Bandula in do-or-die battle to save Open University of Sri Lanka students
ECONOMYNEXT – Unknown forces have launched a conspiracy to de-stabilize the Open University of Sri Lanka and he is ready to enter a do-or-die battle to save the national university system and the freedom of students to study higher education minister Bandula Gunawardana said.
Unknown forces are trying to undermine the national university system at a time when the government is trying to find places for all qualified students within the country, he said.
“When I visited the University I found that some students are not allowed to study inside, or attend the library,” he said.
“Outside the university also students who do not follow their dictates are harassed.”
He said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has called a meeting of university chiefs and ministry officials and he would bring up the issue.
“President Rajapaksa as Defense Secretary defeated the Tamil Tigers ending a deadly war,” Minister Gunawardana said.
“I believe that we have a national duty to ensure that those innocent students of Sri Lanka are allowed to walk freely on the roads and conduct their studies in freedom, even if we die in the process.
“If we are killed we have to give the opportunity for others to study and get their education freely.
“I am asking that do not harm the national university system and make way for students to go abroad. I am asking as a minister who has benefited from the national free education system.”
He said the OUSL, was set up mainly for working people to get further education.
“I feel that that hidden forces are funding protests in a bid to buckle the domestic universities and drive students abroad,” Minister Gunawardana told reporters in Colombo.
“That is what I feel after being a minister for 90 days. There is a big invisible force which is trying to show a wrong picture.”
Agents for foreign universities who are marketing their services are pointing out that instead of getting into a domestic university, getting bogged down by strikes, with the graduation date uncertain it is better to go abroad, Gunawardana said.
The Open University is a cost-recovery education system which charges fees for courses, which are supplemented by the government.
Many were teachers, who were trying to get additional qualifications to qualify for increments.
Students paid around 30,000 to 60,000 rupees a year for a course. Annual increases are around 10 percent, which is enough to cover inflation, he said.
Even then the fees are not enough to cover salaries of lecturers Minister Gunawardana said. Last year there was a deficit of 400 million rupees, he said. (Colombo/Feb10/2020 – Update II)
Jehan Perera - Executive Director National Peace Council