We are a concerned group of academics fighting to ensure the opportunity of high quality public higher education for the Sri Lankan masses. This blog is intended as a bulletin board to share news and ideas relevant to the cause. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the FUTA. If you wish to post any interesting articles please e-mail them to uteachers.sl at gmail.com
As the academics of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) continue their strike to coerce the government to get their remuneration demands, a current of adverse public opinion is manifesting around them, Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake told the Daily News.
Meanwhile, FUTA secretary Terrence Madujith said they are eagerly waiting to meet Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga to discuss their demand.
Minister Dissanayake said: “As I understand, the leaders of this strike are now planning to extend it to universities throughout the country.”
“They will find reasons to paralyze the system of university education rather than reasons to activate it,” the minister said.
Asked what the ministry will do about demands by striking university teachers of FUTA, Minister Dissanayake said “nothing” and added: “We have already met their demand for a salary hike with a generous portion.”
“In fact we have given them an increment which no other government has ever given them or would consider giving in a year,” he said. “We have already given an 83 percent salary increase for Senior Professors. We have given a salary increase of 36 and 39 per cent to university junior and senior lecturers,”he explained.
“Yet they are persistent on more without even going back to work while students have been rendered helpless,” he said.
“The strike started at the Peradeniya University with the support of UNP political groups. It is also very clear that the JVP politbureau members are hell-bent on carrying this strike forward at any cost.
“The members of a frontline party are also also involved in engineering the strike,” Minister Dissanayake said.
“It appears that JVP politbureau member Ven. Dambara Amila Thera has gone to the Wayamba University to expand the strike,” he said.
Dissanayake said on the demands made by FUTA, “Some of them are amusing and some do not make any sense at all.”
“They have asked us to withdraw 100 scholarships, which we had started giving to foreign students from last year to study in Sri Lankan universities. This being so, they have asked us to bear the costs of their children’s education. Of the children of a university teacher’s family, educational expenditure of two children who may go to a private or a public school, had to be borne by the government ,” he said.
“There is no sense in their demand for a six per cent GDP for education sector. Anyway with all the other facilities given to the education sector it comes to somewhere near six per cent,” he said.
“Only Ethiopia and Tanzania make a contribution of the sort to education, but these countries have low levels of literacy and education in general , unlike Sri Lanka,” he said.
Asked when Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga will meet FUTA leaders to discuss their demands, Dissanayake said, “ it is very unlikely to happen after what they did at the last meeting where FUTA announced just after that meeting, that the government was trying to mislead them by having meetings and committees.”