‘uni lecturers get more than high govt. officers’
‘Important, students are taught how war was won’
In an interview with LAKBIMAnEWS, Minister of Higher Education S. B. Dissanayaka said that leadership training is not military training. “This is training that is specifically geared to improve the students’ leadership skills and help positive thinking. There is a reason for subjecting these students to a leadership training programme.”
By Lasantha Weerakulasuriya
- What prompted the government to subject the students to a military training regimen?
So there is a vacuum in their lives and it is in such a background that they enter universities. We need to address these shortcomings on the part of the students, especially the ability to do one’s day-to-day work on time without depending on someone else. This is a requirement for any individual in life and this training is geared to look into such areas.
Further, it is to improve the capacity of the students to stand on their feet and to face up to the challenges in life. These are only a few aspects that this training is set to cover.
- Do you think this training scheme is healthy for the students or is it a subtle move to turn the university sector into military academies?
I need to stress here that the results of this exercise have to be gauged in the future and not overnight as it will not happen like a miracle.
We also have three goals to accomplish through this endeavour. Any student, when he or she leaves the university, should be equipped with a sound knowledge of the English language. Also, they should be equipped with a sound knowledge of Information Technology (IT), and they should not be idling on the roadsides sans jobs. These students must have a value - both in this country and outside these shores.
These training modules have been created following advice received from experts attached to the Colombo University, the Kelaniya University and the British Council, to name a few.
- People have the impression that this training could be a ploy of the government -- subjecting the students to military training systematically and turning them into soldiers?
The JVP knows that once these students come out of this training it will be tough to absorb them into their hideous movement in the future.
That is the main grouse that they have regarding this training exercise. Even the parents initially expressed fear that their children are being sent to military camps. But once they were briefed the parents understood the true motive of the government in conducting this training.
- The training has been going on now for over a week. Are you content with the training given in these army camps?
- Does the government intend to carry this training scheme forward by way of a national policy?
- What sort of impression have you got of the university sector in this country?
- How do you find the finances for the student training programme?
The President has given us around Rs.200 million for this training programme. We cover expenses from these funds. We incur this amount only for the food provided for the students during the three-week period. The rest of the expenses are borne by the Defence Secretary and the Ministry of Defence.
- What plans have you to turn the local universities into classy universities found outside Sri Lanka?
- What other plans have you got to improve higher education?
- Is the government out to influence the university sector amidst the glorification of the war that was won, by inculcating in students various notions?
- There are many exercises that were begun in this country amidst much hype but sans any positive results. What guarantee can you give that this too will not suffer a similar fate?
Just because a few problems crop up I cannot be put down. I relish a challenge and that will be my motto, going into the future. For that I have the blessings of the president.
- Are you content with the salaries drawn by the lecturers of universities?
We raised lecturers’ salaries by 36.5 per cent. All the other government sector workers had their salaries being increased only by five per cent. We also told the lecturers that the salary increase of 36.5 per cent was only the start, having assured them of another increase in the next budget. We cannot raise salaries in the interim. If we increase their salaries what will the government sector workers say? They too will demand another salary hike.
These people are out to create chaos in the country through an issue like this and that cannot be allowed by a responsible government. Look at the salaries drawn by some of the top government servants. The secretary to the president draws a monthly salary of Rs.57,000 while the secretary to a ministry takes home Rs.47,000 every month.
However, a university lecturer is currently entitled to a salary of Rs.114,000. So where is the justice in their demand for a salary hike? We are currently in the process of streamlining the university sector where qualified lecturers must be enlisted -- while turning Unis’ into reputed academic institutions both in and out of these shores.