The need for University of Uva

by S. B. Karalliyadda

The Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena has decided to establish a University in Uva (Daily News 30.07.2004). The Minister who has expressed his concern on the neglect of Uva Wellassa in many debates in the House as well as in other open forums deserve the plaudits of the down trodden people of Uva and I have no doubt that the people of Uva Wellassa will reciprocate their gratitude in a fitting manner.

It has taken 56 years after Independence for the authorities and rulers to realise that it was a long felt need of the people who sacrificed their life and limb, house and property, livestock and even the pinch of salt in their possession during the historic Uva rebellion in 1817/1818.

In the Journal of Uva, Herbert White, a British Government Agent in Badulla after the rebellion minuted thus: "It is a pity that there is no evidence left behind to show the exact situation in Uva in terms of population or agriculture development after the rebellion. The new rulers are unable to come up to any conclusion on the exact situation of Uva before the rebellion as there is no trace of evidence left behind to come to such conclusions. If thousands died in the battle they were all fearless and clever fighters. If one considers the remaining population of 4/5 after the battle to be children, women and the aged, the havoc caused is unlimited. In short the people have lost their lives and all other valuable belongings. It is doubtful whether Uva has at least now recovered from the catastrophe."

If Herbert White visits the area after nearly two centuries he will see the snail space of progress made in this land of worriers and heroes. Some of the ancient villages in the then Uva such as Lahugala, Dambana, Maha-Oya, Padiyatalawa are now relocated in the Ampara District. Uva is a land sanctified by the visit of Lord Budha and three holy places of worship are located in this land. They are Mahiyangana, Muthiyangana and Kataragama where thousands gather annually. Wellasse was the rice bowl in the past. Tank builder Bulatha of Sorabora fame, war heroes such as Kohukumbure Rate Rala, Arawe Rala, Butawa in the past and intellectuals in the calibre of Rev. Dr. Kotagama Wachiswara, Profs. Senaka Bibile, P. B. Sannasgala, Dr. S. Kotagama who adorned our literature, culture, language, medicine, and environmental sciences are products of this land. These two districts recorded a lower growth rate according to the census of population taken in 2001, Badulla 0.9 and Monaragala 1.8. These people in Uva not only suffered under the British but also faced the atrocities of the Portuguese, Portuguese burnt the Badulla town in 1627 and led the Randeniwela battle in 1630. Such is the legacy of Uva. These two Districts recorded the lowest growth rate in the census of population take in 2001. It was 0.9 in Badulla and 1.8 in Moneragala. The density of population was 274 and 72, persons per squire Km. recording the position of 11th and 18th respectively islandwide.


As one who clamoured for a University for Uva as far back as 1965 I am able to quote admissions for Universities in 1963 quoted in my article to Silumina on 18th May 1966.

As one who clamoured for a university for Uva as far back as 1965 I am able to quote admissions for universities in 1963 quoted in my article to Silumina on 18th May 1966.

The university admissions for arts degrees was 18 for the Uva Province in 1956 and gradually rose up to 50 in 1962. In 1962 no school in Uva presented candidates for the University entrance. The admissions to universities from Uva which was 4 undergraduates in 1955 fell down to one each in 1962 for science and engineering faculties. In the case of entrance to Medical Faculty only seven students entered for the seven years from 1955 to 1962. These figures will amplify the disparities in university education that was available to our countrymen from the hallowed Uva. The Minister deserves the credit of the entire nation for his, decision, and though belated action taken to redress the grievances of the down trodden masses of Uva. Even today nearly forty years after I highlighted these disparities the position remains no better. According to University admission figures for 1991/92 a total of 20% admissions were from the Colombo District which had a population of two millions while seven Districts that came within the Up Country Rehabilitation Ministry with a population of over five millions only 22% were eligible to enter a university. This is despite of the concessions given on the quota basis to under privileged areas to narrow the gap in the unbalanced system of university admissions. For the Medical Faculty 25 were admitted from these districts out of a total of 863 who seeked admissions and to the Engineering Faculty only eight were admitted. This is how opportunities to enter a university were denied to the Uva folk.

The proposed university should start new faculties based on the needs of the area and courses that could contribute to the economic growth of the region and country at large. As these areas are predominantly agriculture and plantation based areas such new curriculum to enhance productivity, income generation and participatory roles of the people in the area should get priority in designing new areas of curriculum development. Geology, Horticulture, Sugar cane, clay based and agro based industries, dairy and milk based industries, forestry etc. may be some of the areas to be exploited. Uva produce more than half of our potatoe requirements for domestic markets. Wellassa is abundant with citrus varieties of fruits and in some seasons there is a glut that the poor villager does not reap the harvest. The proposed university should be able to find new post harvest techniques for storage, preservation and even to export the juice to foreign markets. Home based industrial technology should be introduced to the villager. Another new course may be on textile technology. If the proposed university can have development oriented courses suitable to the area the people of Uva will rise from their slumber and join the developing world with the sense of pride and prestige which they lost fighting several wars with the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. I am confident that the move by the government will help the people of Uva to regain their lost independence and economic freedom subjugated by foreign invasions.