Widespread frustration across all campuses as strike enters 6th week
Academic activities at all universities continue to be at a standstill as the strike by lecturers enters its sixth week, and with no solution in sight.
Striking tertiary education academics want the Government to allocate 6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product for education, put an end to political interference in the running of universities, and increase university teachers’ salaries.
Frustrated that they have no lectures, exams or weekend courses to keep them occupied, campus students have started looking for alternative study programmes, and even employment.
Dr. Mahim Mendis, a senior lecturer in social studies at the Open University of Sri Lanka, told the Sunday Times that the Open University, which has an enrolment of 35,000 students, is currently completely inactive. Professor Gamini Senanayake, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna, said students were losing up to seven and eight hours of classes each day. At the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, final-year examinations have been delayed by more than a month and there have been no tests or evaluations for first, second and third-year students. A majority of final-year students have started looking for jobs.
“This is a very frustrating and sad situation,” a final-year Sri Jayewardenepura University student told the Sunday Times. “After studying so hard, now we cannot expect good jobs because we haven’t completed our final exams.”
University of Colombo final-year students who were to graduate in October or November will now have to wait till December or January to complete their degrees. The current semester is to be cancelled for first, second and third-year students, who will have to take up to eight or nine subjects instead of the usual seven, one Colombo campus student told the Sunday Times.
Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) president Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri said the students stood to benefit in the long term.
“We are asking the government to reverse a trend that would be detrimental to higher education. We believe the temporary disadvantages experienced by the students will be offset by the gains if the government grants our demands,” Dr. Devasiri told the Sunday Times. Student union spokesmen say the lecturers’ demands are reasonable. Sanjeewa Bandara of the Inter-University Students Centre said students were willing to make a sacrifice for sake of the future of the education system.
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