The government is displaying various ‘skills’ lately. Not long ago the government got stuck in a vegetable crate. After unusually delaying results of the A/L examination the candidates were provided with a result that made them see stars. When there were accusations all around that the results were distorted the government skillfully provided a queer solution. The candidates were given more time to apply for re-evaluation! This was profitable to the government as more than 70 per cent of the candidates applied for re(-)evaluation and government’s coffers were rich by Rs.15 million from the fees paid by the candidates. However, it is very doubtful whether the shattered confidence of hundreds of thousands of school children regarding school education could be salvaged. The latest assault is on higher education. As a result of government’s ‘flair’ the whole university system is in crisis. University students have doubts regarding their education and their parents are appalled regarding their children’s future. These crises have not occurred spontaneously. Certain crises are reflected as students’ responses to conditions that exist in certain universities. There are others that have sprung up due to the repressive responses of the government to students’ actions.
The main reason for the crisis in Rajarata University is the student agitations that sprung up due to the failure to provide infra-structure facilities and a sufficient number of lecturers for the Medical Faculty. When President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared open the Medical Faculty of this university on 4th September, 2006, facilities for its academic process had not been completed. The main issue was the professorial unit that is essential for the third and fourth year studies had not been established. When students took to the streets in 2011, or rather were forced onto the streets by the government, demanding a solution for this issue the government came out with a marvelous answer. The Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education said establishing a Medical Faculty for Rajarata University was due to an error by the Department of Examinations. What is pathetic is that medical students have to bear the brunt of it. This is the outcome of all crises in Sri Lanka that have no owners.
It is no secret that the lunatic behaviour of the vice-chancellor, who attempts to crudely carry out a political agenda, is the cause of many issues in the Sri Jayawardenepura University. Government, assaulting the result (students’ responses) without finding a solution for the cause, exposes its crafty policy. Making accusations when students, who are distressed due to lack of hostel facilities in Ruhuna University, response is, on the surface, very convenient. This is what the government has chosen. The difficulties students in the Sabaragamuwa University, the only university that offers a sports degree, undergo without a playground should be looked into by the government. All universities in the country suffer from a lack of facilities.
In such an environment the slogan of the government is ‘study with what you have or get out.’ Accordingly, a challenge has been thrown at the university students to get suspended or get sacked if they do not learn to study without facilities. Now the government swiftly moves to label students on attempting to topple the government.
The real reason for the confusion of the government leaped out in the latter part of last year with the announcement that a bill would be presented to legalize private universities. The government that has moved into the second innings of a neo-liberal capitalism needs to, by hook or by crook,to change any interfering legal structures. However, the government also fears to come to a head on collision with the people’s forces. This is the reason for the hesitation behind certain government decisions. Despite having a 2/3rd majority, amassed in the parliament with various manoeuvres, the government is scared to bring in the bill to privatize education in its real name. This is why the government had to use an incomprehensible term with the sugar coating ‘Qualification Frame Work, Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions Act’ to bring in the private university bill. Minister S.B. Dissanayake reiterated that it was not a privatization bill and the bill would be implemented even if he had to tie students to trees. Masses can comprehend many things from the great interest the minister, who is not keen to solve the issue of a professorial unit at Rajarata University or the hostels issue at Ruhuna, has in implementing a bill that has an incomprehensible name.
Now President Rajapaksa, fearing the effect the disarrangement of the university system has caused in society, suddenly says the bill would not be presented to Parliament. However, it is evident that the government has not or is not prepared to abandon its attempt to privatize higher education. This is why the bill would not be presented now. For, if there was no intention of privatization he could have said they did not have any such policy. It seems that the government is speaking with a forked tongue. Hence, the university student community, as well as the general public, should be able to consciously comprehend what’s happening and act accordingly to prevent the government from carrying out its vicious agendas that have been concealed by deceitful means.
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