A welcome move | Daily News

A welcome move

The issue of ragging in state Universities has been the subject of much discussion even in the earlier days and remedies sought to redeem our seats of higher learning from this scourge. However, never has this menace assumed such serious proportions as at present, leaving even the authorities helpless and without an answer. It is only all too well known that our universities have right along been hotbeds of violence fanned by radical politics. Ragging is only one dimension of this aspect. Things though appear to be getting out of hand, with sadism being practised in the name of ragging, leaving permanent scars on the victims. Some say that social instability has found expression in inhuman forms of ragging in our universities. Whatever the cause, concrete measures are called for to arrest the decline and preserve the exalted status of the country’s seats of higher learning.

It is in this backdrop that the resolve displayed by Higher Education Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to eradicate the torture that passes off as ragging in our universities, root and branch, would be welcomed by all right thinking people, particularly those parents who have misgivings in sending their children to local universities owing to the prevailing state of affairs.

According to our front page main story yesterday, Minister Rajapakshe stated that the anti-ragging Act which was passed into law in 1998, but not fully implemented will be brought into full force to end the scourge of ragging in the universities. Addressing a media conference, the minister said that all police stations have been informed to take legal action against university students ragging freshers, under the above law. The minister said that the law was firm and unambiguous against those who engage in ragging in universities and even the bailing out of a ragging suspect does not come within the jurisdiction of a magistrate. He added that if convicted, the ragger would be sentenced to 10 years RI.

It is pertinent to ask as to why successive governments, since 1998, failed to implement the anti-ragging Act to the letter. Had they done so we could have prevented the flight of many bright students to foreign universities, which, needless to say, is a loss to the country.

Of course, it is left to be seen if the minister, unlike his predecessors, has the political will to implement the anti-ragging law to the fullest. We say this because even the former Education Minister, the late Richard Pathirana, who fathered the anti-ragging law, too made bold statements when the Bill was passed in parliament. However ragging continued unabated with even deaths being reported of victims subjected to sadistic ordeals.

Researchers on the subject of ragging are of the view that most of those bent on inflicting the most inhuman forms of ragging on their victims are products of unsettled social backgrounds and those with an inferiority complex. These are mostly rural youth who gained entry to the universities thanks to the district cut off marks. It is no accident that the bulk of these types are students in the arts stream who naturally harbour a grudge against city bred students of more affluent backgrounds. Add to this the class-distinction that is most marked in the universities and you have the ideal milieu for the type of ragging that is presently witnessed in our campuses. Hence one’s social outlook, accumulated frustrations, and lack of an English knowledge, or the kaduwa, too play a significant role that have their release in the sadism one hears of in the universities. Like minister Rajapakshe observed at the media conference, ragging practiced in the universities in Sri Lanka is not found even among the tribal communities in Africa.

Ragging is also a by-product of youth unrest. Hence, every effort should be made to prepare the background to mitigate this phenomenon. Today university students are confronted with the bleak prospects for their futures. A good majority of them are not equipped to fit into the prevailing job market and would most likely add up to the ballooning unemployment figures. Hence, the whole aspect of university education should be subjected to a reappraisal by the authorities so that the vast investment made by the government on higher education will not be in vain.

Pulling the wool

Inter University Students’ Federation Convener Lahiru Weerasekera has challenged Higher Education Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to prove that the IUSF was politically funded to organise their protest marches, following an allegation made by the minister to that effect. He dared the minister to name the political groups sponsoring the IUSF. “People of this country know how we collect money inside buses carrying tills”, he said.

It was the IUSF which single handedly organised the anti-SAITM agitation, bringing together not only the medical students but also schoolchildren onto the streets. How it was able to sustain such an elaborate campaign for months, with money collected in buses, is astounding indeed. Even the JVP, at one time, had its cadres holding tills at street corners. But the entire country is aware of the luxury life led by Rohana Wijeweera.


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