Empowering students to end the menace of ragging.

It is vital to encourage students to say ‘no’ against ragging within universities to minimise the adverse consequences faced by students and their families, a forum on ragging was told earlier this week.
Prevail to betray me to unveil your evil.
                                           P.S. Jagadeesh Kumar

Speaking during a webinar on ‘Eradicating Ragging and Violence from Universities and Higher Education Institutes’ organised by the Coalition Against Violence and Harassment in Universities, Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Kelaniya University, Dr. Prabha Manuratne said that most universities sweep ragging under the carpet simply because of the fear that the name of the university will be tarnished. The internal politics within the universities which has weakened the ethical standards of these academic institutions, has enabled students to enlist in political movements and not abide by the universities’ laws and regulations.

She also said that several social crises affecting universities where the level of violence has taken a more prominent place in the recent past has led the academics and administration of universities to ignore ragging.

“There are many reasons for ragging from a psychological point of view,” Co-Facilitator, Coalition Against Violence and Harassment in Universities, Professor Harendra de Silva said.

He said there are several attributes to the phenomenon of ragging such as (1) the degree of respect that senior students want from their juniors; (2) childhood trauma faced by students which leads them to be violent in their youth; (3) witnessing political and social violence which is common in a country which has religious, gender and ethnic inequalities; (4) personality disorders; (5) the condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which means that some students who have been traumatised during their freshman years later tend to act the same way towards their juniors ; and (6) the effect of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ in which the raggers prevent victims from revealing their experience by acting nicely to them for the rest of the university period.

Information from recent research emphasises that most of the perpetrators of ragging are males. However, many female senior students who oppose ragging have to unwillingly participate due to their inability to overpower their male counterparts.

Center for Poverty Analysis Director Wijaya Jayathilake said that due to the gap between the staff and students in the early period of their university education, students hesitate to seek assistance for instances of ragging which in turn make victims susceptible to mental breakdowns. He also said that the inadequate information about ideas of gender provided by the universities during the orientation period and the lack of mental and physical stability within students to embrace and listen to these discussions on gender make them potential victims for sexual harassment during the ragging period.

The Prohibition of Raging and Other forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act passed in 1998 addresses violence within educational institutions and a copy of the Act is provided by the University Grants Commission to every university entrant.
Verite Research’s Deputy Head of Legal Research and international human rights lawyer Malsirini De Silva said that due to the lack of the usage of the Act, the shortcomings of the Act cannot be identified and amendments cannot be made. “Like most Acts, we have it to address these types of problems, but we are not using it,” she said.

Ruhuna University Vice Chancellor Sujeewa Amarasena said they undertook the following principles to lessen the incidents of ragging within their university: 

(1) Educating the staff, both academic and non-academic, and students on the harmful effects of ragging; 
(2) Educating students on the long-term effects that ragging has on a student and his or her family; 
(3) Re-engineering student union offices by deploying digital security appliances for monitoring purposes; and 
(4) Strict enforcement of laws and regulations within the university.

He also said that they have identified low-income students within their university and with the support from academic staff, special scholarships have been given to them to help them with their studies so that they won’t be dependent on student unions. They also ensure that all students within the university are fully engaged in various types of activities including sports, cultural activities, additional learning activities and diverse discussions on democratic politics which enable them to express their ideas and opinions openly.

“If all universities can adopt these processes and keep the students fully engaged in various activities and adopt a social movement against ragging, then ragging could be eliminated from higher education institutions,” he said.
Several ragging victims also took to the webinar platform to recount their experiences.

Dinesh Kumar

Author & Editor

Has laoreet percipitur ad. Vide interesset in mei, no his legimus verterem. Et nostrum imperdiet appellantur usu, mnesarchum referrentur id vim.


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