“Proud to be from a Non-Government University”: Whose Pride? Why, “Pride”?

A young Mr. Dharmakeerthi had recently posted the image I have herewith uploaded as a recent Facebook post: “I am proud to be from a non-governmental university”. In accompaniment is a substantial text in which Dharmakeerthi makes a defensive apology for Private University Education. Some of the highlights of his story — misreadings and substanceless meanderings, really —  are as follows:

  1. Education is education whether it is “private” or “government”.
  2. The Private University student paid for their studies, but it doesn’t mean that they received their grades for the money they paid. They were received for the “effort we invested” (verbatim).. “We never wasted a single penny of that investment our parents made for our education”.
  3. (To “Revolutionary Students” of State Universities) Dharmakeerthi says to be thankful for the “free education” they are receiving at the “Cost of people” and to make sure that “each penny invested by the country on behalf of you is worth it”. He urges the State sponsored students not to regard Private University students “with jealousy and hate” but to “invest that time on studies and be a good citizen”.

12208535_554368741376772_1089326844388665420_nA pedestrian on cyber sidewalks is dictated by commonsense to leave people like Dharmakeerthi alone, as, clearly, this is someone engaged in an extremely shallow reading of the “State vs Private” education debate which has many deep and complex implications. Initially, I engaged with the post in passing, specially, since Dharmakeerthi is defensive and apologetic of his Degree and as he misses the deeper ethical dimension of the against-Privatization line, which, for me, is crucial. But, at the time of writing this, this post — which is one of several similar posts being circulated across the web in recent weeks — has notched 1000 odd “likes”, including those from a few young men and women I see and meet on a daily basis. Some of them even share this bizarre post, saying “I am a State University student, but, I agree with this 100%…”, which is sad to say the least.

Why is the post Dharmakeerthi has shared bizarre? Why is its uncritical sharing, to say the least, sad? At the risk of sounding reductionist, the ethical debate underlying the “State vs Private” conflict has to be re-iterated even though I am quite aware that it is a more complex debate. But, for the purpose of documentation needed for this post, I am led to spread out some of its cardinal aspects as follows:

  1. The right to education is fundamental. It is an ethic and a right, and it has been provided constitutional grounding.
  2. Education, donored through an institutionalized mechanism, can benefit from parameters and benchmarking, ensuring relative consistency and quality. In the Sri Lankan system there is a merit-based prioratization in selecting candidates to Universities. This is an ethical base evolving from the more socialistic, welfare-friendly aspects of government.
  3.  When Education is commodified, the merit-oriented base is (can be) ruptured, resulting in a parity between those who can “purchase” that education, and those who cannot. This is unethical, given that not all candidates are of the same economic footing.
  4. Sri Lanka, at present, has high pressure at the bottleneck into Bachelor’s courses. Cut off marks are competitive and intake is limited. Candidates within the top 5-10% of their GCE A/L lose out on Entrance.

Under these circumstances, Dharmakeerthi’s argument that “all Education is Education” is a misreading of the worst kind. In the above context, how can the 3600th in a list that only permits 500, bypassing the 501st on the back of a healthier purchasing power be ethically rationalized? Life is not always about survival of the fittest: specially, when it comes to matters of morals and ethics. The more consistent answer to the dilemma is what is at the heart of many of the Activist organs agitating for Fair and Free Education: a meaningful and efficient expansion of the system, policy-making and a channeling of funds and facilities to reach this end.

Phrases in Dharmakeerthi’s post, such as, “the Private University student paid for their studies… they received their grades for… the “effort [they] invested” and “[they] never wasted a single penny of [the] investment our parents made for our education” are anti-intellectual in their rhetoric and shows a shallow assessment of the debate at hand.  His feel-good euphamisms aside, can one reduce the on going struggle for a “Free and Fair Education” — for one which activists and students stake their careers and futures — to a “waste”, in a simple cost-benefit sense? Who is Dharmakeerthi to patronize and give pontific advice to the political convictions of collectives that strive to avert crisis at their own cost; who are now told by this Superior Being “to be thankful for the free education” at the “Cost of people”? The Student Activism is told not to view Private University students “with jealousy and hate” but to “invest that time on studies and [to] be a good citizen”. That, all issues will be solved by a magic genie.

Student demostrations for the right of education

Student demostrations for the right of education

The struggle for Free and Fair Education is accented by the belief and faith for an expansion and further democratization of Education opportunities. The main agitation on the part of numerous activists engaged in the struggle is to increase state responsibility in order to meaningfully further facilities, resources and cadre intake. It is perceptive of the standardization of education and the teaching and learning mechanism to meet an acceptable level within an environment of “equal access” and equinimity. Unlike what Dharmakeerthi suggests, there is no “hatred” or “jealousy” underpinning the struggle for Free Education. Nor is the Student Movement’s / Activists’ struggle one against the individual students of Private Universities. It is a struggle against an abused ethic, and one carried out in view of a more acceptable, democratically-honed access to Education.

Why I am saddened, at one level, is because Dharmakeerthi’s bizarre pronouncements seem to have stirred a response — a huzzah — in some contemporaries with whom I try to engage critically and politically on a weekly basis. Some of these persons are socially privileged and members of an “elite niche” on campus, whose worldviews and preoccupations are not necessarily complementary with the expectations and aspirations of students with “lesser” social clout. Yet, these are young minds whose political consciousness, one hopes, may spot a naive, baby-statement when one is on offer. Their personal prejudices against Left Wing Student politics and their alienation from the University at large have misted/corrupted their aptitude in critically engaging with a post like what is under our scrutiny.

“I am proud to say I am from a non-govt university”: where does the pride come from? What is the catalyst of such pride? In an ethics-free application, purchasing power may dictate one’s consuming a degree-education. But, still, why “pride“? Or, is this as hollow a statement as Dharmakeerthi’s reading of Education as a whole: a cheap cut-and-paste from the “I am proud to be….” series, which is a cheap moment of a larger counter-intellectual drive which sweeps us to-and-fro at every turn?


16 thoughts on ““Proud to be from a Non-Government University”: Whose Pride? Why, “Pride”?

  1. මේ රටෙ මිනිස්සුන්ට පින් මට නොමිලෙ විශ්වවිද්‍යාල අධ්‍යාපනයක් දුන්නට.මන් කොහොම හො ඒ ණය ගෙවනව!මට අඩු ගානෙ ඒක හො කියන්ට ලැබෙන්නෙ රජයෙ විශ්ව විද්‍යාල නිසා.අනෙ ඒවා වහන්නනම් එපා.සල්ලි කාරයො විතරක් උගත්තු වෙයි.මුදලාලිලා ඉතින් අම්මා උනත් විකිනන්ටනෙ බලන්නෙහ්!

  2. I believe Mr. Dharmakeerthi’s ‘pride’ comes from the Sri Lankan context itself, where being a government university student is considered to be better than being a private university student by some state university students and adults. Myself being a Sri Lankan/North American student, here, there is no such thing as ‘pride’ that puts down or value certain students over others depending on the kind of universities they attend to. I believe it’s Mr. Dharmakeerthi’s way of responding to those state university students who puts down private education or even sometimes overseas education – which is much advanced than the current education system in Sri Lanka (no offence to the Sri Lankan education system, the comparison is understandable considering the challenges developing countries face (income, space etc.) compared to developed countries). This ‘pride’ is something that has been created by the Sri Lankans themselves. Not getting into to a government university does not mean that person is less capable than those who did. Unfortunately some think so – to credit themselves or to make self feel important, I do not know. There is no pride to be associated with being a private vs. government university. If you step outside of Sri Lanka and say that one of my achievements is getting into a government university in Sri Lanka that would mean nothing, while what you know and have done as an academic is all that would matter and you could be proud of.

  3. One major drawback in this play of words of yours is you have paid no attention to the cause of Dharmakeerthi’s expression of the matter and mind you it was not an apology as such. It was the sincere response to the superiority complexes of state students who were in an unapologetic and a shameful attempt to force feed everyone studying in a private university of an inferiority complex which was never asked for. And was foundation-less. Just because you fiddle around with more words , it doesn’t add to the validity of the facts you state. 😛 keep that in mind, might come in handy for future posts of yours.

  4. Get a life author. Do not pick out random parts of a post and make up stupid arguments to make things look bad.
    Surely if you read the post in full you will see that his argument is very rational and logical.
    It is quiet selfish to think that only the top most achievers of local A/L should end up going to universities as the scores are based on a z score and good performers of colombo region misses the opportunity to engage in higher studies.
    Only our country operates a education system as such. Do you think it’s fair?
    instead of rioting like the state govt. Students, these students pursue other higher educational qualifications as they too need to earn a living.
    This goes saying that most of us quiet disagree with certain institutes giving out degrees for money. Those should br controlled by the government. But all private universities are NOT as such.
    so stop being naive.

    As a foot note let’s just also hope that this post wasn’t intended to get popularity to this page by writing BS about his post as you correctly mentioned that it has been liked by many. 🙂
    Good day! Next time think rationally before posting stuff which ain’t worth a penny for anybody.

    • Your biggest problem (as you project yourself) is your ego. You seem to suggest that you think everything is “about” and “around” you. The post you made on FB is a good example. Even here —- you want to make us think you’re “happy” and you are happy that this is written “around” your post. Dude — clearly, you nor your friends are “happy” 😀 And this is NOT written “around” your post, (even though it was, i agree, an intriguing post in its own simpleminded way), but, this is written most clearly refuting your harangue.

      You conceding that just because our line of thought seems to contradict yours — and that you cannot / does not want to engage with it — is a reflection of OUR “immaturity”, further shows how vainly egoistic you want to project yourself.

      I would say — be contextual. be a tad historical. Get to know what the different activist groups demand through their various engagement for “Free Education”. Clearly, I do not agree with the IUSF. But, the IUSF is not the activism for Free Education. There is a logic and an ethic underneath the democratization of education. THAT and only that is our concern.

      • Oh yeah, don’t we know that, now! 😀 Just… don’t blame it on time. Blame it on anything, but not time and your degree. Thanks for writing in though. Much appreciated. Point.

      • Why would I blame on my degree? Poor effort son! Show this to a child! Even a child would understand that you have lost your head from the baseless statements of yours

  5. Dharmakeerthi and his band of friends —- the worst of your response to the entry is that you in no way seem to follow the argument I submit, which has nothing to do with Dharmakeerthi’s (or your) personal beliefs. At their best, your views collective demonstrate a prejudice and arrogance in attitude you have over ‘state university students’ or activists from that discourse. And you are so centered on the fact that a childish post by one of you was used as a departure point to this entry, you fail to see the larger framework of some of the thoughts we try to channel.

    “Play of words” and “immaturity”? Refute or respond to the argument, folks. These straw arrows go nowhere. And, please: one of you (wickramasekara) suggesting that we are writing this post to up our ‘hits’? What’s that opening line again, wickramasekara? “Get a life” 😀

  6. There’s no argument here son! And I really can not be wasting my valuable time over arguing with people from asylums 🙂 have a good day! And I hope you recover soon from your retarded thinking

    • I think that reply kind of sums it up….. You are not worth my time either Mr Dharmakeerthi. But, as I said, this is not about you. This is about a issue bigger than you. You can be patronizing and sidestepping (“too much work”… “person from asylum”), for all we care, but engage at some acceptable level. Anyways. Guess you’ve said it all.

      • LOL! Hurt? You may moan as much as you want son! but honestly, no one gives a damn.. Ohh except for the socialist extremist friends of yours! Now shuuu! shuuu! go organize a protest lol

  7. You have a pretty poor argument if all you can say in return is ‘shuu shuu go organise a protest’, Mr Dharmakeerthi. The arrogance with which you and your cronies (seemingly) shush away arguments brought forth by those favoring government universities (implying they have nothing else to do except organising protests, which you demean to a mere method of time and money-wasting.. puh-lease, do you think they protest for lack of better things to do?), without actually ADDRESSING any of the arguments made by them, reflects how ignorant you are about the matter.

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