Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Convocation. Free education. Right to education

Post graduate : Unknown
Place : BMICH
Occasion : Post graduate convocation of the University of Colombo

Despite all odds, there are two things, according to independent agency reports, of which Sri Lanka could boast : free education and free health service. People of the country are indebted to architects of two systems which helped drag them out from absolute misery. Things are fast changing. Both life giving systems of the islanders are under severe threat mainly due to lack of funds. The State, by not providing sufficient resources, is withdrawing from these two important systems which are the corner stones of the quality of life of the people. More and more private capital is encouraged into the systems. In a way it automatically happens as private sector comes into fill the vacuum created by the state withdrawal. The State has so far failed to appoint regulators for any of those sectors that are going into private hands at a phenomenal rate. As a result neither people who pay get the service they deserve, nor people who deserve free services receive services from the state as it is in the process of withdrawing from its responsibility.

Results of this have begun to show. On one hand long waiting lists of life critical surgeries are common. These surgeries are done at private hospital here or abroad. Ironically, the state provides some financial assistance to needy patients for such medical care through irregular systems of subsidy or charity from the monies generated from the public or tax payers. The question arises why can the state not, utilizing those monies, improve infrastructure and develop human resources required to provide these types of medical care at the state system. This clearly shows the state's attitude towards free health care. The supply of basic medicines, equipment, trained staff etc is at a meager level at most of the state hospitals. This situation will continue to produce dire consequences in a country where a social security system does not exist.

The education system too experiences the same which eliminates the very spirit of free education which helped improve the quality of life in leaps and bounces. Today the system has almost collapsed. The state is no longer the employer by choice. Private sector employers complain that graduates who come out of the state university system do not have the necessary skill sets and in other words, they are unemployable. Other than medicine, graduates of almost all other disciplines find themselves unemployed or underemployed sometime or the other. Primary and secondary education systems are no better. Popular schools are over crowded. Due to lack of facilities in many schools, parents struggle to get their children in to a few schools which has led to severe malpractices and corruption. As state funds are not sufficient to run these popular schools, they are forced to collect funds from the parents. Invariably this pushes out those that cannot afford.

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