Govt trying to militarise education -- Devapriya
By Treshan Fernando
The Government is attempting to militarise and privatise education by passing the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University Bill, alleged the National Organiser of the Socialist Students’ Union (SSU), Rangana Devapriya.
He said so at a Media briefing held yesterday (12). Devapriya said through this Act, which has been recently presented in Parliament, a separate board would be set up to govern the KDU.
He added that this board’s authority may be higher than the University Grants Commission (UGC), which currently is the main authority for State universities. Additionally, this board would mainly consist of persons with a military background rather than individuals from the field of education, Devapriya claimed.
Devapriya went on to note that the board would comprise of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, the Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Army Commander, Navy Commander, Air Force Commander, Vice Chancellor of the KDU, an official from the Treasury, and a nominee from the UGC.
Since the Vice Chancellor of the university must be a person with a military ranking, Devapriya stated that from the nine people to be appointed to the board, seven would be military personnel.
He further said that the UGC is usually given the authority to ensure that students who enter the university are deserving and to monitor the degree programmes which are conducted by the university.
Those who work in the UGC are from the field of education and have expertise regarding these activities, Devapriya said. However, he argued that the same cannot be said for this board that the Government is set to appoint.
Devapriya also claimed that the Bill would allow the board to bypass various authorities. He noted that, as an example, the authority to monitor the building of institutions such as teaching hospitals will be vested with this board.
Whilst SAITM was required to gain UGC approval as well as the approval of the Sri Lanka Medical Council and Ministry of Health, Devapriya voiced his concern that this board would not have to follow these procedures.
He also argued that the Government is passing this Bill to hasten the privatisation of education. Originally, the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University was set up for those from the Tri-Forces. However, now it is open for any individual.
Additionally, Devapriya noted that the university may charge fees for admitting students, despite being built using taxpayer money. He also highlighted that as those who study and teach at the university will be under the military system, they are not allowed to form unions.
Devapriya argued that this new Bill would be detrimental to the quality of education and could lead to the privatisation of education. He urged the Government to instead take the university under the UGC, without moving ahead with this Bill.