Last modified: July 2, 2020
A university is a place with a diverse culture. It combines the young population of the country, coming from different socio-political backgrounds together and allows them the opportunity to excel in their knowledge. In addition, it is where the future leaders of the country are nourished in order to widen their perspectives. It is a place in which students have many opportunities to develop their personalities and skills essential to succeed in the future. In a university, everyone is in the same academic community. Therefore, no single political norm should be idealized within this academic community. In Sri Lanka, there are 15 universities and 19 higher education institutes that are operating under the authority of the University Grants Commission. All these institutes consist of a total of 116,388 undergraduate students studying in various fields. In these state universities and higher education institutions, every new student is supposed to go through a process called “ragging” which is conducted by the senior students. It is a well-known fact that the ones who practice this malicious process are encouraged by some political affiliations who try to instill a false sense of leadership in them. In addition, this vicious cycle of oppression which is repeated every year, comes with a false sense demolishing the social hierarchy and gap between the students, establishing the so-called “batch fit”, or brotherhood, and exposing students who come from rural areas to the new environment and practicing them to have a “tough life”. However, it is reported that as a result of “ragging”, 1989 undergraduates have abandoned their higher education in 2017 and 2018. Moreover, nearly 2000 students who pass their GCE A/L examination avoid entering the state universities although they have the necessary qualifications. Therefore, it is clear that “ragging” is no longer a healthy and tolerable process. Instead, it has become a platform in which students are exposed to verbal, psychological and physical harassment depriving their basic human rights and thus the opportunity to develop their personalities. Ragging in state universities has begun in 1974 when some trainee mathematics teachers at the University of Kelaniya (then Vidyalankara University) were subjected to ragging. One year later, University of Peradeniya reported the first ragging related death when Rupa Rathnaseeli, a 22 years old student from the Faculty of Agriculture, committed suicide after being paralyzed as a result of jumping off the second floor of the hostel to escape the physical ragging carried out by the seniors. The Sri Lankan government passed the prohibition of ragging and other forms of violence in educational institutions act in 1998 totally abolishing ragging and other forms of violence within the state institutes. Unfortunately, the list of the victims of ragging incidents has continued slowing down the progress of the state universities and higher education institutions in Sri Lanka. In 2019, the death of Shanilka Dilshan Wijesinghe, an undergraduate of the Diyagama campus of the University of Moratuwa, who committed suicide on 31st March leaving a three-page suicide note which states clearly the violent ragging of campus as the cause of his suicide proves once again how deeply and vastly students are affected by ragging. In the same year, four first-year undergraduates from Eastern University had been hospitalized due to ragging. The revealing of a second-year student from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Ruhuna on how he and other new entrants were subjected to ragging and sexual abuse by senior students shocked the entire country. Therefore, any incident related to ragging should not be handled with velvet gloves and severe actions should be taken against the practitioners of ragging. As mentioned before, universities are where future leaders are made and endowed with greater visions. Yet, ragging is not allowing young students to represent their own ideas because they are compelled to “go with the flow” and do whatever their so-called “seniors” have been doing throughout the years. If they try to resist, they are labeled as “weak” and not ready to take upon any challenge. These clichéd ideas which exist in state universities and higher education institutes should be vanished along with ragging mainly because it destroys completely the freedom that one naturally gains as a citizen and the capacity to develop as a person.