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A couple of days back I predicted that the FUTA strike would soon be resolved by yet another increase in the salaries of university staff, with no correctives with regard to the grave problems now facing our education system. Recent reports in the papers suggest that this will indeed be the case.

…no correctives with regard to the grave problems now facing our education system.

That would be tragic, for it would provide yet another instance of state resources being squandered. Salaries should be paid in terms of work done, and sadly there is no system at present to ensure that university lecturers actually work satisfactorily for the salaries they earn. Of course it could be argued that this is true of other public servants too, but other public servants are not paid so well.

I should note that some, and indeed perhaps many, university lecturers do work hard. Amongst them, I was sure, having met him, was the FUTA Head Dr Dewasiri, who seemed to me an idealist. Certainly, in the last period for which statistics are available, he has taught for 378 hours per semester.

This is in marked contrast to several of his colleagues in the Arts Faculty in Colombo. In one Department 15 out of 17 had been assigned 90 hours or fewer per semester, ie 6 hours a week, in one semester. Some of them did more in the second semester, but never more than ten hours per week. Two, though, I should note, did ten or more in the first semester.

In the Peradeniya Arts Faculty I was sorry to note that English academics seemed the most leisured, with no one getting to over 100 hours per semester except for one person who did 150, having come in in the second semester. A more senior person, having been on sabbatical in the first semester, managed 18 hours in the second, which is just over 1 hour a week.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2012
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