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DateLine Monday, 19 February 2007

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Government Gazette

We can learn a lot from Bangladesh

EDUCATION: Our papers normally do not give much news about Bangladesh. Even if they do carry an occasional news items, it is usually bad news, such as natural disasters or strike and civil unrest during the election time.

We are copying this lopsided attitude from our Colonial masters. Everything in the west is fine. People in the Third World even today live up on the trees and are as still in the stone age!

But, we Sri Lankans should not think like that. Bangladesh is the founder of SAARC of which we too are a member. We have very strong cultural ties with her. So much so that there is a school of thought which believes that the Prince Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhalese came from Bangladesh, a fact that is clearly noticeable when you compare the peoples of both countries.

But what is most relevant to us at the moment is that a vast number of our bright students to go Bangladesh for higher studies, particularly to do medicine.

This year 80 students with their parents landed in Bangladesh to join the Medical Faculty of University of Science and Technology - Chittagong (USTC), one full plane load!

Chittagong is a Port City, but is hilly like Peradeniya and is quite cold in January. The country is just like Sri Lanka, but cost of living is much lower than in our country.

Education in Bangladesh is much cheaper, compared to the other traditional destinations, so much so that more than half the medical students in the USTC are Sri Lankans! Medical Education is very good.

Many of our doctors send their Children to USTC. Food is cheap, good housing is very cheap, there are housemaids to attend to your cooking, washing and cleaning.

More than that, the Campus is dominated by our countrymen who are very helpful to each other. What else do you want? Our students are very bright, first 10 positions in every batch go to Sri Lankans invariably.

Bangalis respect Sri Lankans for being intelligent and hardworking. The country is very dusty. Street scenarios remind us of the period of Mahatma Gandhi. Over crowded, no road rules but no accidents, complete with rickshaws and trishaws carrying 6-7 passengers, driver is sharing his seat with at least one passenger!

I was in Chittagong a few weeks ago with my wife. We took our daughter to the Medical Faculty.

We were pleasantly surprised to see how helpful senior Sri Lankan students were. They welcome us at the airport, so affectionately like long lost relatives, took us to our hotels and apartments, showed us the Campus and the supermarkets, taught us how to bargain with trishaw drivers and saw to our comfort and well being.

Tears of joy came to my eyes. I am in my 50s now. I can still remember how horrified I was when I went to Peradeniya as a fresher. I was so happy that my daughter was fortunate not to experience the indecent ragging that I experienced many years ago, which is still a part of our University traditions.

May I suggest that our Ministers of Education and Higher Education must visit USTC and study how to eliminate ragging in our country. Ragging has only intensified in its sadistic and violent methods over the years, even death has occurred in the recent past.

We boast about a high literacy rate in our country. We take pride in telling the world that we practice pure Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Our children go to Sunday Schools, throughout their school career. But, what has happened to that literacy? Where have the religious ethics gone? What has happened to our so-called "values"?

We can do much business with Bangladesh. For example, polythene is banned in Bagladesh. Only eco-friendly bags are used in that country. We can learn from them how to make such bags. We can import many things from this friendly country.

We can also export many things to Bangladesh. Commercial Bank has opened several branches in Bangladesh. Many garment factories in Bangladesh are run and managed by Sri Lankans. I suggest that the Sri Lankan Government must explore the possibility of increasing trade between the two countries.

As labour is very cheap in Bangladesh, our companies can open up branches there. Perhaps, SriLanka Airlines can start direct flights to Dhaka, which is the capital of Bangladesh. At the moment we have to go to Chittagong through Bangkok. Why ignore a golden opportunity?

On the other hand why can't we start a private Medical Faculty here in Sri Lanka? Eighty students paid US$ 840,000 (Rs. 92,148,000) to USTC in January 2007. This is in addition to airfare and other expenses, which could easily be another Rs. 15 million.

What a lot of foreign exchange? This is only one batch. There are five batches at USTC. Even though other batches are smaller, that too is a lot of money. Well we can also get enough students from neighbouring countries.

Are we managing our economy wisely?

A Reader, Colombo



Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Kapruka - www.lanka.info

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