Language, education and national unity
Posted on October 16th, 2021

Courtesy NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, October 16: University of Vavuniya Vice-Chancellor Dr. T. Mangaleswaran was one of the speakers at the Trilingual Knowledge series organised by Sri Lankan originated entity Universal Heritage Inspire in introducing the inaugural sessions linked to its Lankan knowledge brand, ThriBhasha.

ThriBhasha is a Sri Lankan literacy-focused entity promoting knowledge and arts in all three official languages of Sri Lanka; Sinhala, Tamil and English and approaching language as an intangible cultural heritage.

In September ThriBhasha held its online soft launch on Sri Lanka’s first virtual book-fair platform which was separately organised by Read Plus, a group of Lankan publishers, a consortium of 15 leading publishing houses.

Dr. Mangaleswaran emphasised how a correctly understood in-country-patriotism based education is a core central factor in creating national unity is solidarity within citizens of a nation, with close adherence to law and order as in the manner of the ancient Sinhala civilisation which did not oppress any persons based on ethnicity or religion.

He stressed that national unity makes a country strong and prosperous (rich). He showed how a strong nation has policies and aims shaped to make people happy and content, working together for the prosperity of the motherland of Lanka.

He stressed on the point that it is this factor that would safeguard Sri Lanka from strategic moves by other countries to oppose, interfere or attack it.

Last week we carried the first segment of the talk by Dr. Mangaleswaran delivered at the online launch of ThriBhasha of Universal Heritage Inspire. (See https://www.ft.lk/harmony_page/Education-and-literacy-for-national-unity/10523-723784)

Dr.T.Mangaleswaran, Vice-Chancellor, University of Vavuniya

Below is Dr.Mangaleswaran’s speech:

Dear Mr. Arun Dias Bandaranaike, Ms. Frances Bulathsinghala, Professor Kamal Waleboda, Prof. Nimal de Silva, Mr. Nuwan Priyadharshana, Mr. Mahadeva Subothan, Mr. Dinesh Kulatunga and all participants. Wish you all a very good morning.

I wish ThriBasha’s initiatives to support especially self-published authors in remote areas of Sri Lanka by promoting their books, fiction as well as non-fiction, across the island and organising translation facilitated readings and interactions between writers using Sinhala, Tamil and English for their communication.

At this juncture, I appreciate the Founder of ThriBasha, Frances Bulathsinghala, and her team as well as for all the intellectuals and artistes supporting this attempt to build the Sri Lanka through literacy and education. I especially appreciate the focus of ThriBhasha in promoting language as an intangible cultural heritage.

Issues concerning schoolchildren in the north of Sri Lanka

In several areas in the north of Sri Lanka, school education faces numerous challenges such as non-enrollment, premature dropping out from school and high absenteeism because of family poverty and accentuated by other vulnerabilities.

Poor health and disabilities also were found to prevent children from obtaining a full cycle of basic education. The inability of very low income families to spend on clothing, stationery, private coaching and books, kept children back from school to look after younger siblings, often forcing them to seek employment to support the family and to assist parents’ activities such as farming, fishing and small businesses. It is these factors that have emerged as determinants of the non-participation of students in education.

The absence of a conducive home environment and lack of study space along with needed facilities are also barriers linked to poverty. Among other barriers which impact negatively on the school attendance of children and their performance are the lack of parental encouragement for children to attend school regularly, migration of mothers for temporary employment overseas, fathers’ alcoholism, negligence of children, and consequent emotional distress suffered by children.

In the case of barriers from the supply side, lack of provision for education for children with disabilities, relatively lower level of facilities and services for institutionalised children (including a total lack of access for children in orphanage/detention), disparities in basic facilities, services, teacher availability and quality among provinces, districts and sectors have been highlighted in the research conducted by me concerning education in the north of Sri Lanka.

Deprivation and marginalisation linked to factors such as residence in remote locations lacking transport and other basic facilities and lack of access to schools with good educational facilities were seen to result in non-enrolment and drop out (UNICEF, 2013).

The way forward

It is indisputable that education and literacy fosters unity and promotes national wellbeing in all facets. The following suggestions are therefore made in an attempt to chart the way forward.

Accountability in education

Fair educational policies in states

History must be taught in a way that does not offend the sensibilities of any community

Values and citizenship education

Entrepreneurial and Experiential Education

Reduce dropout rates and low attendance in schools

A more interactive and proactive way of teaching and learning should be encouraged in all the schools and university courses so that the good policies/concepts/ideology introduced towards promoting national unity could be fully reflected via practices.

Break language barriers between people in order to bridge them through communication. It is important for many reasons including local economic/entrepreneurial, to promote a trilingual education system, providing education in the official languages of Sri Lanka; Sinhala, Tamil and English.

Students should be educated to respect the customs and traditions of each other.

Interactions between students from all parts of the country should be promoted. This could be done through extra-curricular activities such as organising cultural festivals and organising field trips where students from the north can visit schools in the south and vice versa.

Promotion of cultural studies and peace and conflict studies (catered to the Sri Lankan context in an indigenous manner) as a linked subject at secondary and tertiary levels where students will be given transfer scholarships to different areas of the country to experience and study about culture and traditions of a particular region.

National unity can be truly achieved through education integration to resonate with the identity of the nation and with this there will be harmony, happiness and prosperity in our country.

I thank Universal Heritage Inspire and ThriBhasha for inviting me speak on education and literacy for national unity and for approaching language as an intangible cultural heritage

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