Students protest private universities at a rally in Kandy
A five-day protest march by thousands of university teachers and activists demanding more funding for schools arrived in Colombo today from Galle.
About 5,000 people joined the protest, which seeks an increase in educational spending by the government and is part of wider protests that have paralyzed the school system for nearly three months.
The marchers were greeted by supporters in the capital who lined the streets and offered them food and drinks as they arrived after walking nearly 120 kilometers.
Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, president of the Federation of University Teachers’ Association, said the government has refused to solve the crisis in the country’s education system.
“We have demanded expenditures equivalent to six percent of GDP for education. Right now, Sri Lanka spends only about 1.86 percent, which is the lowest in the region and nearly the lowest in the world,” he said.
“University teachers are still owed three months of salary, which has not yet been paid.”
Teachers began their strike in July in an effort to increase government funding, increase teacher salaries, improve rural schools and improve overall infrastructure.
Meanwhile, government officials have criticized the protesters for politicizing the issue and said they have already approved a salary rise that takes effect on October 1.
Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake yesterday called the protests by the trade unions unfair.
He added: “We are ready to increase the allocation of the GDP for education as per international standards.”
Strike forces universities’ closure