By Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. Michigan State University
IntroductionThese days our University dons are on the streets – it is perhaps the seventh day they are on strike, in pursuit of higher salaries and also dictating to the Government that the quota of the budget devoted to education should be increased from less than 2% today to the accepted level of 4% to 6% and also seeking a consultative place in the education policy making process, all worthwhile aims, provided the dons have played their part in the interests of the development of their Motherland.
I graduated from Peradeniya in 1954, with honours in Sinhala and after a short spell of teaching fed into administrative positions where I worked for eighteen years attending to economic development-in the marketing of agricultural produce, then in agrarian services, in small industries and thereafter in the District Administration attending to everything connected with the development process. After leaving the Administrative Service in 1973, I did a M.Ed in Community Development at the University of Manchester, worked two years as the Commonwealth Fund Advisor on Youth and Community Work to the Government of the Bahamas, entered the portals of Michigan State University for doctoral study in Agricultural Economics and Non Formal Education. Later, I was a post grad student at the University of Edinburgh for the M.Phil. in Agricultural Economics. Later on I worked as the Commonwealth Fund Advisor in Youth Development for the Government of Bangladesh for two years and finally was a Lecturer in Community Development and Third World Studies at Westminster Adult Education Institute in London.
Perhaps my wide variety of experience in grappling with the problems of people, in handling the administration of economic and social development programmes and my multi disciplinary studies in – community development, non formal education and agricultural economics in three continents may be of interest in the cause of higher education priorities.
My experiences with Sri Lankan UniversitiesI have had two skirmishes with the Universities in Sri Lanka.
The Deniyaya Coop Crayon
In Matara as the Government Agent I dispatched my Planning Officer Vetus Fernando to his alma mater the University of Colombo to get help in finalizing the art of making crayons. He had graduated in Chemistry the earlier year and said that he was certain of help from his Lecturers and Professors and will finalise the process of making crayons. He was very enthusiastic to meet his former professors to show out his work. I was in charge of creating employment and had decided to make a breakthrough in establishing import substitution type of industries. Earlier, I had directed small industry inspectors to guide small industrialists in Sri Lanka and my directing amounts to my total involvement in getting to know the knitty gritty of production. I knew the ingredients that went into the manufacture of crayons, little of the process and less of the proportions. Vetus was fed this little knowledge and he with the help of Graduate Assistant Palihakkara and some other enthusiastic officers were experimenting at my residence. Coming to a point where we needed a laboratory we commandeered the science laboratory at Rahula College, the only laboratory that we could get hold of and the science teachers enthusiastically helped our experiments. We made crayons that were never perfect, bending and of unsuitable texture. That was when I dispatched Vetus to the University of Colombo. We all eagerly awaited the arrival of Vetus. He returned after three days, a dejected and broken down man. He had gone behind, begged of his lecturers and professors only to be told that they were too busy with their lectures, marking tutorials and answer scripts. We were undeterred and continued with the basic equipment we had at Rahula and in a few weeks found the art of making crayons. We did establish Coop Crayon which produced around a tenth of Sri Lanka’s requirements till the Executioner of development in our country, the United National Party put a stop to it in 1978.
Today when I visit Sri Lanka and I spot Crayola crayons on sale at our Supermarkets my blood boils in me, and in nostalgia I recall how we did offer employment for over fifty youths and also avoided imports. That Crayon Factory would have created employment for hundreds. In similar instances in the USA, Michigan State University would have willingly helped and even continued technical guidance..
My application to be a Visiting Lecturer in Economics at PeradeniyaThe second skirmish happened in 1996 when I came back to live in Sri Lanka and offered my services to the University of Peradeniya. I had long forgotten my Sinhala though I had written my Master’s Degree dissertation on Modern Sinhala Poetry which is today a text book for anyone studying poetry. I was neck deep involved with economics, my forte being employment creation and had the good fortune of having designed and established the Youth Self Employment Programme in Bangladesh, easily the most successful employment creation programme one can find anywhere. I sent my papers to my friend, Professor Hewavitarana, who was about to leave. Professor Sinnathamby wanted to take me on as a Visiting Lecturer and I was asked to prepare a Lecture on any aspect of economics I wished and address the staff of the Department of Economics. I prepared a note on the Structural Adjustment Programme of the IMF that was designed and imposed on many Third World Countries and on Sri Lanka in 1978, detailing how any country that tries to implement its provisions immediately would get to a situation of foreign debt, high inflation, devaluation of its currency, increase in poverty. They listened patiently and hardly contested my views. The lecture ended and it also ended my being a Visiting Lecturer. My critique of IMF economic policy proved anathema to their thinking. Perhaps they did not want me to indoctrinate their students. I wrote out the lecture into a book and had it published in 1997 through Sarasavi: “ Microenterprise Development: A Strategy for Poverty Alleviation and Employment Creatrion in the Third World: The Way out of the IMF Stranglehold”.
This malaise is not limited to economic development professors in Sri Lanka. It is worldwide, because the World Bank and the IMF command a sanctity to their policies, also retain the most erudite professors to justify their policies whose wrath had better be avoided by professors who hope to participate in conferences and grants from these elite institutions. In fact I found it difficult to find a publisher for my next book, “How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternate Programmes of Success. (Godages) One publisher kept the manuscript for two years and backed out stating that his sales would suffer from publicity against the IMF.
The economics of IMF PolicyEven today the critique of IMF policy is limited within three persons- Martin Khor (Third World Network Features) from Thailand, Professor Walden Bello from the University of Philippines and myself. The Universities all over, the depositaries of excellence in higher learning are uninterested in the application of what they teach to actual practice. They have all connived with the IMF in spreading their gospel of Structural Adjustment Programme(SAP) to the Third World. The SAP advised the countries to relax the use of foreign exchange, and get funds from privatization of assets or raise loans to meet the shortfall. The local currency was devalued and a high interest rate was imposed. All import tariffs were reduced or dropped to enable imports to come in. In short instead of a production based economy, what emerged was an import and sell economy. The IMF gave loans freely which led to a situation of foreign debt. The policies also created an enclave of the rich who lived in luxury and lived on imports. This enabled the Superpowers to flood our countries with consumer goods. Restrictions on foreign exchange use were abolished and the rich freely used the foreign exchange causing the country to fall into debt. The working of the IMF policies amounts to creating a situation where foreign aid goes back in some form or other to the donor countries. In fact the IMF’s goal was to ensure that Third World Countries become indebted so that they become captive in the stranglehold of the IMF for further funds.
The UNP from 1977 took us on this path. Sri Lanka that did not have deficit budgeting, no foreign debt(foreign debt of only $ 750 million on projects) and a steady currency, was reduced to a foreign debt of $9,900 million, the Rupee was devalued by 430% (from Rs. 15 to Rs.80 to the pound) by 1995 and in addition ordered to demolish and abandon the total development infrastructure that we had. The level of foreign debt meant that henceforth Sri Lanka had to raise loans to service its debt. The economy was ruined beyond repair by taking foreign loans for consumption and for the elite and the rich to have a hey day with foreign exchange. The three of us, Martin Khor, Waldon Bello and I have been carrying on our tirade against the machinations of the IMF , unbelieved by many till recently, when came John Perkins , a chief officer for a multinational, into the scene with his book:, Confessions of an Economic Hitman , where he actually confesses that he, working in foreign aid disbursement to Ecuador did fabricate evidence and statistics in designing projects where the aid funds given get shunted back to the donor country in some form or other, leaving the host country saddled with the foreign aid that was given as a debt. In other words the Aid given goes back to the donor country while the people of the country have to bear the costs of repaying the Aid. The IMF advice is austerity. Austerity measures insisted on by the IMF means that the majority of the people have to forego a meal a day while to the rich it amounts to a small dip in a fat bank balance. This is the economic reality that grips billions.
If only the Economics Department dons in any of our Universities had taken on the IMF policy of Structural Adjustment, they would have made a contribution to the entire world.
University Education Then and NowOnce last year I was discussing our education problems with a colleague of mine, who had fed to a University and now holds a prime place as head of an educational institute. I questioned him as to why the Lecturers cannot hold the graduands within their grasp and inspire them as we were held by savants like Dr. GVS de Silva, Dr Dheerasekara, MB Ariyapala and Sarathchandra to mention a few. “Garvin, today’s situation is far different. Then we were inspired by Dheerasekara, Jayawickrema and Ariyapala. Now most Lecturers decamp after the lecture and sojourn in Colombo.” In our days at Peradeniya we were captive audiences at endless debates and discussions with savants like Dr GVS de Silva. We met the lecturers not only at lectures. I did not study economics but I gathered a great deal by casual discussions with Dr GVS I was privy to an argument between Dr GVS de Silva the Sub Warden of Arunachalam Hall and Dr Doric de Sousa. Dr GVS greeted him clad in his sarong. Dr Doric reviled him for coming out of his room in a sarong. Dr GVS replied:. “The sarong is what we wear and what most of us wear. I am one with them. That is us”. There was an unwritten chord of communication between our lecturers and us. The lecturers and professors inspired us.
Higher Education has to take on the mantle of National DevelopmentIt is my contention that Higher Education has to take on the mantle of national development. If that had happened- if the dons in chemistry had helped our crayon factory, when we beseeched their help, if any one of our dons had dared to tell our Government that to embrace the Free market Liberalization economy and to encourage our country to accept loans and to squander that money on allowing a spending spree for the rich of our country, leading to our foreign indebtedness and the loss of value in our currency was not in the interests of the vast majority of people in the country, then the Universities would have built up a name for excellence.
The Land Grant UniversitiesIn the annals of development in the USA, the role played by the Land Grant Universities comes to my mind. The USA was at that time undeveloped and the US Government created State Universities that were charged with the sacred aim of helping the local economy. My doctorate was from Michigan State University, a Land Grant University that took on the mantle of developing the local economy.. If any industrialist needed help MSU was there with its research students. The Professors would take on the task of research and application of their knowledge to get that enterprise on its feet. A post grad student would be allocated to research and find what has to be done. It will be a good idea for our University Grants Committee that directs our Universities to find out about the contribution made by the Land Grant Universities to the US economies and hold that up as the model for our universities.
University Professors in Administrative positions.,It is unfortunate that the Universities have not had many connections with officers that administered development programmes. Administrators could have an enhanced knowledge if only they had attended to post graduate study at universities. We were sent abroad for study. There were a few instances where university dons graced high positions in the administration. Once a professor was made a Deputy Director of Agriculture. That was a failure. Again Professor of Economics, H.A.de S Gunasekera was made the Secretary of the Ministry of Plan Implementation. He designed and implemented the Divisional Development Councils Programme which in its seven years created employment for 33,000 people.
Free University EducationSri Lanka happens to be perhaps the only country in the world today to offer free Tertiary education. If University education was not free I could not have found the money to become a graduate. Even the UK., which had a free University education system till a few years ago has given up and today a graduate has to pay over 10,000 pounds as fees alone per year. It is my opinion that if we are to continue free University education it becomes an incumbent necessity to ensure that the University studies does contribute to the development of our country.
An instance I can relate is the Comilla Programme of Rural Development in Bangladesh. The Government of Pakistan (then Bangladesh was within Pakistan) wanted to find out the best and quickest method of bringing about development in Bangladesh and sought the help of international universities. The Michigan State University willingly took on the mantle of offering advice and a few professors took up residence in the wilds of the Kotwali Thana with its mosquitoes and serpents. The Kotwali Thana was selected as a laboratory to find the best method of bringing about development. An Academy of professionals was established to offer advice and monitor progress. They worked on a cooperative model and to enable that cooperative to have the muscle to develop had a union of cooperatives at the divisional level. The administration of all government departments was attached to that cooperative union and development departments had to use that mechanism. The cooperatives were not of our dormant type- the once a year general meeting type. Instead the entire membership had to meet every Friday and the MSU professors and a professor from the Academy also participated. They discussed all programmes in detail and monitored progress. In a few years the yield of paddy, the main crop was doubled and full employment was achieved. This is an achievement that has never been achieved till today in any country. Today the Kotwali Thana is a paradise inside a poverty stricken country. The IMF instead of adopting the Comilla Model for Third World development came up with its Structural Adjustment Programme. That was in the interests of the IMF because their aim after the Seventies was to make the Third World countries indebted, to control their economies and to get them to be colonies once again-neocolonialism in action. Has any of our dons in economics either in Sri Lanka or elsewhere written on Neocolonialism today. This is a burning question today engulfing the lives of billions.
Studies in HistoryHistory is now accepted by many as a dead subject. One forgets that M.S.Perera of the Civil Service, one of our great administrators who commenced the Department of Agrarian Services within a year or two was a graduate in history. History is not dead, but parrotlike learning has taken toll of that subject. Historians have to study the development of the ancient irrigation system from inscriptions and relate it to how it is used. I have noticed that many historians are silent on the homeland theory and it has been left to non historians to take on that mantle to support the Sinhala people..
What of the history of development. Why did the largest development programme- the Community Development Programme in India fail. Why did Mao Tse Tung’s Chinese commune succeed. A study of important programmes of development will make history relevant to the development of our country. To my thinking all graduates who aspire for government jobs should study the history of development programmes.
Education as an Investment; not a burdenTake Education, the University dons argue that education should be accepted as an investment and not treated as a burden. Truly education should be an investment specially in a country like Sri Lanka which has free education right to University level, perhaps the only Third World country that has it today. In my two years in Bangladesh, where perhaps there is no village I have not visited and no earth track I have not set foot on, I was amazed to find hardly any schools in village areas. This was also reinforced in my casual visits to India. Both India and Bangladesh profess to follow free education upto the secondary level. But in both these countries education is totally free only in the Primary level. There is no nucleus of schools in rural areas like in Sri Lanka At secondary level the parents have to pocket out and they will pocket out money only for the children that are studious. The rest are fed to the trade that the parents engage in and by the school leaving age they have ventured out to eke an income however small. It is only the studious that are left in school. Not so in Sri Lanka where there is a village level school everywhere.
There is a further difference and I will be treading on educationalists who regard their territory as sacred. Once I was in Anuradhapura and ,my wife, a teacher was worried that all her students will never make the grades. The inspector those days visited the classes and was castigating all teachers with the death penalty which made me look into this in detail. I found that like in Developed Countries, Sri Lanka followed the system of automatic promotion- i.e. all the students of any class are promoted irrespective of their achievement. Carried on year after year every class is saddled with some who have due to some reason not studied. In UK there are school leavers whose 3Rs is less than a smart child of the fifth standard. And so is it in Sri Lanka. Not so in Bangladesh and India where the non studious are weeded out and the parents get involved with them in their agricultural pursuits, attending to livestock and general village chores. In Sri Lanka the parents are not even aware that the students are not performing well and the parents keep plodding them on to study, little knowing that they are low achievers. They continue till the school leaving stage and fail the O Levels. In that process the non achieving students got weaned out of domestic chores and the industry of their parents and they cannot feed into the vocations done by the parents. Inevitably they become misfits in Society.
This is also due to failures in policy at the Unesco level. The experts insist on the countries to expand the schooling age- for the country to have universal education close to the end of the Secondary level. But the Unesco is unaware about the practice of automatic promotion and also is not concerned about altering the education to make the school leavers fit into the world of work. In Bangladesh and India because the low achievers are turned away, the parents get involved in finding alternatives for the children. In my endless travel in Bangladesh my early morning circuits were met by youths who astride a water canal were “pumping” water to reach a higher level field with a canvas tied to two strings. They would be manually “pumping” water for a couple of hours. They were farmers. Not so in Sri Lanka where that age group is supposed to be studying while the fieldwork is done only by the aged parents. I will be castigated by many for this comment but what happens in reality is that in India and Bangladesh the low achievers are fed to jobs somehow while in Sri Lanka they are misfits for life and they ultimately rebel and become cannot fodder- like what happened in 1971 when at least 20,000 and in 1987-1988 when around 80,000 were moved down with bullets.
The failure lies in Unesco because they have not found alternative modes of study for the low achievers and the uninterested. This is only to be expected because real thinkers are never sought for in filling vacancies. The education administrators of today do not even know that automatic promotion takes place in schools! It is like the current appointment of Gordon Brown former Prime Minister of the UK to be the special global education envoy at Unesco. Brown knows little of education. He presided over the change of free education to a fee levying education in the UK. He was a thorough failure as Minister of Finance as it was during his time that the banks manipulated the Libor Rate and this helped the banks to make fantastic gains while every person in the population suffered losses. A man of that caliber will only further ruin what is left of the Unesco
What of the Education Faculties of our Universities that train graduates and teachers. They did train but has any university don looked into altering our school education to fit to the world of work.
The Political Systems of our Countries
Have our Political Science professors studied the deficiencies of the Party Political Syatem of Democracy. Once I asked this question from Dr Emajuddin Ahmed, the Professor of Political Science at the University of Dhaka and he admitted that he had never even thought of it. I opine that most of the ills of governance today stems from the system of representative democracy that Great Britain foisted on us when we got independence. The Party Political System amounts to a policy of dividing the representatives so that they will be fighting for ever. When Sirimavo became Prime Minister in 1970 she cleared out the development programmes of the earlier government. Out went the Rural Development and the Paddy Production Programmes. These could not be totally cancelled but were continued without any emphasis. Sirimavo came up with the Divisional Development Programme which created employment for 33,000 of our youth and created some viable government farms and industries like Coop Crayon which were all assets that were allowed to die by the next President t Jayawardena. Sumanapala Dahanayake the Member of Parliament who managed the Coop Crayon as the President of the Cooperative Union was harassed. A Deputy Director of Cooperatives A.T Ariyaratne was specially dispatched to Deniyaya to find something wrong to hold Sumanapala, responsible but Ariyaratne had to write that it was a well managed successful, profitable industry.
Any new government has a tirade against officers that did work well earlier. My Headquarters Divisional Revenue Officer, a kingpin in induistrial development was hounded out and had to leave Sri Lanka incognito to avoid being harassed. Has any Political Science don thought of a better system of democracy? Not yet.
Community DevelopmentThere is something very interesting about the Mahaweli Development Scheme. In my words,
“On the Mahaweli Programme where we have an entire Ministry at work the original plan was to provide water to a million acres on the basis that an acre required only five acre feet. This was in a situation where on Government farms the water used was as low as 1.6 acre feet. However when the Programme got under way it was found that the farmers used as much as 10 acre feet per acre.”
The Ministry is purported to have a separate Community Development section.
The fault lies in not educating the farmers in responsibility. This is nothing new. The stupendous Community Development Programme of India , the largest development programme the democractic world has ever known failed because in its implementation
The officials lost track of developing responsibility in the people. As Mukherjee its chief officer said, “ I get the impression that as workers in the programme we realized inadequately that the weakness lay in the methods followed… The bulk of the thinking done in conferences and seminars during this period was devoted to problems of implementation of the programme of activities, reasons for failure to achieve the targets of physical achievement and to failures of the administrative machinery to get things done and achieved by the people. Not enough thought was devoted to the process of community development and to relating the program activities to the community development objectives”(Mukherjee:Community Development in India) From Garvin Karunaratne: The Failure of the Community Development Programme of India : Community Development Journal: April 1973)
Evoking the participation of People is essential in any programme. People have to be evoked and their participation sought. Community Development is the concept of working with people in a manner where their initiatives and capacities develop and finally they take charge. This was followed by the dons from Michigan State University in the Comilla Development Programme. There are Non Formal education processes that have to be effectively used to build up responsibility and self reliance. In my own words, “Conscientization(from Paulo Freire), Non Directive Communication(From Batten), Leadership Development, Discussion and Deliberation, Participation and Sequences of Decision Making. Conscientization is thinking deeply of a problem and actively probing for a solution. Non Directive Communication is not to communicate what action has to be taken. Instead the worker provides learning material and the wherewithal to enable the people to arrive at their own decisions. The worker functions as a catalyst. The participants are left on their own to decide. Discussion and Deliberation enables the participants to discuss freely and deliberate on any problem. Leadership development refers to the process where leaders emerge within the functioning of development programmes. Sequences of Decision Making refers to the process where anything is done in stages where after each stage the participants do have sufficient time to discuss and deliberate. These various Non Formal Education processes act complementary enabling the development of the abilities and capacities of the participants.”
If community development and non formal education processes had been effectively utilized in implementing the Mahaweli Programme it would have been possible to create responsibility among farmers and we could have provided water to a million acres in place of the 500,000 acres of today.
Once Community Development and Non Formal Education were taught in universities to train administrators. That was when the Superpowers were intent on helping the development of our countries. As stated earlier the intent of the IMF was to subjugate our countries and the teaching of these disciplines were stopped. It would augur well for our Universities to commence teaching Community Development and Non Formal education. What happened to the Mahaweli Programme itself is an eye opener.
Vocational EducationToday we train thousands in vocations in an attempt to enable them to find employment. At the end of the training they have to feed into employment. Without necessary capital they cannot start a business of their own and even if they start they could find it a difficult task to be successful. Most of the trained stay unemployed searching for a paid job. There are apprenticeship schemes which are well talked of. Scotland today boats of 25,000 apprenticeship placements. The authorities fail to realize that though an apprentice gains experience and knowledge in the process there is no guarantee of employment. In many cases the establishment fires the permanent worker and gets a subsidy in the apprentice as his labour is provided free to the establishment. Thus vocational training as well as apprenticeship schemes do not really create employment. They only equip a youth to get employment.
In India there are currently two gigantic development programmes: The IRDP(Integrated Rural Development Programme and the TRYSEM( Training Rural Youth for Self Employment) The IRDP disburses grants and TRYSEM provides training, but there is no guidance in self employment. Everyone that gets grants and loans are also not trained. Grants were given for the purchase of an asset that creates an income like a cow. In the absence of monitoring and planning it was found that a cow that was purchased on a grant was resold at a higher price to another person who wanted it on a grant. This only led to inflation and not to increases in production. (From:Alleviating Poverty in India: can it ever be done, by Garvin Karunaratne: Asian Tribune 15/2/2007)
Lets get back to Sri Lanka. President Premadasa came up with his Janasaviya Programme which gave a grant to families provided they engage in training for employment. The grant was expected to be given for two years only. After President Premadasa’s assassination this Programme was dropped and in its place emerged Samurdhi, a grant to poor families. The training was not there initially and now too training is not insisted upon. However the Programme has marched on in the form of a welfare grant. If only the training element had been emphasized and guidance too provided in self employment this Samurdhi would have been more contributive to the economy.
Research by our Universities should be able to high light these nuances that can make Development programmes to become more contributive to the Natioanl Economy.
Working in Bangladesh I was faced with the situation where the vast bulk of the trained youths remained unemployed. I sought and obtained authority to design a new self employment programme which I implemented through the Youth Development staff. Here we developed the abilities and capacities of the youth in the actual task of establishing and nurturing an employment project. The officers guided the youth all the way, when necessary on a day to day basis. The Programme was expanded gradually and today 160,000 youths are now being guided annually to become entrepreneurs. It has been a difficult task but it did pay high dividends. By 2011 this Programme had been successful in guiding over two million to be self employed. (For full details: Garvin Karunaratne: Success in Development, Godages) I have used my training in community development and non formal education, coupled with my experience to the maximum in guiding this Programme to international stature.
Every country has vocational training programmes as well as apprenticeship schemes., These have to be developed with guidance in self employment for the trained to emerge as successful entrepreneurs.
Has any of our dons detailed the fine difference between vocational; training and creating entrepreneurs. If any had researched and done work that would have been a feather in the cap of that University.
Recently at the Rio Conference President Rajapaksa has stated that a new paradigm for development has to be found. It would behove our Universities to get involved in this task .
In my 1977 book: Microenterprise Development… the Way Out of the IMF Stranglehold I urged that a new paradigm for development was necessary. The contents of this paper too proves that new thinking is essential and therein lies the future for our Universities to become contributive to the national economy. This is especially true of a country that is committed to free education up to the first degree at University level.
It is hoped that my random thoughts may evoke a response within our Universities. These thoughts may please be considered by the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Higher Education. It is only such an development that can adorn our Universities. Opportunities should be offered for university dons to play a part in developing employment creation projects. It is lamented that out Universities are far below in world rank. To anyone interested I would urge that action be taken to make higher education and school education contribute to national development and if any of our Universities take the initiative it will be a priviledge to be of service. That to me sounds the way to regain world acclaim.
Former Government Agent, Matara District
18 th July 2012
All quotations unless otherwise marked are from my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka and Alternate Programmes of Development, Godages.