Faculties of at least five universities and a higher educational institute remain closed due to ragging as authorities struggle to bring the campuses under control. One of the most serious incidents of ragging resulted in the closure of the administrative offices and several faculties of the Ruhuna University on Friday. The university’s Vice-Chancellor, Senior Professor [...]


Ragging shuts down faculties with dons impotent to stop abuse

Police, V-C argue over who should take action

Faculties of at least five universities and a higher educational institute remain closed due to ragging as authorities struggle to bring the campuses under control.

One of the most serious incidents of ragging resulted in the closure of the administrative offices and several faculties of the Ruhuna University on Friday.

The university’s Vice-Chancellor, Senior Professor Gamini Senanayake, said four female fresher students had joined in the ragging of their own batchmates in that incident.

The four freshers had helped seniors by entering hostel rooms and forcing their batchmates out to face their tormentors.

“They guided the students to the seniors who performed inhuman actions in the name of ragging,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

Professor Senanayake said students were ignoring repeated warnings by the warden of the hostel as well as the dean of the faculty not to engage in ragging, which is banned under the Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act.

He said the students were also holding protests against the university’s action in notifying parents of the four freshers of their illegal behaviour and requesting their presence at a meeting.

Prof. Senanayake, who is also the Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Directors, said only one parent had showed up at the university while the rest had claimed that if they appeared, senior students would violently rag their children. Those taking part in the ragging – including three of the four freshers – were ignoring orders to vacate the university premises and were disrupting the functioning of the institution.

The university authorities have laid a complaint with the Matara police against the offending students.

“The Act on Prohibition of Ragging and other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions is strong: under that, legal action can be taken. We have lodged about five complaints and therefore the police must take action,” Vice-Chancellor Senanayake said.

Meanwhile, Inter University student’s Federation (IUSF) convenor Lahiru Weerasekara said they will hold protests over the eviction of the female students from the Ruhuna University without an inquiry.

He said four female students, fresher’s of the Technology Faculty were told to leave the hostel and were given letters of eviction, after they were accused of ragging their batchmates.

He said though the four students were accused, no inquiry has been conducted by the university authorities.

“The girls were told to vacate the hostel without a reason. They did not get involved in the ragging. There are no complaints against them and no evidence to prove they have ragged their batch mates,” he claimed.

Matara police said they had applied for a court order to evict the students, who were illegally occupying the university main building, but the offenders were refusing to leave the premises and were demanding a meeting with university authorities.

“We cannot take action according to the Anti-Ragging Act if the complaint does not refer to an offence related to ragging. The university has only complained that the students are illegally lodging at the university,” a senior police officer said.

“Without a proper complaint we cannot take action,” he emphasised.

“Besides, if we use police force the situation would become violent and, in the end, everyone will accuse the police of assaulting university students, so we are waiting for orders from our superiors,” he said.

He said the university authorities themselves could lodge a court case under the anti-ragging law and should not, instead, direct their problems to the police.

Professor Senanayake said the university had laid the matter before the police in accordance with the law and therefore the police should file a court case against the students.

The uproar at Ruhuna University was the most recent in a series of serious ragging incidents reported from the Trincomalee, South Eastern, Rajarata and Kelaniya universities.

The head of the Communication and Media Unit of the University of Kelaniya, Senior Lecturer Wijayananda Rupasinghe, said 22 students had been suspended for holding first-year students prisoner one day from morning to late at night.

He said the suspensions had been ordered under the powers vested with the university, and would be enforced until inquiries were held. If the ragging behaviour was found to be serious the university would take action under the anti-ragging act.

The Vice-Chancellor of Peradeniya University, Professor Upul Dissanayake warned senior students they would face action under the anti-ragging act if they harass freshers who enter university in October. New entrants to Peradeniya are registered in October.

If the act is enforced the students would be expelled from the university and face the prospect of a jail term.

“I advise parents to pay attention to their children during their entire stay at the university as they do during the first year, when ragging takes place. From the second year onwards, they must see whether their sons and daughters are inflicting pain on others in the guise of ragging,” Professor Dissanayake said.

He said parents were responsible for their children’s actions, as were university staff. “Both must be alert about their actions and prevent them from harming others,” he said.

He warned that once the act was implemented there was no use in parents pleading to the university authorities against stern penalties.

Professor Dissanayake added that 15 students found torturing fresher students in a rented house last year were still facing court action after being charged under the Anti-Ragging Act.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has sent circulars to all universities stating the Prohibition of Ragging Act should be implemented, commission Chairman Professor Mohan de Silva said.

He said a Centre for Gender Equity/Equality set up at the UGC under Senior Professor Uma Kumaraswami, which will also investigate ragging, operates around the clock.

Prof. Silva said that the UGC has also set up an online complaint system and launched a mobile application that can be used to make complaints about ragging. He said the power to implement the act sits with the university councils, vice-chancellors and police.

“There are practical issues that arise with the implementation of the act when university authorities and the police sympathise with the culprits and refrain from implementing this powerful act thinking their actions would ruin a life of a student,” he said. He has held a meeting with the Inspector-General of Police to address the necessity of enforcing the anti-ragging law.

Prof. Silva declared that the maximum punishment should be given to students who engage in ragging, otherwise vulnerable students would always be victims of such abuse.

App to rescue students from abuse   

A new app will enable university students to instantly alert authorities when they are beset by raggers.

The Executive Director of the Center for Gender Equity/Equality, Emeritus Professor Uma Kumaraswami, said the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) had recently launched the Emergency Safety Mobile App to enable students to inform the authorities about ragging at the time of such abuse.

She said officials would keep student complaints confidential and would willingly address the ragging complaints.

The app, which can be only used by students and academics registered with the UGC, can be easily downloaded onto a phone. Students must enter the student registration number given by UGC while academics must enter their NIC number.

Prof. Kumaraswamy explained that when using the app to ask for help the student must enter details of the faculty location, and then is given two options.

With one option, a red button in the app will send an emergency message to the relevant vice-chancellor and designated officer who can provide aid for the student to escape the situation while the app simultaneously directly informs the UGC of the incident.

Alternatively, if unable to lodge a complaint at the time of ragging, the student can press a white button and attach voice records, videos and lodge a full complaint with details after the incident.

Lodging the complaint with as much detailed information as possible was of paramount importance for the authorities to be able to take action against raggers, Prof. Kumaraswamy stressed.


Parents summoned as change agents

The Advanced Technological Institute in Mattakkuliya has summoned parents of students to hear about the consequences of ragging on victims and about measures taken to prevent this behaviour.

The institute remains closed following incidents of ragging.

Its Director, Professor P.G Lal Shantha, said parents of first-year students would be summoned first, to be shown how they could help prevent ragging.

He said, last year, when the institute had arranged a programme to educate fresher students about the dangers of drug use and even invited a senior police official to talk to them, senior students had disrupted the event and prevented the freshers from attending.

He said parents needed to be vigilant about student activities and take responsibility for their children’s actions as he could not police 1,800 students.

“They cannot think that the institute alone is responsible for disciplining students until graduation,” he said. The institute was closed after freshers were held back in a lecture room by seniors. Despite advice from staff for the freshers to leave they did not leave due to fear of repercussions from failing to obey the senior students, he said.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.