14 July, 2024

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Ragging, Lack Of Discipline & Political Protests In Universities: Who Is To Blame?

By Sisira Gamanayake

In a recent episode of Aluth Parlimenthuwa, the former minister of higher education S.B. Dissanayake, several high ranking former higher education officials as well as the current VC, Ruhuna university participated. The former minister stated that the students belonging to JVP and in some cases Front Line Socialist Party (FSP) did not allow other students to stand for elections to Student Associations. They also use ragging as a way to draw new students to their own political agenda. This practice is not democratic. Ruhuna university Vice chancellor explained how he studied ragging and political activism by JVP for a long time and managed to control both successfully. Other panellists mentioned the importance of leadership program as a way to train new students in acceptable attitudes and behaviour and prepare future leaders. According to the comments by panellists, it is a small group of students affiliated with two left wing political parties that are responsible for disruptive activities including ragging in the universities. Most of the students want to go about their business of learning without interferences from others but due to the actions of students involved in left politics this has become impossible. They were critical about some VCs who do not have the backbone to control extreme student activism like the VC of Ruhuna University. 

As with any event or phenomenon, in this case also there can be multiple reasons rather than a single reason or explanation as the former minister tended to explain. When we discuss a topic like the situation in universities we cannot discuss it without looking at the broader political developments and context. Because contextual factors are intertwined with what’s going on inside universities. In particular this is so, when large groups of students have become politically aware and activist.

My main argument is that it is not only the students who are to be blamed for the current situation. University and higher education administrators as well as senior academics have also to be responsible for the current state of affairs in universities. The latter cannot put the blame squarely on some students affiliated with several political parties targeted by establishment politicians and their close bureaucrats. Appointed to positions of power. Without a proper and independent inquiry, it is not possible to accept the interpretation that ragging is conducted by students affiliated with the JVP or the Frontline Socialist party to achieve their political aims. This is especially so given the fact that the panel in this episode of Aluth Parliamenthuwa included several political appointees to higher education administration in recent decades. 

Centralised Administration Mode and Politicisation

However, a reasonable question to ask is whether this situation in universities has arisen purely as a result of student activism by left leaning students or whether there are other reasons such as the way universities are currently administered?  If this was as simple cause and effect as the panellists portray, in my view it is a reductionist and purposeful attempt to put the blame on their political opponents for the failure of university administration to provide a safe learning environment. University authorities are not apolitical. The two officials in the panel have been affiliated with ruling party or persons like the former minister, in fact one is a former classmate and the other appeared on political party platforms at election times. Therefore, one has to ask whether the current situation in universities has arisen partly as a result of the politicisation of university administration? 

As in the case of the curriculum, institutional management/administration procedures and practices also have not changed that much since the inception of universities in Sri Lanka. They are managed by a centralised system where the ultimate authority lies with the UGC and the Minister rather than the respective University Council. Are the administrators and academic staff responsible for the failure to create a student body that follows norms of society and good behaviour? 

Students do not live and learn in a vacuum. They do so in a physical and educational set up created by those in authority in the universities and their higher education masters in Colombo.  Even though the universities are located in various provinces, central administration through the University Grants Commission (UGC)and Higher education Ministry is a notable feature in Sri Lanka’s higher education administration. In the past, there have been articles published in the media by respected academic leaders about the lack of university autonomy. E.g. Savithri Goonasekera. University autonomy is a subject that the former and current ministers of higher education or their politically appointed administrators have ignored for a long time. The show continues.

Organisational Structures and Need for Change

Internal organisations within universities still reflect the structures inherited from the British e.g. Council, Senate, Faculty boards, faculties, departments. Do these need changes to suit the current times? Does our departmental structure based on specific disciplines serve the current interests including inter disciplinary collaboration in teaching, research, publications, and community service? Unlike for example in Australian universities, the last aspect is absent from our universities. Does the departmental structure within faculties lead to a silo mentality among academics rather than collaborative one? Is there enough student representation in governing bodies within universities? Do universities have enough autonomy to make their own decisions without having to obtain the approval from the Ministry of Higher education and in some cases from the President for even trivial matters?

University administration is a highly bureaucratic one. One can understand why a head of department has to refer any requests to the VC through the Dean of relevant faculty but why should a department have to obtain the approval of UGC to introduce a new course or why should an academic staff member have to obtain permission from the UGC, Ministry of higher education, or the president when applying to go on study or sabbatical leave?  Can’t these decisions be made within the university itself? Apart from the sheer waste of time and paper, when requests for various matters are referred to higher authorities delays are inevitable leading to frustration. When I applied for travel overseas several decades ago I had to submit 7 copies of my application with the original.  Academic staff even have to travel to Colombo to meet UGC or Ministry officials to chase the paper trial. Many academics take such matters as a part of life because it is the way things are?  Students are not like this. They fight for justice when it comes to matters affecting them because they have nothing to lose.

Recently I checked weather students are represented in the faculty board and Senate or the Council in several universities.  I could not find such representation. Unless student representatives are included in administration bodies, how can we expect a fair system. Without them, it can be a top down administration. Vice chancellors meet students only after a crisis. This is not a good process.

Thus, we have to question whether the University Councils are broadly representative of various stake holders in the higher education and affiliated sectors including student representatives or they are packed with many political appointees?  Because Councils are the governing bodies, there has to be a voice for the students in them as well I doubt weather this is the case today? Similarly, in addition to the nominees by the minister, there has to be representatives from industry, business, community, and internationally reputed senior academics in the councils.  Even in the Senate this has to be the case. I am not sure whether students are represented even in Faculty boards?  Without adequate representation, it is no wonder that students feel alienated from University administration.  Alienated students resort to various acts of dissent or protest. When the administrators take punitive action over some events or incidents, students take counter action. This then led to a spiral of follow up events culminating in strikes etc.  

University administrators need to consult with student bodies and groups regularly either through existing structures or on ad hoc basis depending on the issues arisen on campuses. They cannot adopt harsh measures in the first event. A therapeutic approach has to be adopted to deal with student dissent on university campuses rather than a punitive one. If the situation continues in order to preserve the elitist nature of university administration, disaffected students turn to those who listen to their grievances. This can include parties like the JVP and FSP.

Departmental structures in universities function as segregated silos with no cross departmental collaboration in teaching, research and other intellectual activities If they exist?). Faculties rarely sponsor interdisciplinary research centres.  This is more apparent in faculties of social sciences and humanities but it can be visible in other faculties as well.  Instead of colonially inherited departmental structures, universities need to conceptualise and implement organisational change to suit contemporary needs such as developing interdisciplinary courses and academic units to foster problem solving, critical thinking, community welfare and contribute to country’s development in various fields such as gender equality, human rights, empowerment of less privileged layers of society, promotion of local epistemologies and knowledge. Instead of such activities, what we see today is academic dependency of first grade on western knowledge, epistemology, methodology and traditions. Organisational and intellectual movement is necessary for change in the teaching and learning context to suit the student needs and the needs of specific contexts where they live and plan to work. For this fresh thinking is required by academic and administrative leaders without wasting their valuable time and energy to accuse political opponents for everything wrong with universities.

Lack of Mission, Vision and Curriculum Content Unique to Specific Context

More importantly, each university mission and vision have to be a unique one. Courses need to reflect a unique approach different from other universities. As it is today, I believe that most universities use a similar curriculum and teaching pattern.  If each university has a unique product, it is easy to attract international students. It then becomes possible for state funded universities to compete with overseas universities as well.

For example, is the university curriculum say in social sciences and humanities in the Jaffna University different from the one in Ruhuna or Sabaragamuwa universities? or are they similar? Can’t Jaffna university formulate a teaching program to reflect its own unique cultural, historical, geographical and epistemic context compared to Ruhuna or Colombo University? Innovative thinking is necessary to formulate such unique teaching programs. It requires academic staff to think beyond the box. More importantly to free themselves from the academic dependency on Western European and American ways of thinking and practice in respective disciplines. It also requires to think beyond each discipline and its man-made boundaries.

Ideology & Pedagogy of the Oppressed/Subalterns 

Though the universities in the country were able to admit thousands of students from underprivileged backgrounds over the decades after independence and allow many from professionally oriented faculties such as engineering, medicine, agriculture, veterinary science to join the elitist layers of government and non-government institutions for privileged lives or facilitate out migration looking for greener pastures, many from the faculties of social science and humanities became misfits in society-not because of any fault in the mental capacities of students themselves but because of the nature and quality of education provided and their relevance to student lives or society as well as the politicisation of job market.  

Sri Lanka’s universities, in particular social science and humanities faculties, still teach an outdated curriculum in most departments based on “disciplines” whose epistemology, theory, perspectives and methodology go back to the days of western colonialism and imperialism. Students from underprivileged backgrounds who qualified in various disciplines and filled the seats of academic power, when the previous generation of academics trained in UK, USA or Europe in general plus English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand left, failed to bring an ideology and pedagogy of the oppressed (or subalterns) to their new roles as administrators or senior academics.  Instead they enjoyed the privileges of their positions including duty free cars, University bungalows, leave with salaries, scholarships from foreign governments and institutions to “maintain the system” within universities and in larger society that includes so many unequal layers.There was no serious curriculum or pedagogical reform to bring in an ideology and pedagogy of the oppressed that are relevant to contemporary conditions of existence by the students. What they and their predecessors learned from Western universities assisted by university leave provisions and foreign scholarships became the wisdom that is to be imparted to generations of students without a corresponding critique of the western knowledge and pedagogy applicable to the oppressed conditions of life that the students came from. Answer to the struggle for survival these students faced in the face of competing economic, political and social paradigms of thought and action was to either preach Marxism in its classical type (not even incorporating its later developments by way of Neo Marxism or decolonial thought but to encourage students to embrace the existing system and respect it in the name of democracy and development -both unrealised-which the students resented.  

To fill the gap in ideology and pedagogy, the availability of an anti-hegemonic political platform from the JVP/ NPP and the FSP was welcome news for students from the underprivileged backgrounds. It spoke to their conditions in life, wealth illegally accumulated by politicians and their close bureaucrats (Chaura Valalla), use of state power and resources including the media to tarnish the image of these parties, and maintain a corrupt system for the benefit of a few unusually and disproportionately wealthy individuals and families. In other words, students found the ideology and pedagogy provided by these progressive political parties speaking truth to the power as against the establishment parties that used many tricks in the book to misguide the electors and win elections including the provision of material gifts.  

Thus, we have seen the existence of the establishment ideology and pedagogy based on Western thought, knowledge, training, and qualifications on one hand and an indigenous/local mode of thought and action provided by the two political entities mentioned here.The latter is socially progressive and oriented toward change in the overall system rather than its reinforcement. This is despised by establishment politicians and so-called academics who enjoy the fruits of their affiliation with establishment political parties and their leaders. The latter is a group of so-called intellectuals (they are not) who sell out the rest from underprivileged backgrounds for private gain.  The episode of Aluth Parliamenthuwa mentioned here depicts this drama being played out for public consumption and to point the torch towards politically active and aware students seeking a system change accusing them of ragging and torture etc.  

JVP/NPP and FSP Political Platforms

In recent years, these parties together with their supporters in the countryside and suburbia as well as universities have mounted a credible critique of the outdated political and governance system infested with system breeders in post independent Sri Lanka including a focus on corruption, nepotism, waste, mismanagement, and the sustenance of a near hereditary politico-bureaucratic system by the ruling class instead of a meritocratic one.  Given the economic collapse seen in recent months and the impact on everyday life, the wider population has embraced this critique and the alternative plan/platform these parties are promoting to recover the lost economy, country, wealth, prosperity and way of life.  

The current predicament is the result of decades of promoting an import oriented, high intensity foreign capital injection economic model that encouraged the politicians and others to live beyond the means and neglect local industry, manufacturing, agriculture, knowledge production, innovation etc.in the name of globalisation, free trade, need for foreign investments etc. In the process, the humanitarian focus of the collective based on traditional way of life, scholarhip, intellectual heritage, values and cultural make up has been sacrificed over individual gain.  Competition has been introduced as a panacea for all ills in society and the economy but the overall system has been designed in such a way that a few associated with politico-bureaucratic power benefits over the majority.   The parties mentioned here are advocating a change in this system through democratic means.i.e. educating the electors and elections. The inroads these parties are making in the general population, especially the underprivileged strata in society and their mentality are significant. This is despised by establishment politicians and their bureaucratic affiliates.  Therefore, we can see how they unsuccessfully attempt to label these parties for encouraging university students to engage in anti-social behaviour like the drug use without evidence collected by an independent enquiry.

Readers are reminded about the fact that ragging and torture are widespread phenomena in higher education institutions. They are not necessarily peculiar to one group of students like those affiliated with the JVP/NPP or FSP. Only through an independent inquiry one can find out who the culprits are? Not through politically motivated accusations by establishment politicians and their close university administrators who have vested interests to make accusations against their political opponents.

Needs of the Community around Universities

Universities can do much to serve the communities around their location and beyond. An element of community service needs to be included in the staff promotion criteria. It should be part of their university missions and visions. Such service could be by way of research, consultancies, action-oriented projects, or simply visiting schools, old age homes, or community organisations involved in services.

Web Link – Aluth Parlimenthuwa,  December 2022

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPdrhdLAP_I&t=2644s

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Latest comments

  • 10
    1

    “groups of students have become politically aware and activist”.
    Is this anything new.
    I entered the then University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, when Sir Nicholas Attygalle was the Vice-Chancellor. Political activism was there. It was open.
    Later on in life, I travelled down from Jaffna to Colombo to face an interview for a job. I contacted a former university pal, who was a political activist at the University, during my time, to apprise him of my visit.
    He promptly said, ‘Machang, you wasted your time and money. You should have spoken to me before coming down!’
    He was right. His political guru at the University was the Minister. He got the job!

  • 17
    3

    Look how grown men and women behave in the parliament!!
    Look how the Buddhist clergy behave in public and in private!!
    Look how the armed forces and the law enforcement behave!!

    Then how the heck do you expect these rowdies in Universities to behave well?

    • 5
      2

      “Ragging, Lack Of Discipline & Political Protests In Universities: Who Is To Blame?”

      Ranil!


      He is the Pied Piper the ol’ Rattenfänger …….. who is setting the example now …….. wherever he leads ……… the others follow ………

      • 5
        0

        Failure in any area can be traced back to bad leadership. ‘The fish rots from the head down’.

        • 2
          1

          In Lanka, …….. there is no Buddhism, there is no Christianity ………and there is no all the rest of the shebang that claims to set man/woman on the right path.

          There is only ……. your man ……. and my man.

          The same people who complained loudly, with all the vile words imaginable against Mahinda …….. are now praising Ranil for/when doing exactly the same things!

          They create their own reality and the excuses along with it.

          Am I lying?

          Anyone wanna challenge me?

          That’s what got Lanka there in the first place ……… and that’s what’ll keep Lanka there for ever.

          I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive …….. cause I’ve no doubts: unwavering certainty guides me.

          “Like every man I am my own worst enemy, but unlike most men I know too that I am my own saviour.” :))

          • 0
            0

            continued


            “From the little reading I had done I had observed that the men who were most in life, had no illusions about duty, or the perpetuation of their kith and kin and friend, or the preservation of the State or religion. They were interested in truth and in truth alone.”

            “The language of society is conformity; the language of the creative individual is freedom. Life will continue to be a hell as long as people who make up the world shut their eyes to reality.”

            Good Ol’ Henry Miller for good times and bad …… who treated women a little better than our own man of letters: Native!

            Sorry, Nathan …….. couldn’t find a way to get around using “I.” …… For love or for money, could you or any of the other English experts please teach me how? :)))

    • 5
      1

      Tamil from the north. You said it all. MPs, clergy, forces and rowdies are never accountable or responsible, just like the top robber murderers who think they are gods. They are unaware that there is a watchful creator God, patiently waiting for them to choose the right obedient path.

    • 3
      9

      TftN
      None of them are considered role models for the youth to emulate.
      Have you not seen uglier scenes the the Parliament and state assemblies of India?
      Don’t you think that the saffron brigade there is a bunch of terrorists.
      Have you not heard of Indian Army behavior in Kashmir and some of the states in Eastern India?
      There is terrible ragging in Indian Colleges.
      Caste plays a big role in bullying.
      *
      Whom are you calling rowdies? All undergraduates? Let not anger overcome reason.
      Once I reported and got suspended 3 students from the East. Soon a student from the East approached me with “Sir, the Jaffna boys sneaked to you on Batticaloa boys. They are out to get us.”
      I thanked him for the information and asked him to sneak on Jaffna boys so that he can settle scores.
      That quietened him.
      *

  • 15
    1

    அரசன் எவ்வழி குடிகளும் அவ்வழி. – Tamil proverb. The people follow the lead of their rulers.

    Do we need to say any more?

    Citizens, including the university students are following the crooked ways of their leaders: Corrupt, thuggery, untrustworthy, racist, among others.

    • 0
      1

      T
      That may well in true ,but our politicians and prela

    • 3
      7

      “Do we need to say any more? “
      Yes.
      Do please say where it happens that way on earth..

    • 5
      0

      How beautiful those Tamil letters look there. Introducing the lines of English ones.

      What a pity we’re not all trilingual & can contribute in CT in any language we wish.

      That’ll be the day!

      • 3
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        Contribute TO CT!

  • 6
    2

    Even when some in the judiciary are “wanting” what do you expect in such a s siciety?

    • 2
      5

      G
      Is the judiciary made of some special raw material to be free of all external pressure an influence?
      They are just as human as you, me and Editor CT, politicians, police and pickpockets.
      Ones location in society and demands of society makes critical demands.
      But when risk free opportunity knocks, how many resist temptation– anywhere on earth?

  • 10
    0

    We can judge the calibre of SL graduates by looking at some of the GMOA members. They have been educated at the tax payer’s expense but fail to pay their debt to society. There may be exceptions but the majority of SL graduates are employed by the Govt. & the lethargy, inefficiency & even corruption, is evident in the govt. service. Many graduates, after spending several years at Uni, find themselves unemployable after graduation because the subjects were irrelevant, which leads to frustration & even anger towards society.

    Ragging is an outdated concept which was practiced in public schools in UK to ‘toughen up’ & prepare for a leadership role in employment, irrespective of their educational achievements. This was the colonial time when a public school education guaranteed a position in the civil service but though such an education still opens doors in the public & private sectors, the practice of ragging is banned & against the law.
    Cont.

    • 2
      5

      “They have been educated at the tax payer’s expense but fail to pay their debt to society”
      That applies to all professions.
      There was a time in the 1960s-70s when a compulsory government service period was mandatory.
      *
      If you get a kick out of insulting public servants, I cannot stop your addiction.
      Today education is really not free. Parents spend much of their earnings to offer private tuition to their children. The school is of secondary importance to score at Grade-5, O-L and A-L. It is complex issue. I will not go further.
      One should do some research before pontificating.
      Have you read Tom Brown’s Schooldays? It was a schoolbook for us here. It sheds light on school bullying in England.
      Do not attribute altruistic motives for sustaining a horrible practice.
      *
      My body belongs to me as does my mind– let not another impose his will on them on any pretext.
      I can tell you more than a little on the darker side of education in England.

      • 1
        0

        The problem with so-alled free education/higher education in Lanka is that no ‘critical education tradition’ has developed from those students who entered universities from underpriviledged backgrounds (except through the JVP affiliated groups etc). As the author states, some graduates from such backgrounds were able to become middle class, high income earning individuals who were able to access some degree of power plus other material privileges. Once they join the middle class,they became an exploitative class of the rest e.g. doctors engaging in private practice through medical consultancies,private hospitals etc. Broadly seaking,this process is part of the coloniality of power continuing as Quijano states.(A Latin American decolonial scholar). Walter Mignolo and other decolonial scholars have expanded this concept e.g. colonial matrix of power. What this meant was that with former colonies gaining independece from the colonial masters,they did not experience a break in coloniality. It continued with local power brokers getting into positions of power. Education was and is an instrument of coloniality of power .For the power brokers at the centre, they need other power brokers in the provinces and various institutions like universities,corporations ,departments, authorities e.g. Mahaweli. Rajapaksas emerged as provincial power brokers to the national power brokers like Bandaranayakes. The few higher education administrators represented in the Aluth parliamenthuwa panel have been/are a class of subservient brokers selling their skills, qualifications, reputation to the politicians for limited privileges. But the risk in their game is that what they do in brokering loans from the world bank etc dressed in tie and coat can add to the debt burden for no tangible benefit to the promotion of local knowledge, a progressive ideology or pedagogy for the oppressed layers of society. Their work contributes to the maintenance of a pseudo elitist system within universities with outdated curriculum,teaching approaches etc. What is required from universities is reforms in teaching, curriculum,administration to make these inclusive.

  • 7
    0

    Cont.
    I had the privilege of attending 2 universities for my under graduate & post graduate studies & it was the most enjoyable time in my life, despite working in bars & restaurants or where ever I could earn a few bucks in my spare time to supplement my living expenses.

    I remember driving my daughter to Uni on her first day where seniors greeted us at the gate & gave directions to the enrolment office & thereafter to her lodgings. Seniors are paid by the Uni to act as mentors to freshers & the first week is all about settling in. The students union is non political & focused on the welfare of students. They run discounted bookshops, nightclubs & discos, subsidised restaurants & mentoring sessions. Apart from the academic content, students develop professional skills, a sense of responsibility & integrity, & turn out to be proud graduates but without the chip on their shoulders as with some SL graduates. SL needs to separate higher education from politics if serious about the high standards of education which is much needed today.

    • 1
      0

      One way to do is to give universities more autonomy to decide their own affairs including what is taught, how, where and when? But they also have to transform their current peri-colonial mode in administration, teaching,research and international relations based on Western traditions to adopt more indigenous modes of thinking and operation to be relevant. Look at the academic gowns used in convocations. Still British style.

      • 1
        0

        PCT
        How much of the curriculum are we to drop?
        Without people having proper core values trimming at the peripherals takes is nowhere.
        Quick fix transition to indigenous modes of thinking and operation will lead to stupidities like the fertilizer ban of not long ago.
        Taking the best from the past cannot mean dumping all what is alien.
        Let us also be practical.
        Let us start with the simplest of jobs. Will we change the way we dress? Will we stop consuming bottled beverages? Will we eat only home-cooked meals? Will we use the bullock cart for transport?…

        • 0
          0

          How much of the curriculum are we to drop?

          Good Question. How much to add should be the next question. Also why should our postgraduate students preparing a dissertation have to do a literature review that includes only Western sources/authors? Why not Eastern sources and authors?

          Local/Indigenous knowledge and scholarship have been sidelines from University teaching,curriculum and research except in specific departments where they teach and research local langiuages,literature, religion, archeology etc. A large majority of university students go through the system with a high dose of Western knowledge,theories, concepts, way of academic thinking ,researching and writing, but no knowledge of the local/indigenous traditions,ways of thinking and doing. This was the effect of colonialism but we can’t blame Suddaas alone for this. Local elitist academic culture,training, practice and administration are also to blame. When do we correct this anomaly? Why dont our academics follow the writings and developments by Decolonial and Postcolonial thinkers,scholars etc? Why do we still follow British and otehr English speaking countries as the preferred model of thinking and doing? Why dont we adopt a ground up thinking process where we relate to the ground realities and emerging concepts, articulations, formulations in art,literature, philosophy, religious thought etc.? We are not advocating a nativist approach where we reject all things western and admire all things local/indigenous. But a balance of all sorts of knowledge practices.

    • 5
      0

      Raj – UK , thanks for sharing your personal / positive experience. I too had similar experience doing my medical education in India. Though we had our share of ragging, protest, disciplinary actions and political upheavals, throughout my colleagues whole heartedly accepted and treated me as one of them. Today few consider me as one of their family members .Our batch strength then, was more than 200 students, which I believe is one of the largest for any medical school. This true friendship and attachment, made me to return and settle here after my PG and 15 years of working in the U.S. The hospital currently I work ( more than 10 years) is owned by a a very close friend and colleague of mine.

      • 3
        0

        Definitely mine is not an isolated case because, few of my high school friends in Colombo who graduated from India, shared similar experiences. They not only returned for major anniversaries / 25 years but spent weeks with their close friends and their families.

        • 3
          0

          Chiv,

          Does India allow non-citizens permanent residency and eventually citizenship?
          Or is it just an extended work visa?

          • 3
            0

            Agnos , answer is YES . I hold what is called OCI ( overseas citizen of India). Which is equivalent to Permanent residency. There are many ways for us to be eligible for OCI status Unfortunately we Srilankans were exempted until year 2016 / 2017. ( along with Pakistanis, Chinese and few others). Not anymore. Now it’s possible.

            • 0
              0

              OK, Thanks. Happy New Year!

  • 3
    2

    “Ragging, Lack Of Discipline & Political Protests In Universities: Who Is To Blame?”
    Ragging is nothing new in our Universities and Even in Higher Education in sri Lanka. Most of us would have gone through ragging in these institutions. Initially it was used as a mechanism to introduce your seniors in different areas of study and to help the students to get rid of the sigh and a guide to future learing. Unfortunately currently this has become to take personal revenges, political revenges, racial revenges etc.etc. We also now see violence including murders in parliament to Presesiya saba. Why even Chief Justices helping President to cover of corruption of Public funds. Therefore, the change of decipline should Start from from the top level to bottom. For President should be free from corruption to control his miniisters and his ministers to control junior Ministers …………. .

    • 3
      0

      Pundits have studied ragging in various ways and come up with psychological explanations etc. Establishment politicians blame more progressive segments of the student population(compared to the silent and apolitical majority) for ragging. As it is a widespread phenomenon, there can be other explanations to the phenomenon. For example, an institutional one. Congregation of a mix of young adults in learning places produce class tensions, linguistic and racial tensions, caste tensions,gender tensions that also exist in the broader society. Unless these are managed carefully by the authorities with the use of more innovative avenues to provide students with acceptable practices as one contributor explains in the case of UK, these tensions can overflow into unacceptable level. This is what has happend in Lankan universities. If the authorities devise mechanisms for the seniors to welcome freshers in a formal way, ragging can be reduced if not eliminated. It has to be done step by step. What ragging shows is that seniors want recognition from the juniors that the former hold some power in the university. Currently they are excluded from university administration bodies and mechanisms. VCs tend to call the police when they are in trouble. Not a good way to handle student behaviour in modern day learning institutions.

      • 1
        1

        Dear “Peradeniya Critical Tradition”,
        .
        Many thanks. You understand how difficult this is, but you have also shown yourself a realist.
        .
        Let’s see how this all pans out.
        .
        My giving you this next link may be self-defeating, but here’s a guy looking realistically at the prospects for the NPP in the coming year. I’ll have to listen to it again, because I didn’t give it the attention it probably deserved whilst going about my morning chores:
        .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es3fI92mqqQ
        .
        Let’s hope that this discussion turns out to be more than pious platitudes. See how we’ve gone round and round in circles here:
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/systemic-drain/
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V)

  • 4
    0

    Ragging, especially the vulgar, inhuman form it has taken in South Asian countries, has to be stamped out – there’s no question about it. One of the most obscene and revolting politicians in the country blaming it squarely on the political groups that are exposing his abuse of power and criminal activities is part and parcel of that ragging culture that is ruining the country today. If we are serious about putting an end to ragging in our universities we must desist from promoting such scatological psychopaths on TV and electing them to parliament.

    • 3
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      “For example, is the university curriculum say in social sciences and humanities in the Jaffna University different from the one in Ruhuna or Sabaragamuwa universities? “
      Indeed. Then why is it that we don’t hear much about rioting students in Jaffna? Then there is the curious case of the IT and Engineering faculties, even in places like Kelaniya. IT students are as disciplined as any in a private institution. Is it because they are assured of employment? It may be true that the JVP and FSP stir the pot in the campuses, but the pot itself exists because the majority of students are in dead-end courses with no chance of employment outside the fast drying-up state sector. As the author seems to suggest, students should be allowed to mix and match their subjects eg, dancing and Physics, or engine rebuilding and Buddhism, or Java programming and Political science, depending on their aptitudes.

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      This is the after effects of the leftist movement at its very inception for to gain political advantage indoctrinated the row, immature minds of the undergraduates by inculcating them with Marxist Ideology an ideology which is highly theoretical but never practical. Human greed knows no bounds.

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    As “Raj-UK” explained, I too had the same memorable historical events when I took my son to the University in a Foreign Country. My son was in the driving seat of my vehicle. A young lad came to us and introduced himself as: “I am a Vice President” of the Student Council”. He got some of his colleagues to find a parking lot for us and another two students conducted us to the “Registration Office” where all the formalities were finalized. Then another group took charge of the luggage and we were told to take the elevator to the allocated room. By the time we arrived in the room, all the luggage was in place. Next, another “Student Council” member issued us passes to attend the “Student Welcome Party”. That “Party” was well arranged and filled with all fun (no harassment whatsoever). The “Welcome Party” ended in the early hours of the morning.

    The most “MEMORABLE” thing my son achieved was, he was ELECTED a Vice President of the Student Council (the majority of students were whites) in his third year and was responsible for the welfare of “International Students”. That experience prompted me to enroll my daughter in another University in the same country.

    When will our Universities come to that stage or even close to that stage? A DREAM.

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      Dear Simon,
      .
      Many thanks; what you say cannot be improved upon. Sometimes my own comments are too tied to time and place. That way [my] readers are quite sure that I’m real. In your case, it is your consistency that has convinced me that you are real.
      .
      You speak of a certain “foreign country” where your daughter had her university education. I feel that if I were to visit the Unawatuna beach, and make inquiry, I will find you, albeit not a man going by the name of “Simon”, but the details you give are so exact that I could locate you.
      .
      Hardly necessary; you’re so consistent. Not so, “leelagemalli”. You are so very precise in what you say, but look at, ………..
      .
      I’ve got back to this comment after being away for almost two hours. I’ve been talking to a guy from Welimada who wanted me to help him get through IELTS. I’ll tell you in detail about the call later. (it will necessarily run into about six parts, needing at least a thousand words).
      .
      I can’t laugh at the poor guy; I must necessarily rid my lachrymose mind of the outrage I feel by weeping, that the innocent guy at the other end of the mobile connection has imagined that he can get to New Zealand after getting Band 6.5. He wouldn’t get Band Three.
      .

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        Dear S-M: Thank you. Wish you a Happy New Year for a New Beginning in 2023.

        I mentioned some of my personal experiences for others to know what is happening in other parts of the world. Both of my children are not in S/L and I am happy for their success stories built on their own. I know it is not possible for everyone in S/L to achieve, such heights but I firmly know such “Facilities” could be opened up and our children could always match or far exceed what is available to children abroad. My regret is the “Authorities” in S/L are least bothered and/or “Selfish”.

        I will be back in Unawatuna in a few months’ time. Presently I am with my children. Hope to meet with you on my return.

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      This has been a positive experience for you and son. Why can’t the authorities take stern action against those who are found to be bullying freshers in Lankan universities? Punitive action is one way. But enough warnings have to be given before arrests. Secondly, if senior students are given responsibility to welcome freshers, ragging can be reduced. Authorities can create a buddy sysrtem where each fresher is allocated to a senior for the duration of orientation period.

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    Part 2… I related my experience in order to arrive at a fair calculation to assess how our education system has become a “Thorn” in the eye of the “People” at large. There are three parties “Responsible” for this situation viz. (1) The Government (2) The University Administration (3) The “Students”.

    (1) The Government: The Government has failed and “Messed” up the “Education Process” by not establishing an “EVOLVING” system to meet the “Challenges” of the Economic, Social, and Political needs of the country. What is “THE CHANGE/CHANGES” we have meaningfully established since Independence? We have and are “CONTINUING” with the same system only making “Ad-Hoc” changes which are called “PELESTHARA” (Plastic types), This observation is for your thoughts.

    (2) The University Administration: That too has failed MISERABLY to think “OUTSIDE” the “BOX”. Simple as that.

    (3) The Students: They too have failed to “THINK” and “PLAN” out of the “OUTSIDE BOX” principles.
    Always “Protests”, “Aragalaya”, but NOTHING to CHANGE the “Life Environment” inside and outside the Universities.

    Have the “Governments”, “Universities”, “Students” and, “People” seen the “BIG PICTURE” of receiving (adoring with a CROWN) the “FIRST GRADUATE” – Selvam from the Tea Plantation Sector in the Nanu-Oya? Food for your consideration and to put on your THINKING CAP.

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