Higher Education to exterminate extremism | Daily News


Higher Education to exterminate extremism

Country’s Education plays an important role in the life and the culture of its people. The University of Ceylon was established on July 1, 1942 by the Ceylon University Ordinance No.20 of 1942 which was to be unitary, residential and autonomous. The University was located in Colombo and several years later a second campus was built in Peradeniya.

The University of Ceylon became the University of Sri Lanka following the University of Ceylon Act No. 1 of 1972 resulting in a more centralized administration and more direct government control; this gave way for the creation of separate universities after the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. Even though 15 universities are function, these new universities of independent identities were created and the government maintained its direct control and centralized administration through the University Grants Commission. We maintained a perfect blend of cultures, races, religions through these entities.

Learned extremists

The present pathetic situation created by extremists of this country has an unfavourable atmosphere for the higher education sector. Ministry of Higher Education has the responsibility in formulating policies and strategies and implementing the same to bring the higher education system of the country equivalent to the standards of the rest of the world. However, up-to-date this country has only a national policy framework on higher education and technical and vocational education published by the National Education Commission in June 2009.

Higher education in Sri Lanka has been based on the several prominent Pirivenas (Ancient Buddhist Monks Training Centres) during the local Kingdoms. They have opened up their centres of excellence to all the children in this country without any extremism approach. The University of Kelaniya, University of Sri Jayawardenapura are the best examples of this nature. There is unity in diversity in 15 universities. These universities contribute in numerous ways to improve the net value of the Human Capital in Sri Lanka.

Do we have gratitude towards this nation?

Lalith Athulathmudali as Education Minister developed an initiative to develop the country’s higher education system in the 1980s. The Mahapola Fund established by him provides scholarship and much-needed funding to higher education institutions to this day. In the name of such great personalities and with a great tribute to Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara, our citizens have the opportunity to obtain free education in this country without any discrimination to any religion, race. Such great personalities have implemented the best policies and practices in the name of the future generation of this country. However, a few learned people do not have the gratitude to serve this country. It is a known factor that some learned people were involved in the recent extremist activities in our country. They have received their higher education with public funds and some are creating extremist opinion which we need to condemn as a nation.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka considers education as a fundamental right. According to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals progress will need to accelerate to reduce growing disparities within and among countries.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a global blueprint for dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future.

However, the question arises to what extent we have reached in sustainable development goals, without a proper policy to cater to everybody equally.

Therefore universities need to be centres of excellence and not centres of extremists. Such initiatives need to be stopped by the Cabinet as it is a danger to the National security and the future of this Nation. Such initiatives have to take under the direct control of the government to provide equity in the dissemination of required knowledge to children as needed by the country’s labour market for the development process, without limiting it to the interest of extremists. Such endeavours may come in future as well, as long as we do not act now on a sustainable policy on education and higher education.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations once stated that “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it”.

Innovative practices and good principles are needed to formulate the policy of higher education in Sri Lanka rather than taking ad hoc decisions in the interests of different political and extremists groups to fulfil their hidden agendas in establishing universities to spread different ideologies to destroy this island. At a time where cross border higher education resulting in the increased mobility of students, academic staff, programmes, institutions and professionals has grown considerably globally, we need to protect our universities and institutions to safeguard the Sri Lankan identity. After all, if we do not act now, what we will be losing is our future generation.

Let’s change the extremist tide

Post 9/11 United States, has been able to change the attitude of the Muslim youth. Men and women who were inspired to work across cultures challenged the stereotype and broaden the knowledge of the other. Art, sports and culture could be used to change the attitude of religiously and culturally alienated youth in Sri Lanka. Ali Abbas, Ilhan Omar changed the landscape of extremism. Let all Sri Lankans have “courage of conviction to do what is right”. 

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