Enemies of free education
Posted on July 31st, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Minister of Higher Education Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse seems determined not to give in to undergraduates on the warpath, who have caused the Peradeniya University to be closed indefinitely. Addressing the media on Monday, he fired a broadside at university student unions, accusing them of having their protests funded by certain political forces hell bent on disrupting universities.

Minister Rajapakse has got it right. External forces use university students as a cat’s paw to pull political chestnuts out of the fire. They handpick weak-willed undergrads, who are indoctrinated and made putty in the hands of anarchical elements. Ragging helps them instill fear into new entrants and force them into submission so that they will be free from resistance.

Interestingly, the yahapalana leaders, too, enlisted the support of university student unions to effect the 2015 regime change by making various promises including the allocation of six percent of GDP for education. The latter may have thought they would be able to have their own way under the new dispensation, but how mistaken they have been!

Politicians and university student unions would have us believe that they are the greatest defenders of free education. If the fiery passion they display when they talk about free education and the need to protect it is anything to go by, they seem to think they deserve to be placed on a higher pedestal than even the late visionary C. W. W. Kannangara.

If undergraduates are really keen to protect free education, they should make the best use of it, finish their studies and pass out without delaying others’ university admission. Frequent disruptions and violent clashes have made a huge contribution to the deterioration of the university system.

Students’ democratic right to engage in politics and protests cannot be questioned. But they must not cherish the delusion that they are above the law and have the freedom to act in violation of the rules and regulations governing universities. The biggest disservice student activists are doing to free education is to further their political agendas on the pretext of fighting for the rights of undergrads and, above all, having universities closed. Circumstances that led to the indefinite closure of the Peradeniya University may serve as an example.

Students who do not attend lectures run the risk of facing penal action. If those who fail to abide by the 80 percent attendance rule are debarred from sitting examinations by way of punishment, they have only themselves to blame; they can appeal to university authorities for leniency or even resort to legal action in case they think their rights have been violated. They must not be allowed to use strong-arm tactics to bend the university administration to their will.

It needs to be added in the same breath that university authorities are not without blame. They have earned notoriety for riding roughshod over students and are, in some cases, responsible for inviting trouble. They must not treat undergrads like the inmates of state pens. As for the attendance rule at issue, they should consider issuing warning letters regularly to undergrads who fail to attend lectures, with copies to their parents/guardians and student unions so that the absentees will be sufficiently warned and pressured by their family members and peers to mend their ways. University administrators should strive to be different from traffic cops who wait expectantly for offences to be committed so that punishment can be meted out to the offenders. Universities must not be closed for long periods because such action only serves the purpose of the disruptive elements behind student protests.

It looks as if free education had to be saved from the self-proclaimed defenders thereof.

3 Responses to “Enemies of free education”

  1. Christie Says:

    This is another part of Indian hegemony.

    These so called student leaders are Socialists who are manipulated by Social political elements.

    Behind them are India and Indian imperialists.

    The student leaders are assured of future studies in the West and resident status.

    I have come across such students and their sponsors in the West.

    Please read some international Socialist media to see who are the direct sponsors.

  2. aloy Says:

    Isn’t this a double talk of this minister?. He is the one who gave citizenship to the the Australian guy, the leader of Peratugami which is now leading the pack. He was about to be deported but retained for a purpose. I believe this minister is a mole put in to the cabinet by our usual enemy. We saw how he waxed eloquently against Hambanthota deal. But now defending it tooth and nail. Time to get rid of all these rotten eggs.

  3. aloy Says:

    On the other hand we cannot blame these engineering students. Probably their lecturers are just reading out the frailed notes year after year. The most recent versions of the theory can be taken from internet. This happens not only in SL but in other unis in UK also. These notes can easily be copied from someone else. They can predict the exam questions also as new thing are not added. This is why two thousand student follow the tuition master’s video on five floors of a tuition hall at a time in Colombo.

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