|Thursday, 2 October 2003|
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Unemployment and undergraduate unrest
The explosive re-emergence of violence at the University of Colombo, coming close on the heels of the grave lawlessness at the Sri Jayawardanapura University, would seem to confirm fears that our universities are being targetted once again by disruptive political forces which have a vested interest in the paralyzing of these seats of higher learning.
Focusing on these developments a few days ago in this commentary, we said that besides initiating strong security measures at universities, which should include the prevention of lawless elements from entering them, a strong democratic and tolerant culture needs to be strengthened and expanded in these institutions, with democratically - oriented student bodies themselves taking the lead in this regard. This is no easy task, to be sure, but unless and until this happens there is every likelihood that tyrannical and fascistic forces would hold the whip hand over the general student body.
Those sections of the undergraduate community in all local universities which are democratically-oriented should strongly consider working in concert to defeat the destabilization designs of the advocates of mindless violence and mayhem. Meanwhile, the law needs to be enforced rigorously and those behind the violence speedily brought to justice, regardless of political affinities and personal affiliations.
Having said this, we also consider it relevant to draw the attention of the authorities and the public to a recurring feature of university-based violence which points to the need to initiate certain long-term measures, which have been commented on in the past, but which have not been pursued by the authorities with the desired vigour.
This is the fact that it is some undergraduates of the Arts Faculties who invariably figure prominently in the violence and the indiscipline.
It is very rarely that one hears of undergraduates from other faculties, such as Science and Law, engaging in lawlessness. In other words, those undergraduates who believe that they have a future ahead of them, seldom or never fall victim to the forces of subterfuge in universities.
As has been noted, undergraduates following predominantly Arts-based courses, with reason to believe that their employment prospects are not bright, easily fall prey to the agents of sabotage and subterfuge.
They constitute the huge reservoir of discontentment which is cynically exploited by the forces of disruption to proliferate the problems of governance.
This may be common knowledge but unless and until the problem of graduate unemployment is confronted and resolved on a sustained basis, we would be exposing the disaffected sections of our undergraduate community to brazen political manipulation.
We are quite aware of the fact that the Government has taken some initiatives to resolve the problem of educated unemployment but all relevant systems need to function efficiently if a frontal, sustained attack is to be made on this seemingly perennial problem.
For instance, we cannot be confronted with situations where Education Ministry Task Forces, which were given the responsibility of speeding-up English langauge teaching in provincial schools, would be found to be entangled in a web of bureaucratic red tape and lethargy. We just cannot afford to dilly-dally in these projects.
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