17 October 2014

SB’s teaching methods

There are those in which world who don’t mince their words.   Being forthright has its pluses and minuses.  Honesty is rewarded but then again in this day and age deceit is far more profitable.  A silver tongue that is owned by a person of integrity is quite potent.  The Minister of Higher Education S.B. Dissanayake is not such a man. 

He doesn’t mince his words, this everyone knows.  Integrity is not his strongest suit.  He has a loose tongue which has got him into trouble many times, even earning him a jail sentence on one occasion.  Just the other day, after students of Sabaragamuwa University tried to block him from attending the opening of a new hostel, ‘SB’ blurted out, ‘ඡන්ද කාලේ නිසා ඉවසනවා…නැත්තම් අට්ටාලවලට සලකන හැටි අපි  දන්නවා’ (we are restraining ourselves because it is election time…or else, we know how to ‘treat’ these “shelters” [where students conduct satyagrahas]).

He was able to attend the function thanks to the road being cleared by water cannons.  A few days later some thugs ‘treated’ the attalaya and some students whom he had earlier referred to as flies, ants and leeches (මුන් මැස්සෝ කූඩැල්ලෝ කූඹියෝ).  They were assaulted.  The ‘Attaalaya’ was destroyed.  Few would believe that SB didn’t have a hand in all this.  And this, going by SB’s un-minced words and what they implied was ‘soft stuff’ (in view of impending elections).  We can only imagine what kind of ‘treatment’ the likes of SB have dished out and envisage dishing out in other times. 

The students, for their part, don’t do themselves any favors by their own behavior.  While the Sabaragamuwa students were being ‘treated’ in non-election-time softness, lecturers of the Arts Faculty, Colombo University have refused to teach on account of pro-rag students brutally assaulting those who opposed the rag.  It is no secret that for all their holier-than-thou rhetoric those who run student councils turn a blind eye on and even support ragging in universities.  In this instance, however, members of the student union stand accused of beating up fellow-students.  Student leaders are also known to be quite unapologetic about the vandalism they indulge in.  Those who oppose their views are threatened and beaten up.  It is no surprise, then, that there is little or no public sympathy for the various causes they espouse.    Those who unleash bheeshanaya, after all, cannot cry foul when they are subjected to bheeshanaya.   

None of this, however, provides justification for the man in charge of higher education to talk and behave like a thug.  If at all, the man is essentially providing a template for those under his charge (read, all teachers, students and others in universities).    The ultimate loser here is the general public in whose name both parties claim they operate.  The people of this country whose money is used to educate youth and pay the expenses of ministers are short-changed by all this.  

While no one can really condone the behavior of student leader with respect to ragging, dealing with those who hold different views and in protesting against university authorities or the government, much more is expected of the minister in charge of the subject of higher education. 

S.B. Dissanayake, if he has not already done enough to disqualify himself, with this highhanded act (the threat and the language-used, in fact, are enough reason to sack him – in another country, in another time, we need to add, sadly) has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that he doesn’t have what it takes to be the Minister of Higher Education.  The only ‘escape clause’ that he can cite is the fact that all other possible candidates for the job (barring one or two) are no different. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is as much an indictment of the Government and its intellectual resources, as of ourselves as citizens and voters.  Just for the record, a sweep of the opposition does not offer reasons to hope either.