The following is a restrained response to Goolbai Gunasekara’s reprisal titled “International Schools produce patriots of quality” (September 5th / The Island) aimed at my article “Focus on English medium a necessity” (September 3rd / The Island).
As the heading highlights, my initial writing focused on a crucial national problem. It was not aimed at any small section of the educational system with the aim of freezing demand for such private enterprise. So, Gunasekera is attempting to make a mountain out of a molehill with the ulterior motive, I suspect, of protecting the reputation of the profit-oriented educational institutions in Colombo.
Anyone reasonable would see that I was not referring to international schools in Colombo, but to international schools in the cities!
My argument is that the medium in those schools, which is indeed a highly conducive one, is denied by national policy to government schools. I also pointed out that the situation in the majority of such international schools is not up to the mark of the exorbitant price charged from their customers. My sole intention in writing my article was to call for national policy makers to sift away the chaff, and enable the modern educational trends to be woven into the national system of education.
I am indeed amused to observe how my writing has aroused a tidal wave of rage and repulsion because of the misinterpreted notion of a threat to the growth of private educational enterprises in Colombo. The fear of losing their customer base following a challenge from knowledgeable quarters would have been the root cause of such repulsion. A streak of white wash was duly applied by utilising the emphatic declaration “patriots of quality”. In my article, I have not opined on international school students’ patriotism, but on that of government school students from rural areas. My exact words were “immensely talented and patriotic students from the humble ‘game pasala’ are handicapped by their poor proficiency in the English Language”. Students from rural areas are indeed patriotic, given their strong allegiance with their culture and high bonding with the environment they grow up in. Hence, the heading of my critic’s article “International schools provide patriots of quality” is sadly out of context and conveys misinterpretation. Come to think of it, it is reasonable to have doubts regarding the critic’s uncalled-for defense of international school students’ patriotism, given their widely-known heavy adaptation of the filth of Western culture. Anyhow, I am glad that my writing provided the incentive to launch an advertisement campaign for Colombo’s international schools.
Nevertheless, it was appalling to observe the contemptuous manner in which Mrs. Gunasekara terms the sadistic acts of ragging and vandalism as the result of the “quota” system that brings students from unprivileged areas to the state universities. What an insult to the common man!
The violence exhibited by university raggers, drug gangs, Facebook parties, video game players, etc. are not the creation of village schools, but are cancers mutating in the entire socio-economic set-up, perpetuated by pressing hardships, the rat race for wealth and overall economic stagnation. If this situation intensifies, all of us will be pushed down the stairs.
I am also answerable to an accusation levelled by the said writer, regarding my ignorance about local A Level students’ opportunity to fly to foreign lands. I am indeed aware that a large population of government school students are engaged in foreign higher education, especially in countries like Russia, China and Malaysia. However, the point that I wished to make in my initial article was that international school students, with their superior equipment of an innovative, English-medium education and generally high socio-economic status, are given an incomparable head-start in their university careers and future jobs, most likely in foreign countries. Is it wrong to request an equal opportunity for government school students, especially from the ‘game pasala’, which would enable them to rise above their current limits of personal and career development. Should not these lasses and lads be empowered to choose lucrative avenues of employment without falling prey to unemployment and living in despair, having not achieved their high potential, as they do now? Should all of our children, or only a select few, be provided with international standard English-medium education, which in the current world, is more powerful than any weapon in regard to its ability to direct one’s path of life towards its highest possible elevation. A composed discussion on my proposition to upgrade Sri Lankan education is readily welcome, but it is a pathetic waste of words, and paper, to take one word of my argument and senselessly blow it out of proportion.
P ABEYSINGHE MALLAWARACHCHI
Youth battle against drugs needed
Twenty-one-year-old student Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read a 10-point manifesto aimed at reform of Thailand’s politically powerful monarchy
If our university students are daring enough to challenge the government for their rights for a clear-cut education policy, that no government could change, according to their whims and fancies or for the benefit of corrupt ministers, and state officials, then our university students’ unions could also challenge the government, regarding the drug mafia.
They should follow the 21-year-old. Thailand girl, from Thammasat University, who stood up against Royalty and called for a monarchy change, saying all humans have red blood and called for various reforms, as she fearlessly delivered the manifesto, including the call to change the constitution and education. This speech could have sent her to jail for 15 years, but she stood her ground.
Our university students, for the sake of our young generation, and those to be born, could challenge the government to take genuine action, as promised at the recent election, against all those who are involved in the drug mafia, be they ministers, officials or relatives. It is a well known fact that such an amount of drugs, etc., cannot be imported without the help of VVIPs.
Only the challenging from the young generation of all fields could induce positive action to expose the culprits. Mr. President, you asked the people to give you the strength to fight all corruption. You got it, but the people are worried about the outcome. Was it an ‘election gundu’? Do it, though you may not get the goodwill of corrupt ministers and officials, but the people, the honest and the hard working parents will be thankful to you.
Save the children before introducing any long term plans. Remember this drug mafia is very much worse than terrorists, because ministers did not get commissions from the war, but drugs bring in millions of rupees.
Reduce number of vehicles on our roads
Please allow me a short comment on the perceptive article by George Braine, in The Island ( 4th September, page 6), on renationalizing the private bus service. I hope it catches the eye of our President.
Firstly, his observation about how in Hong Kong and (Singapore too), buses are washed every day, and trains are comfortable and clean. Let alone comfort, couldn’t the “higher powers” provide us AT LEAST with CLEAN public transport, despite the now ingrained lack of hygiene in Sri Lankan society (it’s now part of Sri Lankan culture!). We have become an unhygienic people immune to uncleanliness – if you doubt this, tell me the name of ONE South Asian country which is as filthy as us. (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong …?). Habits such as spitting betel leaf in public, onto the pavement, throwing “Buth Parcels” on to it for the purported purpose of obtaining “merit”, by feeding the disease- infected stray dogs and cats (I almost forgot to include the rats) – this is us!. If you still doubt, go have a look at the state of our Public Toilets ANYWHERE, including the “international” Airport. Our children should be taught at an early age, how to use a toilet correctly – obviously most parents don’t know this skill.
Forty years ago, the belching buses with people hanging onto the footboard for dear life, were a common sight. It remains so today – in what aspects did we lopsidedly “Develop”? Highways – for whom?
Recently I travelled from Colombo to Galle, and last week, from Colombo to Nuwara-Eliya by car. On the Galle trip, I saw private buses tearing along, racing each other on the wrong side of the Galle Road. It was reported the following day that three had died in a head-on collision. On the Nuwara-Eliya trip, even up in the dangerous winding hills, private buses were engaged in a permanent roadrace to gather passengers.
In the very same newspaper (September 4th), on page 3, headlines read – “Three persons killed, three others seriously injured in car mishap”. It goes on to say that due to speeding, two young men sent themselves to a premature death. At least three die every day in fatal road accidents. The country’s Traffic Police are out of touch with reality. Dishing out parking fines (for the ulterior motive of collecting revenue!), watching idly as trishaws (a law unto themselves), cut across the line of traffic, allowing motorcycles to “short-cut” along the pavement, Mr Braine’s suggestion that vehicle imports should be BANNED (including Duty Free ) for five years is absolutely right! I hope the President will firmly refuse to bow to pressures in this regard, in the public interest.
He will receive fervent thanks from the public at large if he can reduce the number of vehicles on our already clogged roads. By prohibiting vehicle imports he also creates jobs for the numerous vehicle repair shops needed to keep existing vehicles in good order.
A true People’s Company for a People-Centered Economy
By JUSTIN KEPPETIYAGAMA
As per the policy manifesto of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ (‘Rata Hadana Saubhagyaye Dekma’), the main objective of the government is creating a people-centered economy through rural development.
In achieving these expectations, Sapiri Gamak, a community-based development programme is being implemented, anticipating to convert the entire country to one development zone, by building a people-centric economy that will be fully owned by the people of the country, and strengthen the local entrepreneurs; instead of selling and mortgaging national resources and financial assets of the country to foreigners.
The objectives of this programme are, improving employment and livelihoods through development of rural facilities, and thereby uplifting the socio-economic condition of the rural economy. These development projects should facilitate the income pathways of villagers and generate self-employment opportunities.
Under the guidance of the Prime Minister through this programme, projects for development of roads, infrastructure facilities required by the agriculture sector, facilities required to uplift the economy at rural levels, facilities required for development and upgrading of rural health, development of education by providing electricity, water and sanitary facilities for schools and other priority physical infrastructure facilities that are directly attributed to development of rural economy will be implemented.
Under this programme, Rs. 2 M. will be spent to implement development programs at each Grama Niladhari Division, covering 14,021 Grama Niladhari divisions of the country. At present, under this program, 37,862 development projects worth of Rs. 27,920 M. are being implemented island-wide by the Divisional Secretaries under the supervision of District Secretaries.
Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries are not the stakeholders of these projects. To implement this project there should be a mechanism that should include all villagers as the stakeholders of this project. It should not be a mechanism, operated by bureaucrats, or one dependent on budgetary funding. It should be a mechanism, funded by the people, entrepreneurs, farmers, producers, consumers, living within the G.N. division and supplemented by the Government. It should be a mechanism, owned by the villagers and operated by the villagers and for the benefits of the villagers. This should be a self-financing mechanism; a legal entity having its own identity. It should be a village-based mechanism to address the problems faced by the villagers. It should be a mechanism that leads to a self-sufficient economy.
The situation prevalent today must be changed. The course of development followed so far must be reversed totally. It must be village-based. All modes of production must be village based. The villagers must be given the knowledge to improve all their economic activities. Any industries facilitating all economic activities of villagers should be commenced in the village itself and by the villagers themselves. All technological knowledge we get must reach the villagers. This mechanism should transform all villagers to stakeholders in the village economy.
1. To create a people-centered rural economy I propose to promote one co-operative society per G.N area under the Co-operative Societies Act. It should be an enterprise of villagers, by the villagers for the benefit of the villagers. There should be 14,021 co-operative societies covering the entire island. The objectives of these co-operative societies should include:
a. Buying, stocking, selling and supplying all forms of industrial, agricultural and trading inputs and consumables and livestock required for raising the living standard of villagers.
b. Accepting deposits from members and providing venture capital or debenture capital to them to carry on their business activities. It should be the Rural Bank.
c. Providing credit, in cash, or in kind, to members to meet their other needs.
d. Undertaking the promotion, management, control and supervision of any enterprise or scheme using identified deposits of members for the benefits and advancement of such members or a group of members, and charging a fee, commission or a share of profits for such services.
e. Making investment of identified deposits of members in stock, shares or securities, on behalf of such identified members
f. Carrying out survey and research, issuing publications, and maintaining a database helpful for improvement of economic conditions of its members.
g. Providing professional services to the members regarding investment in income generating activities.
h. Promoting all types of business entities as sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies, or cooperative societies among or between members and be a partner, shareholder as the case may be, of such business.
i. Consulting, promoting, issuing, organizing, managing and administering mutual funds of any type or character for the benefit of their members.
j. Rendering managerial, marketing, technical and administrative advice to members to carry on any form of commercial or economic activity.
All government development projects relevant to a particular G.N. area should be contracted to the relevant co-operative society. They also should be agents for state owned enterprises such as Paddy Marketing Board, Sathosa, Milk Board, Fisheries Co-operation and State Banks.
2. To create a people-centered national economy the government should promote one Peoples Company making all 14,021 G.N level co-operative societies and all State Owned Enterprises as its shareholders. Government’s all national level development projects should be contracted to this company.
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