would describe her actions as that of a patronising control freak.
Lakmali, I wish you and your fellow students the very best of success in your endeavours.
Levi / November 8, 2013
Dear Lakmali Hemachandra
“However the tiny detail she missed back then and seems to be unaware of even today is that university students are above the age of 18, all of them can vote at elections to decide on the government that is entrusted to appoint all the administrative officers like herself, most of them are allowed to drink and get married without parental consent, allowed to enter to into contracts of employment and allowed in general to make decisions about their lives for the simple reason that they are capable of doing so. To be protected when one is a child is to feel loved, to be treated like children when you are grown up adults is condescending and demeaning, to be treated like idiots when you are engaged in serious academic activity is outright insulting and offensive and that is precisely what Hiriburegama has done with this bogus reasoning for closing universities during CHOGM”
You have missed a small but Vital detail.
In Sri Lanka You are mature to Elect And Run the Country. But the Youth have already Sold their Sole to the Regime when they accepted their “wet Nursing of Smoking Habit”.
Please don’t take me wrong I am Old and am not a Smoker and a Tee Totaler. But the Youths right to decide whether they want to die of Cancer or not must be left to them.
If youth accept supervision by Politician They are not competent to Vote and elect the Country’s president.
They have already Lost Morally their right to protest any thing Political. People did not Vote for it. It too is a fundamental right.
Dr.Rajasingham Narendran / November 8, 2013
The silly and diaphanous games those in power play in a country that boasts of 95% literacy, assuming that citizens- including undergraduates- are morons! May be we are. Literacy is not equal to education. We are more literate, but are becoming less and less educated! The cunning literates are lording and manipulating the stupid literates and the few cowed educated!
Park / November 8, 2013
The noose is tightening every where and it is very clear that this is a dictatorship and a military government. I am confused as so many people oppose the regime including the University Students who have great influence on the decisions their parents make and still the Rajapakse regime keeps on getting large number of votes. Can someone tell me how this is happening?>
nimal / November 8, 2013
Kshanika is just being plain stupid when she tells the university students to stay at home and study about CHOGM! The students did not come to the university to study that. They are supposed to follow set courses of study on the subjects they have selected. Kshanika’s statement shows the level of idiocy prevailing in the higher level of bureaucracy under the Rajapaksa regime.
But then are the students any better?
I am sure Lakmali would have used the time in the university in serious academic work, discussion and debate etc. But I am not sure whether many other students would necessarily do that.
Recently it was reported that in the Faculty of Arts in the University of Colombo, the student union lead by students loyal to Frontline Socialist Party organises various social events during lecture hours forcing students to attend them cutting lectures and that the administration turns a blind eye. It is said in this Faculty the semester has been cut down to about 12 weeks inclusive of public holidays. That is about 36 hours of study time per course unit. Just imagine.
There was another news item that at Ruhuna students are demonstrating against making 80 percent attendance of classes a rule to follow.
If they can’t attend classes why do they come to university?
Thondamanaru / November 8, 2013
Quote “Scared of university student woulds some demo in middle of CHOGM?”
Whether CHOGM is a circus or not, Students, citizens need to take pride that the ountry is hosting it.
Yes. Todays Students do not have pride & got no values.
PalmSquirrell / November 10, 2013
Any tin pot dictatorship can host a CHOGM; nothing particularly praiseworthy about it.
justice / November 8, 2013
Kshanika H was the first and only VC to award honorary degrees to Mahinda and Gota.
Other VCs did not want to do this.
Her gesture was to thank MR in her appointment as VC though there were more suitable candidates.
Later still,MR made her Chair of UGC and also appointed her husband as VC though there were other more suitable candidates.
This new grovelling gesture of closing universities during CHOGM is to again thank MR for all his support.
The students and university teachers may now have been unintentionally given a chance to air their grievances including the refusal to grant 6% of budget estimates for education,and thrusting “free education” on the nation to benefit the privileged few,during this period of enforced absence from universities.
This needs precise planning and execution.
But,they have to be beware of the army and police who will ruthlessly suppress any protests/demonstrations.
Sin Hela / November 8, 2013
And did you hear her on the radio? She sounded very condescending. As matter of fact it is plain that the university students are far more mature than this Chairwoman of University Grants Commission, Kshanika Hirimburegama,
Snowdon Asange / November 8, 2013
NONE will gain NOTHING from this Thamasha.. its just a hog wash.. reminding the Slave Masters of their control over other countries… BTW can we have all the wealth that was PLUNDERED by the MASTERS ? Just an Apology wont do.. GIVE us our Treasures back..
Snowdon Asange / November 8, 2013
THYE CAME, THEY SAW… THEY PARTIED AT THE expense of the CITIZENRY…
kali / November 9, 2013
Are you trying to leak something which you have advance notice of ( Asange “wiki leaks” ).
a frustrated university bum! / November 8, 2013
Why don’t you analyse the mind (if she has one!) Of the UGC. Chairperson who has bum sucked the RRRRR… regime although not suitable to sit in this chair! May know about banana cultivation from tissue culture but nothing on rights, values or justice! With support of another unqualified vc shadow/petticoat hubby would try to safeguard the lokka and the government by blocking university students (they will be asked to to their villages since access to Reid Ave will be limited!! Thereby prevent anyone from protesting??
RajasH / November 9, 2013
The following institutions are also asked to stay at home during CHOGAM
(c)army in the NE given a week of and ordered to stay at Barracks or go home
Snowdon Asange / November 9, 2013
RajasH / November 9, 2013
your profile name is great too
Jim Hardy / November 9, 2013
This corrupt rogue Govt is bloody scared of University students who cannot be fooled like other ignorant fools, every move is monitored by the security apparatus student leaders room bugged & spied.
kali / November 9, 2013
What is the problem here. I have heard that Students are going to protest during CHOGM and I think this is why Kshanika Hirimburegama,
has decided to close down the Universities to enable you to do just that without playing Truant.
Kshanika should be given credit for and not villified and if you are worried about missing a weeks study think of it as natures act.
The country has been struck by a Cyclone with wind gushing up to 120 mph which forced the closure of Schools , Colleges, Offices except Restaurants, Bars and Brothels to allow people to have some recreation by some divine intervetion. Seperation of powers Nature vs Human
surendra ajit rupasinghe / November 9, 2013
Dear Lakmali, Your analysis is cogent, clear and forceful, and most of all, a damning verdict of the Rajapakse Regime. I truly appreciate your courage. You are an inspiration to the whole student movement. The struggle for the right to education has now gone through so many challenges and faced so many brutal assaults by riot police, with student leaders and activists hounded, hunted and killed. Yet the spirit of unrelenting and uncompromising struggle rings through with your courage.
We have still not been able to build a unified movement of resistance against the Regime and the System. The struggles of the Oppressed nationalities, workers, peasants, fisher-people, students, women and youth, academics, political prisoners remain isolated and without strong unified leadership. The revolutionary movement of the People of Lanka is still to be built. But let us keep working towards building our principled unity with the common aim of overthrowing the Comprador Capitalist State and the System, and establishing a democratic People’s Republic of Lanka.
I wish you all strength.
Sec: Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)
a frustrated university bum! / November 9, 2013
I think people who have never sighted an university are trying to discredit this brave girl who is writing with her real identity! Most of us are cowards writing under a pen name!!
Eranda / November 10, 2013
Great article barns..
JimSofty / November 10, 2013
University closing for one week would not disturb students at all. Students know how much they waste time and
Teachers know how they cut down their syllabus because they gave questions from that section in the last examination. Teachers also have preferred sections and not so favourite sections in their syllabus. So, they shorten the syllabus as they wish.
This one week, including those days of the week end, is going to make the Students Dumb is just BS.
Both Students and teachers can catch far more than that if they are really interested, genuine and motivated.
Anyway, motivated students know how to use this vacation to complete their overdue work.