The arbitrary arrest by the CID of Sanjeewa Bandara, Convener Of The Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF), on 19th September marks a critical turning point, not only in the evolution of the struggle to defend the right to equal opportunity for Education, but also in the political future of the country. The IUSF has been engaged in a protracted and pitched struggle against the State and the Mahinda Rajapakse Regime(MRR) to defend the right to equal opportunity for Education. This struggle has arisen due to the deliberate policy of the MRR to let the state education system to decay, in order to make way for the privatization of education, including primary, secondary and tertiary education.
As it is, the right to equal opportunity for Education has been fatally undermined. The entire education system is structured to favor the privileged classes and to deny the vast majority of poor families the equal right to quality education. In fact, the education system is classified according to local, central and national and private schools, differentiated and rated according to quality and performance standards. There are the elite schools which are accessible only to the highly wealthy and privileged families, while the vast majority of schools lack even the basic infrastructure, facilities and teaching staff. The system of education is structured to reproduce the class structure to ensure that only the upper classes shall enjoy the power to rule society, command resources and enjoy wealth, status and privilege, while ensuring that there will be a permanent resource pool of stratified laborers who will be forced to sell their labor just to eke out a means of survival in order to grease the machinery of private profit. Furthermore, the entire education system is structured, from top to bottom, to ensure that a whole class of parasitic, corrupt Neanderthal ministers, officials, bureaucrats and administrators, including the ‘tuition mafia’ shall rake in fat salaries, perks and incomes and ‘terrorize’ the student population into mute, robotic submission. While the elite schools have ‘state of the arts’ research laboratories, libraries, computer and IT facilities, extra- curricular and recreational facilities, teaching staff, maintain positive teacher-student ratios and overall provide a most conducive creative environment to foster learning, the rest of the schools are denied these standards in every single aspect. While the elite schools have swimming pools, some of these other marginalized schools do not have drinking water. This structure of discrimination, by itself, denies the fundamental democratic right of equal opportunity to education for the vast majority of the toiling masses. The drive to privatize education will only serve to intensify this discrimination, violation and injustice.
The drive to privatize education is a key demand of the World Bank and the IMF, since it is at the core of opening up the flood-gates and breaking all barricades and resistance to the neo-liberal capitalist-imperialist agenda. It is in this context that the MRR is deliberately following through with the policy of allowing the State education system to decay and disintegrate to pave the way for the complete and irreversible privatization of education. This is so that Education shall no longer be a fundamental democratic right, but a commodity to be bought and sold for private profit and providing fat commissions. This policy has already resulted in such profit-making monstrosities as the Malabe Medical Facility, which has not only flouted all laws, norms and regulations, but cheated the students and parents into buying into a system of half-baked, unqualified and low-grade medical degrees.
The recurrent bungling manipulations and shameless fiascos witnessed in the field of examinations have the effect, if not the intent, of building frustrations and despair among the student population and parents and creating a complete breakdown of confidence in the system of State education. This breakdown facilitates consensus in seeking alternatives through private education.
Besides, the entire university system has now come under a new form of military occupation and political domination. University security has been given over to Rakna Lanka, a security firm under the defense Ministry and commanded by the Secretary to the Ministry, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse. University students have to compulsorily undergo ‘leadership training’ in military camps, where the tribal ideology of the MRR is instilled and drilled. Furthermore, only some 1.9% of the GDP is allocated to Education, while the defense budget runs into several hundreds of billion Rupees.
The IUSF has spearheaded the democratic struggle against all these abuses and violations and to advance the right of equal opportunity to education. In this context, it has become a standard bearer in the struggle for democracy and freedom. As a consequence, it’s leadership and ranks have been hunted, hounded, legally persecuted and brutally repressed. The arrest of Sanjeewa Bandara, the fiery, articulate and fearless convener of the IUSF, signals the qualitative intensification of the violent repression of the IUSF by the MRR. The repression of the IUSF is aimed at silencing and burying any and all resistance against the MRR and the State. It is a duty of all decent, progressive people who know the meaning and value of the right to equal opportunity to education and who refuse to endorse the corrupt terrorist-fascist agenda of the MRR, to build collective resistance by calling for the release of Sanjeewa Bandara.
*Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe: Secretary: Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)