Ragging - A Simple Analysis – Part I | Sunday Observer

Ragging - A Simple Analysis – Part I

Continuing with the ideas I shared with you last week, under the title ‘Ragging in Sri Lanka’s Higher Education Institutes’, I thought I would explain some of the points in detail so that you have a better understanding about certain claims I made in that article. I would, just for the convenience of writing, use the word ‘ragger’ to refer to a person who engages in such acts harassing the newcomers and the word ‘raggee’ to refer to a person who is victimised by such acts. I will first try to take you through the following three statements I had used in the article.

“If we are genuinely interested in eradicating a disease then we should not only study and treat the symptoms and the characteristics of the particular organism that causes the disease but also find out the origin of the organism and take necessary action to destroy the possibilities of the reappearance of that organism.”

“Though the current cases can be dealt with under the legal framework, I think, we should try to understand the root cause(s) of the problem since the perpetrators themselves are victims of the disease just one or two years back.”

“Therefore, in the process of eradicating the ragging virus, both, short-term and long-term solutions have to be implemented simultaneously. Implementing the existing laws to the fullest as a short-term remedy and intervening at appropriate times and places to influence the behavioural patterns of young Sri Lankans starting from birth as a long-term solution.”

If we look at the history of ‘ragging’ in state universities in Sri Lanka, it is not difficult to see that almost all short-term solutions implemented by individual universities and/or by the UGC or the Ministry of Higher Education have been trying to suppress the symptoms and the characteristics of the (ragging) disease for a limited period of time (if that was not the case we wouldn’t have to discuss the matter any further). This time period usually is the ‘duration in office’ of a particular Vice Chancellor, a UGC Chairperson or a Minister. When that particular official is out of office, things will go back to what they were prior to that term. You may have seen this phenomenon, not only in university ragging but also in various issues concerning school principals, CEOs or Chairpersons in organizations, Ministers and Ministry Secretaries and even Presidents and Prime Ministers. Hence, short-term solutions, though they may have provided solace to some students, have not been successful in guiding our youth on a path through which they can see the country becoming the ‘Education Hub’ that politicians and some officials are talking about. An important factor is that these raggers, after two or three more years in the university under the protection of the ‘student’ category within the civil society, will join the workforce of the country in different capacities, some even as teachers, social workers and decision makers with the ability to influence our lives as well as that of the future generation.

A main reason why most of the short-term solutions have not stopped ragging even during the short period in which they are implemented is the weakness of the relevant authorities who are supposed to implement them. More often than not, the decision-making officials or statutory bodies have disregarded the recommendations of the 1998 Parliamentary Act No.20, “Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions” even after specific punishments according to the Act were recommended by the officials who investigated such incidents. This could be due to perhaps their own fears about the capabilities of the accused and their supporters in organising the student body against them and the decision they took, or due to their ulterior motives of keeping the accused obligated to the decision makers, by acting as saviours, and gaining control over the accused to manipulate the student body for their own political games. Or sometimes it could even be due to the pressure put on the decision maker(s) by some politicians or some powerful people who have even helped the particular decision maker(s) to get to those positions in the first place. This shows that, not only are the solutions short-termed but also that most of the relevant authorities in the decision making positions have been short-sighted.

Therefore, I think it is important that we, as a country, take the responsibility of producing graduates who are not only capable of using their knowledge and training towards their own development and the development of the world, but also are not bullies, thugs or murderers and who are inconsiderate about the suffering of another human being that they would not think twice before making decisions or taking actions only to satisfy their twisted minds. It would be better even in those short-term solutions, to have some components to look at the reasons why and how a particular student, makes the transition from being a raggee to a ragger and introduce some procedures to ensure that they would no longer entertain such anti-social and criminal thoughts towards others by the time they leave the university.

Before we look at each factor influencing a new undergraduate’s life on his/her way of becoming a ragger (at the age of 21 – 22, in a state university in Sri Lanka), who has no hesitation of violating almost all basic human rights of another human being and not even ready to see how precious a human life is, all under the camouflage of helping the new brothers and sisters to fit into the new culture, I would like to draw your attention to examine the deterioration of human values in our society, in general, through the years. I remember the days when the majority, if not all, of the politicians, officials (both in the Government and private sectors), teachers, university lecturers, other professionals, farmers and the businessmen, were ladies and gentlemen in the truest sense of the word and violent behaviour was looked down upon as being in the grey area between the animal and the human kingdoms. Therefore, we may have to look, not only at the youngsters entering the universities during recent years but their parents, teachers and the religious leaders under the blessings of who they grew up to be such insensitive raggers. Even science has proven that the two main factors influencing one’s behaviour are one’s Genes and the Environment (G+E) in which one is living. As one of the old African proverbs as well as the New York Times Best Seller by Hillary Rodham Clinton say, “It Takes a Village” to raise a child.

( The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic for over twenty years in the USA and thirteen years in Sri Lanka and can be contacted at [email protected] )