Ann-Britt Sternfeldt is a freelance writer from Sweden. Recently (26th of August) she visited Lanka and she had an opportunity to exchange ideas with the IUSF at theSathyagraha being held in front of Colombo Fort Railway Station. Having an awareness about the struggle that Lankan students enegaged in she posted a small article on her blog in Swedish. Following is the google translation of the expression she posted.
On Saturday, I met medical students in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, who has been striking and demonstrating since January against the private university South Asia Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM). The SAITM has lower entry requirements than the state medical institutions, poor facilities, and is not even approved by the Ministry of Health. According to the students, SAITM risks the level of the country’s medical standard. But both the health minister and the minister of higher education are what are commonly called corrupt, so far, SAITM’s operations are rolling. The Medical Teachers’ Union has made a proposal for a solution that striking students as well as students at SAITM support, but the government refuses to implement the solution. They want to push for continued privatization.
Even though the protests are facing SAITM, the struggle is all about free education for all, something that Sri Lanka has had for many years, but is now at risk of winding up in the ongoing privatization trend. Several medical institutions are part of the privatization plans, but according to the students, it would mean a major deterioration for the people of Sri Lanka as only students from rich families could afford to study. The students are supported by their teachers as well as by many doctors and other groups.
Through the link here you can see how the authorities meet peaceful demonstrating students.
The non-violent resistance of the students, like when I meet them for seven months, was taken to a new level on 21 August when the hunger strike began outside the fortress of Colombia. 24 hours a day students are in 8 hours pass without eating to give even more weight to their strike. Even other people sometimes come and sit and hunger strikes with the students to show their support for the struggle for a free education.
Keep in mind that just every medical student in the whole country is in the match. What an amazing ending! And what they all are prepared to sacrifice for this match. The government has closed off their scholarships for food and other overheads, so they have to live on parents, other relatives and friends. And nobody knows how long this will last. There is no will at the government to meet the students.
“We are tired,” says one of the students I meet. But there are students who have gone before us. In 1981, when the first plans for privatization of medical universities began, the students protested just like us, but nine of the most prominent in the match were tortured and murdered by the authorities. These students led the struggle for future students for our sake, and they sacrificed this struggle with their lives. We owe them to continue.
And now I want to spread information about these young people’s admirable struggles through my blog posts. If you as readers have the time and effort, send a message to the students via Messenger. It is very important to get a few words sent from someone from another country who has read about their struggle.
By Ann-Britt Sternfeldt in Sri Lanka – 29 Tuesday Aug 2017