The Sunday Leader

Integrating Students To Help Reconciliation

by Easwaran Rutnam

President Maithripala Sirisena

As efforts are taken at various levels to bridge the differences between the communities in the country, one proposal which has now been made is to build mutual understanding among students.

Former President Chandrika Banadaranaike Kumaratunga has proposed integrating students from different backgrounds in each school in the country.

She has proposed the need to have students of the different communities in the country to be enrolled into schools where there is a majority of a particular community, be it Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim.

So in other words a government school with mostly Sinhalese students should enroll Tamil and Muslim students while a school with mostly Tamil or Muslim students should enroll Sinhalese students.

This will help Sinhalese students understand the minorities better and will also help the minorities unite with the Sinhalese.

It is the children who will set the path of how our future generations will live and this kind of proposal where efforts are taken to bridge the gap between the children of different communities will help ensure a more united Sri Lanka in the years ahead.

Kumaratunga is the chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) which is fully involved in the National reconciliation process.

ONUR together with Ministry of Education and Provincial Education Ministries had recently initiated a programme to ensure the main religious festivals are celebrated in all schools.

The initial stage of the programme titled  A United Sri Lanka: Blessed with Diversity was successfully completed recently.

The programme was launched to coincide with the Thai Pongal festival and within a period of two weeks some 35 different programmes were staged with the participation of over 15,000 students, teachers and parents at several schools.

The programmes helped the students of different faiths learn more about the Tamil Thai Pongal festival and also celebrate it with their Tamil friends. Speaking at an event last week, President Maithripala Sirisena also highlighted the need for there to be unity among all communities.

“To move forward as a developed nation in the world, all Sri Lankans should join hands in peace and brotherhood.

Whatever race and religion we belong to, we should face the world as one Sri Lankan nation,” he said. The President further stated that the policy of the new government is to develop the schools in villages, similar to the schools in towns.

The President said that the aim of his government is to provide equal education opportunities for all the children in the country and to build a society where everyone can live in harmony.

ONUR is responsible for formulation and coordinating the implementation of the policies and programmes to build national unity and reconciliation.  ONUR says its principle role is to ensure a durable peace through building bridges between everyone.

The Board of Governors of the ONUR consist of eminent persons who have excelled in their professional lives and representatives of multiple religious, ethnic, professional and academic backgrounds.

The staff of ONUR also represents diverse backgrounds and professional experience.

ONUR has completed a mapping process, which identified relevant LLRC recommendations that fall within the mandate of ONUR. Some of the recent developments with ONUR intervention in this regard include initiatives in the areas of language, education, political dialogue for reconciliation, setting up of a grievance unit and empowering women, issuance of ‘Certificates of Absence’ for families of missing persons and facilitating comprehensive development planning.

Identifying the fact that education is an extremely important sector for supporting a transformative process in post-conflict societies and in creating the mindset of the younger generation to encourage social cohesion, reconciliation and fostering unity; ONUR with Ministry of Education and the relevant Provincial Ministries of Education, have jointly identified a range of short, medium and long term initiatives that will facilitate creating awareness among the young generation on the importance moving forward as Sri Lankans with national unity and reconciliation.

Some of the identified existing initiatives will be scaled up for better efficiency and effectiveness including student/teacher exchange programmes and the promotion of arts, culture and sports for reconciliation.

Discussion is underway to design a road map for mainstreaming national unity and reconciliation within the education system. Some significant milestones suggested in this process consist of reviving Citizenship Governance and Peace Education and practice in schools and the promotion of the Trilingual Language Policy.


4 Comments for “Integrating Students To Help Reconciliation”

  1. Sangaralingham

    Student exchanges after grade 8 with schools mix match is a idea should be considered.however the leadership of various parties and religious leaders politicians of all ranks must play a key role with media play key part in reconciliation
    Vital to remember that country as a whole is fragmented into group withsocialcoheviness politician speak different lingo in different places of course cheerfulness then playing just asthe opposite as a result there is a distrust among communities. Idea of hong people meeting seems fine but they are influenced manipulated by their social back ground etc. honesty truthfulness must come from politicians who were elected and in the constitution

  2. Independent Observer

    Excellent idea , madam Chandrika !!

  3. Sri Lankan

    More than ever now the need for peaceful co-existence between people of various religious and ethnic backgrounds is the introduction of human values teachings into our school curricula immediately.The five human values are as important y as clean water and clean air is for our survival.Any generation that is deprived of the benefits of a proper and practical study of these values cannot be sustained for long and the application on a daily basis is the only way social cohesion can be maintained in a true sense.Only through a proper study and application on a day to day basis by young and old the principles of TRUTH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE, LOVE AND NON-VIOLENCE can this country ever reach real reconciliation. Of-course the primary goal must be to target our children for this project but that does not mean the education and inculcation of these values and their application among the older people,business ,government sports and every conceivable human activity can be ignored or neglected. The Human Values education programs in place for a long time now in the Sri Sathya Sai Schools in Bangalore India are being used as models for developing Value base education all over the world including Islamic countries.It would serve us well to look at these methods of instruction and absorb them in a manner that befits our needs.The current system I believe is implicitly geared to promoting the evils afflicting the human race namely Lust,Anger,Greed,Illusion.Pride and Jealousy among us more than anything good.
    This program must have pride of place in the governments reforms agenda,even more than the economic and infrastructural.One more destructive conflict like what we had in the past 30+ years will destroy all of the economic and infrastructural development in next to no time and the only safeguard against such destruction is bonding that must exist among people borne out of the safety and welfare of everyone else.It is most heartening to note the Presidents personal interest in the matter but all parties and peoples must be made part of this endeavor.As is always the case there will be those who will oppose the program on narrow and self serving agendas but let us hope and pray they will too see the benefit of the unity among all peoples.

  4. Sima

    Wonder of Asia part 2!!!

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