Sri Lanka: university salaries among the lowest in all of Asia
by Melani Manel Perera
Junior lecturers make only 20,700 rupees (about US$ 190) whilst senior professors take home 57,000 rupees (US$ 520). The government only spends 2.6 per cent of its budget in education, 0.32 in higher education, far less than Ethiopia (4.5 per cent). Meanwhile, fishermen are harmed by government policy.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s university professors are among the worst paid academics in Asia with salaries of 20,700 rupees (US$ 190) for junior lecturers and 57,000 rupees (US$ 520) for senior professors. For this reason, the Congress of Religions has called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Education minister, the government and professors to find a “just and peaceful solution” to the issue. The Congress also expressed concern over government interference in university affairs, stating, “If universities lose their autonomy, they will stop being centres of learning.”
The government has offered to raise senior professor monthly salaries to 115,000 rupees (about US$ 1,000). The Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) has approved the pay hike but said it would cancel tomorrow’s protest march only if the salaries of junior academic were also improved.
According to Buddhist monk Amila Thero, higher education in Sri Lanka suffers from government neglect. “Only 2.6 per cent of the government budget goes to education, 0.32 per cent to higher education, far lower than in Ethiopia, which spends 4.5 per cent.” In his view, “If we could stop corruption, more money could go to education”.
Meanwhile, President Rajapaksa’s economic policies are harming fishermen, victims of a tourism-oriented development that pays little attention to their needs or those of the environment.
On Saturday, 35 Sinhalese and Tamil small-scale fishermen in Trincomalee District (Eastern Province) met to discuss ways the Fisheries Management Act No. 6 of 1996 could be used to counter destructive fishing practices and illegal operations, such as the use of dynamite to catch large quantities of fish, said Priyantha Kumara, a small-scale fisherman.
Herman Kumara, national convener of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO), noted that such practices not only prevent small communities from fishing but also price them out of business.
“Small scale fishers cannot compete against such operators, who can place huge amounts of fish on the market, forcing prices down.”