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Hardy’s pristine glory to be restored

The Hardy Advanced Technological Institute (HATI) in the western end of the Ampara town was a prominent technical education institution in Sri Lanka that produced advanced skilled engineers demanded by the country’s economy just after its independence. Although it does not attract much public attention today, the institute boasts the record of a glorious era in technical education in Sri Lanka.

Professor Allen Evan Hardy

The institute was founded by visionaries who perceived the future development of the country, in 1950s. HATI could have been an incredible institution that contributed to the industrial development of the country, similar to the role played by the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) in India, if our policy makers had a clear and constant policy on technical education.

HATI was established in 1956 parallel to establishment of IITs in India. The first IIT in Kharagpur was established in 1950 and most of the other IITs were established in 1950s and 1960s. IITs role in industrial development in India as well as the contribution of expatriate IIT graduates in the technological field in western countries is well-known.

The recent boom in the IT BPO industry in India is backed by IIT graduates and the first generation of IIT graduates who left the country and returned with vast knowledge and experience.

In 2003 delivering the keynote speech to the alumini of the first (IIT) Kharagpur, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates described the IIT as “an incredible institution with a worldwide impact”.

The history of HATI shows the lack of vision of our policy makers on technical education and how they have ruined what was started with good intentions and established on solid foundations.

The institute began as a part of the Gal Oya Irrigation Project, the first mega multipurpose development project began after independence in 1948. It was called the Technical Education Institute of the Gal Oya Project. Courses commenced for the first batch of students on January 14, 1956. The institute began a two-year diploma course in agricultural engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering and it is very clear that the visionaries clearly recognised the skills required for the country to move forward with development in agriculture and industries.

Professor Allen Evan Hardy was the founding director of the institute and the selection of professor Hardy as the director of the institute in itself shows the vision of the founders on the level of skills needed by the country. Prof. Hardy who came to Sri Lanka as an advisor of the World Food Program worked for the government of Sri Lanka in dry farming from 1951-1955. His vast knowledge and experience contributed to the success of the courses launched by the institute.

In 1958 the Colombo Plan recognised HATI and students from the Asia region enrolled to follow its courses

Hardy had been a professor in agricultural engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada for over 30 years and had followed curricular of engineering universities in Western countries. Documents at the institute show that he had attempted to obtain get City and Guilds recognition for the engineering courses of the institute.

By 1958 HATI was an internationally recognised institute and in that year the Colombo Plan has recognised its Regional Technical Training Institute and students from the Asia region enrolled to follow courses at HATI.

In 1963 Prof. Hardy passed away at the age of 73 in Ampara and was cremated at the institute’s premises. The institute was named as Hardy Advanced Technical Institute as a tribute to him.

In 1961 Sri Lankan engineer Prof.A.N.S.Kulasinghe was appointed as director and the institute continued its excellence in technical education under his leadership. During this period students from all over the country including leading Colombo schools came to follow courses at HATI.

The first de-track of the administration of the institute started in 1968 when its administration was handed over to the Department of Education. In the same year the National Diploma in Technology (NDT) commenced with the collaboration of the University of Moratuwa.

In the 1970s, the second year of the NDT was shifted to the University of Moratuwa and thereafter the institute was in crisis due to lack of staff and students. In 1988 the University of Moratuwa withdrew its collaboration and all engineering courses other than Agriculture Engineering were abandoned.

In 1994 the institute was handed over to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training with student protests against the decision. Commission with Prof. Vishva Warnapala as Chairman was appointed to study the issue. As per recommendations of the commission in 1995 the Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technology Education was established and administration of the HATI was given to the new institution. In 1997 HATI was handed over to the Ministry of Higher Education and today it functions as an independent institute under the Ministry.

By 2005 the institute had deteriorated and there were proposals to close it down, with only 37 students, shortage of qualified staff and managerial issues. Courses in low skill trades had begun and the majority of students came to follow these courses.

The adverse impact of the war was another reason for the deterioration. Ampara was at risk and under security surveillance. There were over 20 security check points. You had to get off the bus prove your identity and show your belongings to enter Ampara town during that time. Getting qualified staff was difficult due to this situation. Deteriorated roads, lack of public transport and the fear of travel reduced the number of students attending courses from the surrounding areas of Ampara.

Although the security situation improved in 2009 the HATI has not attracted the attention of the Higher Education authorities. In 2007 two new courses were begun.

The Hardy Advanced Technological Institute

The Higher National diploma in IT and Higher National Diploma in English. The Higher National Diploma in Accounting began this year. These courses are important to students who do not have other options in this remote area.

With funds for tsunami rehabilitation the institute has improved its infrastructure and renovation of buildings, internal roads and hostels are now being constructed after 30 years. The number of students has increased to 315 and the number of academic staffers has increased from five to 19. However, the institute has not reached its glorious era yet to provide the quality education it provided 55 years ago. Technical education authorities must be ashamed over the pathetic situation faced by the HATI today.

The director of the institute N.M.K.K.Nawarathne said that he is trying to restart engineering courses. Civil engineering courses can be started immediately with the existing facilities but to start mechanical and electrical engineering courses laboratories and infrastructure facilities should be improved.

He said that collaboration with an engineering institute in a developed country would bring HATI back to its glorious era and he has proposed that the Ministry find a new way to develop the institute.

In the 1950s policy makers had a clear vision to recognise what independent Sri Lanka needed. Today after the end of 30 years war the policy makers should come with new ideas and recognise what skills the country needs.

HATI should be a unique advanced technology institute and not just a technical college. It is up to the minister of higher education to come up with innovative ideas and history will judge what he does for the HATI.

 

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