The federation of university teachers association in Sri Lanka – FUTA – is on a trade union (TU) action. The concerns raised by FUTA include funding for education, university autonomy, stoppage of politicization, recruiting and retaining qualified university teachers etc. etc., which could be found among relevant reading by now. The trade union action, which started on 4th July 2012, is nearing 100 days.
One general observation during the time is that, while certain government officials – including ministers (NOT from higher education sector though) and officials from treasury – are making a genuine effort to solve the issues amicably, the higher education authorities and their allies are making an unprecedented effort to disrupt, discredit and derail the process. This is being done by way of filing fundamental right court cases by instigated students, giving undue publicity against FUTA TU action using less qualified political henchmen from university staff, who are willing to brand the FUTA struggle as anti-government, anti-Buddhist, pro-terrorists etc, to obtain personal benefits.
In fact, the use of few politicized academics with weak professional background has become a concern among so called qualified politicized academics, who have already reaped the benefits of being political-paws, such as being appointed as vice chancellors or members of UGC (see http://srilanka-academics.com/). Most of these pro-government, politicized academics appeared on state TV to denounce FUTA action, citing false statistics; some even went to the length of personal attack on the FUTA leadership figures. The master mind behind the government suppression of TU action – one dean of Kelaniya University with extended service – is hell bent on playing the trump of Sinhala patriotism and international conspiracies of Tamil diasporas to mislead the masses.
Certain local news papers with a balanced view of the matter published meaningful articles, as well hilarious but meaningful cartoons covering various aspects of the TU action. Since a picture could tell 1000 worlds, this article depicts the developments of FUTA trade union action in the light of the responses from the authorities using few selected cartoons appeared in local papers.
The Cartoon story
The story starts a couple of years back, when a person with intelligence less than that of a donkey was entrusted with the responsibility of running the higher education sector in the paradise. No sooner, the education system was derailed with shoddy reforms, and the main stake holder is being lead nowhere by the authorities responsible for education in the paradise.
During the trade union action by FUTA, allocation of state funding for education was highlighted and discussed at length in the media. Over the years, the trend of state spending on education converge to a seemingly situation, as if, the students are being speared downed in very near future if the present trend continues.
Limitless shameless behavior and responses of the authorities to suppress the TU nearing 100 days is amply displayed in media. On one hand the minister did his best, through 100% misuse of state controlled media, to make a mockery of the academics in a very deplorable manner, to show the masses that TU action is a hoax.
On the other hand, over a period of few years, did his best to destroy the higher education system by appointing political stooges in to administration position. With the appointment of political stooges as vice chancellors, deputy vice chancellors, registrars etc), what is becoming of the state university system and the future of providing education in the paradise are serious concerns the masses have.
With all sorts of intimidation (to academics) on state/private TV channels, radio and printed media, the authorities came up with another plaster remedy, a cabinet note (NOT a cabinet paper), which allegedly has the solutions to the demands, however, the cartoonist saw it in a different, but in a more realistic way.
Lukewarm attitude of the authorities have granted two worms destroy the whole education system in the country, which used to be rich and commendable. Now, the children, i.e. future of the paradise, go through a process similar to an automated production line; the primary education inflict some degree of damage to innocent students, and pass on to the university, to inflict the rest of long lasting damage.
With little indication on solving, with deliberate delaying of discussions, FUTA organized two events; a massive awareness rally in Kandy and a 115 km, 5 days, walk from Galle to Colombo. These events, were successful in achieving FUTA’s objectives, and also were good opportunities for leftist as well as the opposition parties to gain some political mileage; but with very little success.
Once the walk from Galle to Colombo was in progress, the authorities brought another ally to lie for them; few university teachers (with questionable academic records) identifying themselves as ‘patriotic university teachers’. They they did try to tarnish the confidence and support FUTA won through the awareness activities, yet they met with due responses from the masses.
While much debate is taking place with regard issues of education, the masses seem to take it in right context and understand the tactics being used by the authorities as in above two cartoons. FUTA is now gaining supports for other professional bodies.
So far, this is how the story unfolds. Now, the academics are with little hope that the authorities would take firm steps to avoid further deterioration of the education system in the long run, even if some of the demands are met and FUTA goes back to work. The slumber of highest authority is nearing 100 days with little indication of a genuine effort to resolve the national issues raised, but the politicization of education is most likely to continue.
‘Ada’ paper, cartoons, on line version (Sinhala), July – Oct, 2012
‘Lakbima’ paper, cartoons, on line version (Sinhala), July – Oct, 2012
Daily mirror – cartoons, on line version (English), July – Oct, 2012
Face book pages (available in open domain) of the cartoonist associated with the above papers and other cartoon blog sites on public domain that discuss local issues/cartoons.
The cartoons, which are available in public domain, are used in this article for the sole purpose of illustration, absolutely with no intent or attempt of copyright violations in any form. Absolutely no intentional disrespect is conveyed for any of the depicted individuals in the cartoons.