Education essential for reconciliation

Rajiva Wijesinha interviewed by Rathindra Kuruwita

Many think of truth commissions, new laws and restitution when they think of reconciliation. But in a country like Sri Lanka where there is deep rooted prejudices and mistrust among ethnicities, education can play a key role in achieving true reconciliation. Ceylon Today speaks to former State Minister of Education and former Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) Rajiva Wijesinha to speak further on using Education as a tool, in reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

 Q:  How can we use education to achieve reconciliation?

A: As we noted in the draft National Reconciliation Policy, which the last government ignored, and which this one does not seem interested in either, ‘The perception of discrimination and unequal treatment within the Tamil population arose from a series of administrative changes, such as discrimination against the use of the Tamil language in a context where education was segregated by language. This contributed to deprivation in terms of jobs, which was exacerbated by the State being the predominant employer in the context of statist economic policies’.

Reversing this would be easy if we ensured bilingualism, which is a standard requirement for higher education, in all countries at our level of development or higher. I would advocate making two of the three languages used in this country compulsory at Ordinary Level. This would open up more opportunities for employment for citizens from the North too, while it would ensure that any citizen could communicate with any other citizen.

I should note that by education I also mean technical and vocational training, which is a mess at present. In the last few years, I have spent much of my decentralized budget in the North for Vocational Training Centres, because very little was happening there. The Ministry in Colombo did not develop active training centres, but constructed buildings and set up institutions, which provide jobs for favourites. The present government also seems concerned more with making political appointments to these positions rather than the professional development that is needed. I had plans, when Kabir Hashim first told me he wanted me to look after Technical Education too, to develop a modular system so that we would produce not only technicians but also potential managers and entrepreneurs. We could have got private sector support for this, given the crying need for skilled workers. But I was told that the Prime Minister wanted to hang on to that sector – and since then I have seen no evidence of thinking on the subject.

At another level, we should also have systematized the twinning of schools and universities. I had suggested for instance that Moratuwa University work together with the Eastern University, and Jaffna with Ruhuna. Earlier, I had wanted a major Colombo school to work with a big school in a Northern District capital to do projects for rural areas. Unfortunately the then Secretary at the Ministry of Education got suspicious and did not encourage this.

Finally, we should develop a programme to get educational support from the Diaspora. As you know, this element in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations has been neglected. Soon after, I took office I wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this, but heard nothing. Recently, International Alert had a meeting with youngsters from the Diaspora who wanted to volunteer for work here, but it seems those in authority are concerned only about investment. Even students can understand the need for other systems of contact, as when for instance the Rajarata Medical students asked about getting people from abroad to teach them for particular subjects for particular periods. That type of person to person contact would be ideal, for when people work together they appreciate each other more. But I fear there is little concern about either Reconciliation or Education at a time when grabbing power and winning elections (and not in that order) seem the priorities.

Q:  You have said “when the vast majority of jobs in the public sector require a knowledge of Sinhala, and the education system prevents Tamils, and Muslims too, from acquiring Sinhala, of course they will be deprived of jobs.’ What are the main reasons preventing students from the North and East to learn Sinhala? On the other hand don’t students have the right to learn in a language they prefer and is it not the State’s responsibility to ensure that they are also included in the system?

A: The main problem is an acute shortage of teachers. The State has failed to provide English teachers though it has been a compulsory subject for half a century (compulsory in the peculiar Sri Lankan use of the term, since it is not compulsory to pass an exam in English). Now, though Sinhala and Tamil are compulsory as Third Languages, we do not have enough teachers in those subjects either,of course students have a right to pick their medium of instruction, I am talking now of a second language. We have a chicken and egg situation here, in that the State does not want to make a second language compulsory because there are not enough teachers, and because there are not enough teachers, many students cannot learn a second language. And of course it is the rural students who suffer most. Sometimes, seeing the efforts to stop English medium education that both Ranil Wickremesinghe and some officials in the Education Ministry engaged in, when Tara de Mel and I started it 15 years ago, I begin to wonder whether this isn’t a deliberate ploy to stop our bright rural students from being able to compete effectively. Continue reading

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CUP opens 32nd Little Library at Kaddaikadu

Children’s Uplift Programme (CUP) opened its 32nd Little Library at Kaddaikadu R. T. C. M. School, Jaffna benefitting about 250 students on February 28.

In accordance with CUP’s new concept, the theme associated with this library was “Value of Education” – a timely topic to address continuous school dropout rate and lack of attention given for education and to motivate parents in encouraging their children towards better education.

An art competition was held to enable students to display their creative ideas on the theme. The best 10 paintings were selected and drawn in the school wall with the support of JAT Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. Also the winners were awarded.

This library project was sponsored by Rotary Colombo East. President, Rotary Colombo East – S. Jayakarunakaran, and its members, CUP Officials, Harsha Gomes, Nadee Dissanayake, Nishantha Perera, Damayanthi Perera and Inoka Antony were present.

The organisers thanked Udana, Amandeepa, Smadi, Lasanthi, Kapila, Novanthi, Brithni, Udara, Hemantha Sandil, Roshan and Shoba for their contribution in many different ways to make this event a success.

Daily News 5 March 2015 – http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=local/cup-opens-32nd-little-library-kaddaikadu

SF-J Harmony Centre Ready to Provide IT Training to Jaffna Children

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In recognition of civic-oriented welfare projects being carried out by the Army in Jaffna, “We Are One Sri Lanka”, an organization based in UK showed its solidarity by donating 18 computers to Security Force Jaffna (SF-J) on Sunday (09) morning. Mr. Mohan Samarasinghe representing the organization handed over the computers, each to the value of Rs. 80,000/=, to Major General Priyatha Jayasundara, General Officer Commanding 52 Division at the “Harmony Centre” at Thalayalai, Kokuvil East.

Computers will be used to give training to Jaffna children on Information Technology at the Harmony Centre established on concept of Commander SF-J Major General Udaya Perera with purpose of helping people of Jaffna on requirements in spheres of education, health, fisheries, women empowerment and so on.

The donation was coordinated by Commanding Officer 6th Sri Lanka Signal Corps Lieutenant Colonel Chandana Arangalla.

“We Are One Sri Lanka” is conducting many community projects in many areas in the North.

http://www.cimicjaffna.lk/Cimicnews_2014_11_09.php

Government Renovates Thirteen Schools in the Kilinochchi District

151014-fullThe Ministry of Education, with assistance from the Republic of Korea, recently renovated 13 schools in the Kilinochchi District.

Situated in a district that was once home to the headquarters of the terrorist organisation known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), these schools had been in a dilapidated condition due to the near-30-year conflict.

The following schools had benefitted: St. Theresa’s Girls’ College Kilinochchi, Sivanagar Government Tamil Mixed School, Bharathy Vidyalaya Kilinochchi, Ramanathapuram West Government Tamil Mixed School, Konavil Government Tamil Mixed School, Ramanathapuram Maha Vidyalaya, Vaddakkachchi Maha Vidyalaya, Piramanthanaru Maha Vidyalaya, Tharmapuram Maha Vidyalaya, Murugananda College, Veravil Hindu Maha Vidyalaya,  Iranaitivu Roman Catholic Tamil Mix School and Kiranchi Government Tamil Mixed School.

Speaking about the renovations, Mr. Perumal Ganeshan, Principal of the Barathy Vidyalaya in Kilinochchi, said, “The students who were deprived from the opportunity of occupying luxurious (amenities) are now privileged to enjoy their school life with marvelous facilities.”

Continue reading

New building complex opened at Mn/Adampan MMV – 11 October 2014


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Opening ceremony of a new classroom complex of Mannar Adampan Madya Maha Vidyalayam was held on 11th October 2014.

Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa graced the event as the Chief Guest. Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiyudeen, Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri and High Commissioner of Islamic Republic of Pakistan Qasim Qureshi participated as special guests.

http://www.np.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3157:new-building-complex-opened-at-mn-adampan-mmv-11-october-2014&catid=8:min-gs&Itemid=114

Three Storied Building for Al-Mazhar Girl’s High School in Nintavur

E1M2-18-09-2014The Newly built three storied building at Al-Mazhar Girl’s High School in Nintavur, Kalmunai was inaugurated by Hon. Mohan Wijewickrama, Governor of the Eastern Province on 18th September 2014.

Hon. MS. Uthuma Lebbe, Minister of Road Development, EP, Hon. Members of Provincial Council who represent the area, Mr. NNA. Pushpakumara, Secretary, Ministry of Education, EP, Mr. MTA. Nizam, Provincial director of Education, Hon. YL. Sulaimalebbe, Opposition Leader of Pradeshiya Sabha, Nintavur, Teachers, Students and Members of School Development Committee also present at the ceremony. During the speech, Hon. Governor explained the rapid Development which is taken place in Eastern Province since culmination of the conflict and the Government initiatives on uplifting the Education standards of Children in the Eastern Province.

http://www.ep.gov.lk/DetailsEventnew.asp?lan=0&eid=265

Jaffna University Faculties of Agriculture and Engineering to be Established in Kilinochchi

The Ministry of Higher Education is implementing a project that focuses on further developing the Jaffna University’s Faculties of Agriculture and Engineering.

“The Faculty of Agriculture, which was functioning at Kilinochchi, had to be shifted to the Jaffna University premises owing to the escalation of war and operated there under difficult conditions particularly due to limited space available,” said Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education Mr. P. Ranepura.

The Faculty is being shifted to Kilinochchi and will be renovated. Meanwhile, the Engineering Faculty that was functioning with limited facilities in Jaffna is also being relocated to Kilinochchi and further developed.

“We have drawn up plans to develop this Faculty as a priority development project of the Northern region,” Mr. Ranepura said.

Sri Lanka has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Government through which India will provide financial assistance worth Rs. 600 million towards the development of these two faculties that will include infrastructure facilities and other requirements, including lecture halls, a conference hall, a computer laboratory, a library, a sports complex and administrative offices.

The Government of India has also agreed to extend its support for the development of the curricula, and organising faculty exchanges, training and research through affiliation to a prestigious Indian institution. A committee representing the Governments of Sri Lanka and India has been appointed to initiate and oversee the project.

“The expansion of the University of Jaffna to Kilinochchi is being done in line with the ‘University Township’ development plan,” Mr. Ranepura said. “With this development, there will be a lot of benefits to the community living in the area.”

Sources:

Ministry of Higher Education
High Commission of India in Colombo

http://llrcaction.gov.lk/en/news/702-jaffna-university-faculties-of-agriculture-and-engineering-to-be-established-in-kilinochchi.html

A set of books donated to J/Osmania College Library – 12 September 2014

15026907797_d415fa84bc“Education has been one of the main interest in the province. Encouraging and promoting the educational activities have been a common practice. The Governor and governor’s secretariat have set an example on this. Books make the person perfect.”

A set of books were donated to Jaffna Osmania College on 12thSeptember 2014 at Governor’s Secretariat in Jaffna.

Acting Principal of Osmania College received the books from Governor of the Northern Province GA Chandrasiri.

Secretary to the Governor L.Ilaangovan, Asst. Secretary to the Jaffna Regional Commissioner Office S.Annadurai and teachers of Osmania College were also present at this event.

http://www.np.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3101:governor-donated-books-to-jaffna-osmania-college-12-september-2014&catid=8&Itemid=114

New Classroom Complex of Konavil GTMS declared open – 28 July 2014

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“Education sector has been the main interested sector in northern province. People of the province shows more importance to the studies of their children. Accordingly, the government of Sri Lanka focused on providing the infrastructure facilities in northern schools. This school is one such school which has lacked classroom facilities for a long time. Longtime dream has come true in this occasion.”

Two newly built classroom complexes of Kilinochchi Konavil Government Tamil Mixed School were declared open on 28th July 2014. . Ambassador of the Republic of Korea for Sri Lanka Chang Won-sang and Minister of Education Bandula Gunawardana participated as chief guests and declared open the building. Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda, Governor of the Northern Province GA Chandrasiri and Parliamentarian M.Chandrakumar also graced the occasion as special guests.

A two storied building which comprises a science and a computer laboratories and a single storied building which comprises 4 classrooms and a library were declared open. 52 million were spent for the construction of these buildings with the financial donation of Korean Republic.

Principal of the School K.Ithayasivathas chaired the program. Provincial Secretary of Education Ministry S.Sathiyaseelan, Kilinochchi Zonal Director K.Murugavel and large number of students also took part at this event.

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http://www.np.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3041:opening-class-room-and-activity-room-at-kilinochchi-konavil-school-28-07-2014&catid=8&Itemid=114

Sinhala Language Improvement Programme Held

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A twelve days Sinhala Language Improvement programme has been commenced on 19th June 2014 at MDTD Auditorium. To improve the language skills for government staff Management Development Training Department (MDTD) conduct this programme with the collaboration of National Institute of Language Education and Training (NILET).

The Programme has been ceremonially inaugurated by the Chief Guest of Mrs. J.J.Muraleetharan, Deputy Chief Secretary – Personal & Training, EPC, Mr.Prasath R.Hearth, Director General, NILET and Mr.G.Gopnath, Assistant Director, NILET.

http://www.ep.gov.lk/DetailsEventnew.asp?lan=0&eid=396