Category Archives: Education

FUTA Strike to end on Thursday: What about the 6% for education?

Sri Lankan university system is dysfunctional since early July. The federation of university teachers associations (FUTA) is on a trade union action close to last three months. I can imagine the internal suffering of thousands of under-graduates in this country relating to the frustrations we had to go through due to time to time minor closures during our university life.

 

I assumed FUTA’s main demand that was fore front in every trade union action was an allocation of 6% o GDP for education, stop politicization of universities, ensure autonomy of universities, and to make sure the university system could function in its true spirit of intellectual capacity. In fact, today’s (09-10-2012) on Daily Mirror talks only about

 

“FUTA President Dr. Ranjith Dewasiri said they decided to call off the strike by Thursday following successful discussions with Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundare last evening. He said both parties reached consensus on the salary issues and the Treasury Secretary had pledged to give them written assurances on the matter soon. After receiving the written document, containing the method of the salary increase, the strike would be called off, he said.” (http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/22552-futa-strike-to-end-on-thursday.html)

 

What happened to the demand in the front line?

 

“FUTA would not back down until its demands were met though it was willing to compromise on the request for a six per cent increase in government spending on education which was one of FUTA’s primary demands.” (Ibid)
Does it mean the strike will not come to an end on the coming Thursday?
“Dr. Dewasiri said the government had made it clear it could not increase government spending on education to six per cent of the GDP but said a significant increase in spending was expected by the union.” (Ibid)

 

What if the government agreement was the other way around? Increase the allocation of 6% for the education and to maintain the salaries at the same level in order to maintain recurrent expenditure at a lower level?

 

Will you still stop your trade union action, saying “we will call the strike off, but will continue to fight for our salary increments”?

 

The bitter truth behind the FUTA action is mere salary increments, scape-goating the innocent Sri Lankan youth. If FUTA ever had any affectionate towards the Sri Lankan education system, would they ever delay the academic calendar by another semester? Did any of the lecturers who were to leave the country on scholarships/sabbatical leave stayed back because they were on strike?

 

Before you demand for salary hikes, did you ever think whether you have been able to deliver your duties to date? When Sasanka Perera from the University of Colombo says he suffers from intellectual poverty within the university system what do you have to say in response?

 

How many of the so called ‘academics’ have produced at least two papers during the past 12 months for the university you are serving for? How many of you have instead re-produced the western oriented knowledge in our university system just like that with less of an attempt?

 

Universities in Sri Lanka have been mere structures and university teachers are the individuals who maintain these structures to ensure their mere existence. At the end of the day, how do you legitimise what you do to your consciousness? What if it’s your daughter who is studying in the University? What if it’s your son has to wait to finish his final LLB paper in order to sit the Law College Finals over months and delays entering his professional work by another 6 months or more?

 

You have been no different to politicians who mislead the people and enrich their pockets. You mislead an entire nation by putting a 6% for education to the forefront. Your salary hikes will silent you and your demands in hours. You will go back to your comfort shell of ‘local universities’ to maintain the structures, until you will have the need for a pay hike again.

 

Informal Education, Culture and Social Integration

Informal education, similar to the formal one enables each and every child to maximize their potential and to become contributing members of a society. It is a fact that intensive, significant and culturally sensitive efforts are needed to allow the children to attain the achievements they need to integrate successfully into the society. Culture is a key discipline that is nurtured mainly via informal educational settings and during the socialisation process.

 

Therefore, a culture is socially learned. To say that culture is socially learned is to say that individuals acquire it in the process of growing up in the society or some other kind of group. Enculturisation generally happens as a normal part of one’s childhood. This denies the fact that culture is transferred genetically by biologically reproduction but something the people born into that group acquire with growing up among other members.

 

When the process of social learning over many generations continues, knowledge will be developed and accumulated. Ideal democratic scenario will suggest that people live today off the cultural knowledge transmitted by the previous generations and will transfer to the next generations together with the new knowledge acquired from the modern society as well. This further paves the way for the development of one’s culture as well.

 

In a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic society like Sri Lanka enculturisation process needs to address the principles of social cohesion that encourages social integration. Hence, the first lessons that come from home should encourage the process of building the values and relations within an individual. Such constructs however are essential to respect another person for who he/she is, irrespective of the language spoken, colour of the skin, gender, age or any other factors. Most importantly, our children should be taught that respecting one’s culture does not hinder us being part of ours.
Human behaviour in this regard varies from culture to culture. Even the two kids in the same family who are brought-up in the same culture differ in their behaviours. The behaviour of individuals varies for several reasons. First, individuals have different social identities: males and females, old and young, rich and poor, parents and children and so forth. Moreover people act and behave differently based on the context and situation as well. Cultural standards for and expectations of behaviour of people therefore are not always clear. It is therefore a mistake to think that all people will behave in the same manner within cultural borders.

 

Informal education is the best platform for our children to learn these differences, to understand the diversity among us: as people of the same culture and from different ones. To understand that the society we live in is for all. We take responsibility to build democratic values and healthy relations among our students as essential for the creation of such an equitable and dynamic society, where all individuals regardless of their race, sex, language, religion, can fully exercise their rights and responsibilities on an equal basis with others and contribute to a cohesive Sri Lanka. As parents and responsible citizens of present, we are to invest for an inclusive society for our children of tomorrow.