Costly affair for Sri Lankan students, teachers as inflation hits them hard

Many students and faculty members from universities across Sri Lanka took to the streets of Colombo and other cities to raise slogans and chants against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and ministers under him, who they primarily hold responsible for the crisis prevailing in the country.

Abhishek NairUpdated: Monday, May 16, 2022, 08:09 AM IST
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A protest against Rajapaksa regime in Colombo | Thanushka Wijesinghe/ @thanushkawijesinghe

The economic and political turmoil in Sri Lanka has made students and teachers in the neighbouring island country curb essentials and face financial constraints.

Many students and faculty members from universities across Sri Lanka took to the streets of Colombo and other cities to raise slogans and chants against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and ministers under him, who they primarily hold responsible for the crisis prevailing in the country.

“We were on a strike in protest of what happened on Monday when peaceful protestors were attacked in Colombo. The strike was called off on Saturday and now we are continuing the lectures,” said a professor from a national university in Colombo, who wished to be anonymous.

The professor added that though they haven’t seen any issues regarding withholding of payment, the unavailability of certain commodities poses an issue.

“Fuel, paper products, etc are in shortage which has posed problems for us. The rising cost of fuel has been an obstacle for students who wish to travel to their universities,” added the professor.

Go Home Gota has been a rallying cry for many students, who are using social media platforms to express their anger with the current regime. Firnas Ahmed is one such student who has been a part of the protests for weeks and uses every avenue possible to put into limelight the crisis in Sri Lanka. “This is a challenging time for us as young Sri Lankans who need jobs and security. We want the regime to change and the crisis to be mitigated,” added Ahmed, who is an Undergraduate at Open University in Colombo.

Similar to the trend of growing numbers of students in India going abroad to pursue higher education, many Sri Lankan individuals have also made the move in search of cheap yet quality education. But under current circumstances, it has proved to be costly.

Christopher Sheron, a student who is currently pursuing Medicine in Belarus, pondered over the repercussions of inflation on his future. “Apart from Sri Lanka, Belarus has also been witnessing inflation due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Many of the students, from foreign countries, are struggling financially,” added Sheron, who is also finding it difficult to use debit cards due to the restrictions imposed by banks. “My parents in Sri Lanka are not facing any issues for the time being and are trying their best to help me out but they are also not safe from power cuts, fuel shortage, etc,” added Sheron.

The rising exchange rate between the Indian and Sri Lankan rupee also has its downfalls, especially among Lankan students in India. “Because we are students in India, there’s no provision for us to work and rely on our parents for expenses. On top of that the Sri Lankan rupee has depreciated which is not good,” said a Sri Lankan student in Bangalore, who is also pursuing Medicine and completing his mandatory internship. “Many students are yet to completely pay the college fees and the current financial woes have made it difficult for people back home to send money. Even if I want to go back home, it’s not easy to cough up money for the flight as well,” added the student who said that many of his friends back home are protesting because of the lack of jobs, vacancies, and other factors plaguing Sri Lanka that severely affects them.

After the resignation of former Prime Minister and brother of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed as the PM on May 12, 2022, though most opposition parties refused to join the interim government led by the United National Party (UNP) leader.

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