The arrest of 15 Peradeniya University students for ragging has sent public anger spiralling against a misguided and unjustifiable practice that should have been stamped out decades ago and deserves the strongest support possible from the legal system.
Ragging has been tolerated far too long. In 2012 newspapers reported an incident where Advanced Level students took part in this reprehensible act. With its entrance into schools, there is more and more reason to worry and get parents involved in making children understand the wrongness of ragging so that they will never condone or engage in it either in school or at any other institution.
In May last year 10 Kelaniya University undergraduates were arrested, after a female student complained to Police she had been forced to remove her jeans by senior students in public after insisting there was a “law” prohibiting first years from wearing this basic garment. According to the Police complaint, the raggers had then slapped the student. It is astounding that university students, who are quick to march against any slight, are not taking to the streets to protect this inhumane, pointless, stupid and cruel practice.
Cartoon googled and added by TW
Sri Lanka in 1998 passed the Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act, which carries hefty prison sentences, yet the country’s image remains tainted, with several world publications claiming that Sri Lankans practice the worst forms of ragging. It would be impossible for the Government to reform the high education sector unless they tackle the issue of ragging and root it out of the system.
Statistics show 15 students have died, two have committed suicide, 25 have been disabled, six sexually abused and more than 6,000 students have left universities, all because of ragging by seniors and the failure of university and State authorities to take effective countermeasures or implement the law strictly.
Having first rejected ragging, the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) has defended it as a sub-culture, which is a gross and whole inadequate reason to allow its continuance. Union activities, which are at their strongest in hostels, create the environment for ragging victims to suffer in silence. Students are also used to promote political ends and unfairly manipulated to disrupt the functions of universities. If organisations such as the IUSF want to be seen as genuine representatives of students, then they need to ban this horrific practice immediately.
Unions and academics have the responsibility to implement safeguards against the heinous practice. Officials of student unions need to educate their members on the physical and psychological negatives of ragging. Union members can report fellow students engaged in ragging and protect hostellers, who are often the worst affected. Any student caught ragging should be immediately kicked out of the university and should face criminal charges. Such tough measures to empower students are the only way to give victims the confidence to come forward.
Cooperating with authorities to punish offenders and eventually clean the university system of ragging will gain student unions and other stakeholders significant public approval and even increase the masses’ empathy on other issues that they campaign on such as privatisation of universities. If more students complained to Police and officials implement the law, then Sri Lanka might finally see the end of a practice that has nothing to recommend it.