|Thursday, 21 October 2004|
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Students as job creators
Education Ministry Secretary, Dr. Tara de Mel, could very well have been giving eloquent expression to the sentiments harboured in millions of caring adult hearts in this country when she said that a principal thrust of the Government's educational reforms was to make job creators out of students rather than reduce them to mere job seekers.
This is thinking which is most visionary and innovative. Over the years, our student population at all educational levels has been brought up in the belief that all it needs to do is achieve the best of formal educational qualifications, while the State could always be depended upon to provide it with jobs and livelihoods.
As a result, most students - graduates included, of course - have fostered within themselves, what has come to be described as a dependent mentality. That is, overwhelming dependence on governments to create the required jobs and to hand them over to young job aspirants and school leavers on a platter.
So deeply ingrained is this dependent mentality among the generality of our students that creativity, industriousness and innovativeness have hardly had the opportunity to take root in the student consciousness. Accompanying this lack of resourcefulness in many of the young is a fatalistic mindset which breeds disappointment and discontentment over the slow or no progress in realising job aspirations.
While there is no denying that governments are obliged to meet the job aspirations of the young, it is now abundantly clear that rising public expectations are far outstripping the ability of the State to create job opportunities for all categories of young job-seekers.
Public expectations are soaring far beyond the ability of the economy to meet them. Rather than depend entirely on the State to deliver the required jobs, the young would do well to explore the possibility of creating livelihoods for themselves and thereby be independent.
The advantages of this approach are many. Besides meeting their material aspirations by themselves, the young would be making "rounded personalities" out of themselves, to quote Dr. de Mel. They would be realising their fullest potential as persons and transforming themselves into dynamic, creative and independent beings.
We are glad to learn that the Young Entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka project has made some progress towards these ends. It is in consonance with the Government's educational reforms program which is aiming primarily at developing the innovativeness and creativity of our students.
Book learning only and paper qualifications have been the bane of the young. It has even led to bloody youth upheavals. The educational reforms would hopefully break this self-defeating mould.
A new survey by Gulf States has found that more than two million Asian maids are working in their countries without proper legal cover. They face various forms of maltreatment, including sexual abuse and non-payment of salaries, according to the official study.
The overwhelming majority of the workers in the Gulf come from India, Sri Lanka (the fourth largest human resource supplier to the Middle East), Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Pakistan, the study said.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - have approved a proposal to hold a forum to discuss specific measures to deal with problems facing domestic helpers, in addition to drafting legislation that would serve as a yardstick for member states.
This is a step in the right direction, as domestic helpers are not governed by the labour laws in any of the six states. Kuwait has a special law for them but it has so far failed to curb abuses.
Countries such as Sri Lanka have been clamouring for such laws to protect their citizens from harassment by employers and other problems. It is no secret that migrant workers are sexually and physically abused by some employees. Dismal working conditions (non-stop work for up to 18 or 20 hours, no holidays etc) and non-payment of salaries add to the woes. There have also been many instances of migrant workers returning to their home countries after fleeing their workplaces.
We hope the Gulf countries would work closely with the labour authorities and embassies of the workers' countries in formulating the new laws. This will help identify the problems faced by the workers and evolve laws that satisfy all parties.
Nearly 1.3 million Sri Lankans are working abroad. The Middle East has the biggest concentration of Sri Lankan expatriates, followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe and Japan. Sri Lanka and other countries that supply migrant labour should explore the possibility of getting similar laws drafted in those countries as well.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. It is important not to let our workers fall into trouble in the first place. This is why the Government has been stressing that all those who leave for employment abroad must register with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, which works only with licensed recruitment agencies on both sides (Sri Lanka and Gulf countries). This minimises the chance of the worker falling into the wrong hands.
With Sri Lankan expatriates remitting an average of Rs.1300 million annually, their welfare should be given priority.
Produced by Lake House