|Monday, 23 August 2004|
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Job-seekers and employability
The UPFA Government, under the guidance and direction of President Kumaratunga, has clearly demonstrated that a notable dent could be made in the huge problem which is graduate unemployment, if a sincere effort is made to resolve it. The proof of this is the ongoing program to provide employment to some 30,000 unemployed graduates, the first phase of which will get underway in early September with the employment of an initial batch of 17,000 unemployed graduates in the State sector. We commend the President and the Government for this courageous effort at resolving what appeared to be a perennial problem.
As we see fit, what would prove crucial in this bold undertaking, is the two-year training period which would be provided to these graduates who would be absorbed into the State sector. According to newspaper reports, computer and English Language training, a knowledge of administrative and financial regulations of the State sector, public relations and economic policy, would be the key components of the training program. It is important to ensure that the recruited personnel are provided a thorough grounding in these disciplines and fields of expertise.
Thus far, these aspects of graduate employability were overlooked by successive governments. It is not the fact that one is a graduate in the Arts or the Humanities that renders her or him unemployable. It is the fact that one lacks the basic skills for the job on offer that makes one unemployable. Ideally, undergraduate education should provide for the imparting of the above skills - at least to some degree - in the educational curriculum of undergraduates or in the alternative, prospective employers should lay the foundation for it in the early phase of employment.
The Government has opted for the second approach but it needs to ensure that the training phase is gone through meticulously by the trainees. If this is not done we would end up with a superfluous, floating labour force in the public sector, which would be only living off the fat of the country.
Besides, we need to ensure that the graduates undergo a change of heart and mind while on the job. The job market is no respecter of paper qualifications or persons. Those seeking employment would need to adjust to the demands of the market and continuously upgrade, modify and even change one's skills to remain employed. If not they would prove redundant and dispensable. Sitting complacently on one's paper qualifications wouldn't help the employment-seeking graduates in the least. Accordingly, humility and a willingness to learn, besides a readiness to 'rough out' in the field, would prove to be crucial attributes in the job-seekers. Attitudinal change, therefore, should accompany skills acquirement.
Meanwhile, local universities need to prove that their educational curricular have made that crucial transition from a purely academic orientation to more job-sensitive, practically-oriented programs.
The agony of Ecstasy
Estimates put the number of drug addicts in Sri Lanka at 100,000, most of whom are youths. More are being introduced to these vile substances as we write. Statistics show that a whopping 50 million rupees a day is being spent by drug addicts for their "fix". The most alarming aspect of the drugs scene is that new, quick-acting narcotics varieties are coming into the hands of addicts.
The latest of these is an addictive drug commercially known as "Ecstasy" or "Love Drug" which revs up the spirits of young revellers in night clubs. Although it was known that ecstasy was available here for some time, police made the first detection of the drug only last week - from a luxury hairdressing salon in Rosmead Place, Colombo.
The drug, a stimulant that combines ethaphetamine with mind-altering agents is said to have 100 times the "kick" compared to heroin. It curbs the need to eat, drink or sleep, enabling users to endure parties for two or three days straight. It is popped into the mouth of clubbers on the dancing floor by a special 'undercover agent' in the audience. It had been revealed that even girls as young as 14 had been addicted to this drug.
This is indeed a sad state of affairs. Lamentably, even schoolchildren seem to be having access to drugs, as the recent Babul exposure has proved. Schools, teachers and parents must ensure that students do not get addicted to any kind of drug. Awareness programs on the harmful effects of narcotics will help, but the prime responsibility lies with parents and teachers. They should maintain a close rapport with the children and look out for any behavioral changes, which may be a sign of drug addiction.
Law enforcement authorities should also enhance their vigilance to stem the flow of drugs to the country. In recent months, the Customs and the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) successfully aborted several attempts to smuggle in large quantities of heroin and other drugs. Last week, the PNB busted a major racket in drug trafficking involving an Indian national and seized 5 1/2 kilograms of pure heroin worth over Rs. 13.7 million. They should widen the hunt for the drug kingpins behind the trafficking rings.
Colombo has become a transit point for drug trafficking where drugs are being smuggled from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent and vice versa via Sri Lanka. This is why Customs, Police and immigration officials should maintain a through screening process for drugs at all entry points. With smugglers using increasingly sophisticated methods to transport drugs undetected, the authorities must always be one step ahead to defeat their destructive plans.
Produced by Lake House