HNDE course shifts to Mattakkuliya

by Saman Indrajith
The first batch of students of Higher National Diploma in Engineering (HNDE) course conducted in Labuduwa centre will be shifted today to Mattakkuliya following students’ requests over several years.

"Shifting the course from Labuduwa Advanced Technical Institute (ATI) to Mattakkuliya ATI is appreciated but it is not the end of the problems HNDE course has," said the President of the HNDE Students’ Council Chamara Ranawaka yesterday.

"At the beginning of Labuduwa ATI, we indicated that it would be a failure, but the educational authorities who couldn’t see practical aspects went on and established the institute," he said.

Authorities just attempted to provide a plaster-solution of shifting only one batch to Mattakkuliya and keeping one batch at Labuduwa. "Shift both batches to Mattakkuliya where required resources are available and the cost is lower. And then take us under a capable administrative structure. The current administrative body, Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technical Education (SLIATE) cannot cater to the requirements of an engineering course." he said.

The SLIATE is administering nine other national level diploma courses but does not have enough financial resources to maintain a HNDE course. "That’s why we are against decentralization of the course without upgrading it and without re-establishing it under a proper body of administration," Ranawaka said.

Secretary of the Students Council, Rasika Mendis added that students are fed up of the poor administrative structure and lack of facilities. "The majority want to give up the course if authorities would not take any action to find solutions for prevailing problems. No welfare facilities for students and lecturers. So, students and lecturers want to abandon the course. More than 35 lecturers have left teaching as the salary and welfare facilities are very poor and they can find better jobs for qualifications they have," he indicated.

The HNDE course was introduced to the country in 1986. It was institutionalized in accordance with the structure of the Business and Technology Education Council-BITEC, of Britain and it was meant to follow a course curriculum of Bolton University’s engineering course which produced middle level engineers. Started in 1986 at Ratmalana, authorities thought this would be a better solution for the A/L maths students who could not enter universities. Thus, they started to spread it without considering the feasibility of the course of study. The course was started in Aruppola in Kandy but in the following year there were practical problems, he explained.

"Later, the programme was taken to Badulla in 1988 where it could not succeed. After that it was again Akmeemana in Labuduwa in 1999 and still the problems faced by the students of 1987 at Kandy are existing and we are to face them, thanks to the advanced knowledge of our policy makers," he added.

Politicos, especially some former ministers wanted to establish the course in Labuduwa and another tried to establish it in Kandy were some examples of attempts by ministers to set this institute in their electorates. But, students finally have to pay for these short-sighted plans of politicians, he lamented.

Deputy Director General of SLIATE, R. A. D. Hemachandra Ranatunge has instructed the directors of Labuduwa and Mattakkuliya in his letter dated May 18th, 2001 that the Council of the SLIATE has approved to grant permission for students who have completed their first year theory classes and are unable to enter the second year due to non-completion of practicals to be absorbed into the first year classes at Mattakkuliya.