Higher Education Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe had a startling story to tell the country last week about ragging of newcomers by senior students of Universities. According to him, for the past two years, nearly 2000 students who entered universities had left them due to inhuman ragging by the senior students. We have heard about brutal ragging incidents in universities and other higher education institutions and stories about students leaving universities but nobody expected such a large number of students to give up university education just because of the barbaric mindset of another group of students.
Earlier, in May 2016, Vice Chancellor of the Kelaniya University Prof. Sunanda Maddumabandara had told that eight students had left his university during the year due to ragging and there could be more planning to leave or have already left without giving notice. Even that number was deemed then as a manifestation of a serious problem. But now Higher Education Minister says the number runs into thousands.
The annual intake of students for all universities in the country does not exceed 40,000 yet. And around 2000 students are leaving the universities not due to poverty, or lack of hostel facilities or any other facilities, but due to the activities of a set of psychopaths. Where is the university administration? Where are the marshals? Where are the so-called student union leaders who take to streets even at the drop of a hat, claiming that the free education was in danger? Where are the GMOA leaders who shout at the top of their voice about free education? Where are the political parties that provoke students through their student unions to demonstrate on all 365 days of the year, in the name of students’ rights?
What might the students leaving the universities due to ragging be doing after so leaving? The affluent ones might enter foreign universities spending millions of rupees worth country’s foreign exchange and for some others that would be the end of their higher education. What a crime!
The Minister says that the law against ragging that was adopted in 1998 provides for the students found guilty of ragging to be sentenced to ten years rigorous imprisonment. Yet, every year since then we have heard of stories of ragging and sometimes students being arrested. However, we hardly hear of students being meted out any prison term for the past twenty years. Then what is the use of the law?
Sometimes a few students are captured by the university authorities or arrested by the police for ragging but only to let them go scot-free in a few weeks or months, sometimes on the ground that their education would be affected due to the legal actions. With the revelation by the minister now it is clear that the authorities are concerned about the education of a few senior students who are the members of student unions and not about thousands of new students. The excuse occasionally given by the authorities for their failure to penalize the raggers who ruin the higher education opportunities of thousands of students is that the victims do not come forward to complain and the difficulty in identifying the culprits. Should one believe that the authorities were unable to find the raggers for decades? This points the connivance of the authorities in ragging for some reason, may be in fear of student unions. There should be a mechanism to monitor their activities as well, in respect of ragging.
Ragging in universities and other higher education institutions is the best indication of the hypocrisy of those students unions, professional organizations and political parties that claim to stand for the students’ rights and free education. Are they blind to the fact that thousands of students are leaving the universities just because of the cruelty of a section of psychopaths?
They make thousands of students go to foreign universities by agitating against local private universities. They make another group of students go to foreign universities apart from shattering the dreams of higher education of some others, by way of ragging. They never demand the increase of university intake, while hundreds of thousands of students are being deprived of the right to higher education every year. This is the kind of concern they have on the free education. Therefore the minister must take action against the inhuman ragging without giving in to the fear of intimidation by the student unions.