Sri Lanka: Movement against Privatisation of Education

The struggle against the increasing commercialization of education also continues in Sri Lanka. For the past few months and even years the protests have been focussing on the private South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM), which the movement wants to see abolished.
Demands also include a stop to current reforms regarding labour, education and healthcare that support the privatization of public responsibilities and to have budget cuts for the year 2017 reversed.

Thousands of people have been rallying in the capital Colombo and struggling against attacks by riot cops with water canons and tear gas regularly. In recent weeks and months several students were also arrested.

Here are the latest reports from people on the ground:

July 22nd, 2017

The following report was submitted to the ISM platform:

Sleepless struggle
Today medical faculty students action committee started a new protest in town hall Sri Lanka. They started to stay at Lipton Circus and protest. Today they started their protest from Faculty of medicine Colombo. Then they marched to town hall. They seated in Lipton Circus. Police came to the scene around 1.30 and announced court order that they have power to dissolve the gathering. They have taken this order telling public annoyance. Students were totally aganist it because it is not annoying the public. 250 police officers stay at the hospital premises now. This event will last till 25th of July. All the parties aganist SAITM are invited to this event. Politicians , trade unions, religious leaders, parents, artists are invited. Media supporters also will stay through out night and they will give their full support. There are some glamorous events in night.
Our slogans are: Abolish SAITM – Stop suppression – Fight for democracy – Education is a right – Release university students
Lets get together !! Fight for justice !!

Also undercover police attempted to obduct a well-known student activist:

additional sources:, video of gathering during the night of July 22nd, 2017 at Lipton Circus

February 15 – 17th, 2017

We received a report on an impressive mobile vehicle rally covering hundreds of kilometers and involving hundreds of people for over three days. One of the priorities was to reach out to communities. On pictures students can also be seen on public buses speaking to the passengers.

IUSF organized a vehicle protest campaign against the fraudulent degree shop SAITM. Students participated in the protest campaign came from 5 towns to Colombo. The protest campaign was held for over 3 days. Motorcycles, threewheelers and lorries were there. Vehicle protest campaign covered towns on their way by addressing people about the threats to free education and free health services. This campaign had good support from the community as well. The 3 day protest campaign ended with a demonstration rally in Colombo. These protests were mainly focussed against the structural reforms government is making in educational system and health sector with the neoliberal policies of the current government.

additional sources: |

February 09th, 2017

Gïhãñ and Tharika shared with us the following information:

Today Sri Lanka student movement inter university student federation organize student and community rally against the SAITM fraudulent degree shop. 5000 university students, civil organizations, political parties and doctors associations and labour unions participated in this rally.

On 2017.02.09 protest rally held in Nugegoda Sri Lanka with the participation of student movement, major trade unions, left parties and other progressive civil characters and organizations. protesters came in a protest march to the rally. About 6000 participated.
This was organized by the students’ and community movement against SAITM which is called up by IUSF. So the student movement has successed in forming an extensive stage against privatization of education.
All state university medical students are on strike now to protest against SAITM which is a pilot project to privatize education.

additional source:

February 02nd, 2017

January 19th, 2017

We received this report from a fellow student activist in Ragama:

On 19.01.2017 Inter University Students’ Federation organized a protest march. This was against the reforms government is planning to privatize education and health services. The next day (20.01.2017) seven student activists were remanded.
The march took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka. About 3000 students participated: including bikku students and medical students. The seven activists were on bail for leading previous student actions. Charges were against public disturbance. And police gave evidence in courts that these students were among the protestants. As police claimed the students violated the bailing conditions court order was given to remand these students.
After the arrests solidarity protests took place in different cities.

additional sources: | (2)

November 29th, 2016

Student protest attacked by cops in Colombo, Sri Lanka. We received the following report from Lahiru and Thilina:

Inter University Students’ Federation organized a protest march with the participation of more than five thousand students. Students are marching towards the parliament. Students are demanding to abolish SAITM private medical university, stop new educational and health reforms as well as budget cuts contained in the new budget for 2017 supporting privatization of education and health, and to stop new labour reforms which are favorable for privatization.

The march was attacked with water canons and tear gas. Ten students were injured and hospitalized.


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