Tax-payer funded undergraduates in Sri Lanka demand more cash

FILE PHOTO -University students at a protest

ECONOMYNEXT – Undergraduates studying for a free degree at tax payer funded state universities have demanded more a more spending money now given through a fund, which not generating enough income at the moment.

The undergraduates representing Inter University Student Federation made the extraordinary demand protesting in from the President’s office.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had called them for a meeting where the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education, and the head of the University Grants Commission had met.

They had demanded delayed money for November and December and also asked for a increase.

At the moment in addition to a free education, they get a 5,000 rupee a month stipend from the ‘Mahapola’ fund, which was originally expected to have been financed by a lottery.

Information Technology and Higher Education Minister Bandula Gunewardene told reporters on Saturday that a promise had been given to pay the stipend from January 15 and every 15th of the month thereafter.

The quality of degrees offered at some state universities is so bad that graduates cannot get a job in productive sectors of the economy. Some firms also fear to hire them, due to their militant attitude.

As a result they fast in front of the main railway station in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo every so often and demand tax-payer funded jobs with lifetime pensions.

Minister Gunewardene had said that the fund now only had 10.5 billion rupees in assets, some assets have been lost and tax payers were now financing the stipend with a 200 million rupees supplement which amounted to 2.5 billion rupees a year.

The government planned to raise the fund to 20 billion rupees, the minister said.

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The government intended to start a new lottery and also ask for online contributions from around 300,000 graduates who had previously received Mahapola grants.

Take part of the money earned by lectures over weekends using university facilities and get philanthropists to chip in.

Minister Gunewardene said he will also contribute 10 percent of his salary as a legislator.

Though many poor students use the pocket money for actual purposes others also use the money to party.

“Actually it is a useful fund for poor students.” a former Colombo University graduate said. “But some also use it to party.

“It was the practice among some to queue up at the People’s Bank branch and groups used to have biriyani at Raheema’s. Also they go to Shanthi Vihar on Mahapola day. On other days students cannot afford to go to restaurants like that.” (Colombo/Jan10/2020)

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2 Comments

  1. Why not restrict Mahapola only to the needy students? I thought it was designed to do it that way. Also the students should realize that free education is a privilege and not a right. As long as it is not done they will not appreciate it. Government need to take steps to evaluate a students ability to pay and decide how much the parents have to contribute to their child’s education.

  2. While agreeing university students are always not fair about their demands, we should not forget that it’s not anybody and everybody who is selected for free university education. Only those selected from a very competitive examination get the opportunity to enter public universities. Even the developed world offers the brightest of students full scholarships along with bursaries/stipends. So it’s the cream of the country’s youth who get into free education not just anyone and everyone. The best of these students even obtain scholarships with stipend from other countries for postgraduate studies. There may be short comings but calling them tax payer funded in my opinion is not fair.

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