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National Policies to focus on post war social issues

1 September 2015 04:43 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


There is a lot being spoken about the political, economic and social effects of Sri Lanka’s civil war. In this two-part article, my focus however is on the common but probably un-analysed social problems that lie beneath the carpet, and solutions that need national stakeholder attention.

Sri Lankans in modern history had been passing through a turbulent stage. During these few decades much of the resources of the country had to be utilised to contain the LTTE at the expense of neglecting the economic and social development of the country. Heavy burdens were imposed on society which had to bear an alarming increase in the cost of goods and services. 

During the war, apart from those who was directly involved, the general public too was adversely affected in their daily activities in an indirect way. There was only one common concern among everyone, i.e. safety. Regardless of what social sphere you belonged to, this was the primary burning ‘worry’ every single day. 

There was not much attention on social habits, social values, food habits, nutrition or cultural values by parents and there was also less attention on career guidance at school level. Six years after the end of the war in Sri Lanka, I believe these important social values are being ignored at the cost of their effects on our productivity and labour- qualified, skilled, semi-skilled and non-skilled. 

As a responsible citizen it is not just one’s duty but our responsibility to discuss some deep-set social issues that have cropped up in post-war Sri Lanka which are slowly but surely escalating to disturbing levels. 

The new government wishes to provide employment to a large number of youth but Sri Lanka has become a hub for importing labour, both qualified and unskilled. Looking at national statistics and high standards, we strongly believe we have a sound education system and a steady line of qualified professionals being produced. But sadly we also see that Sri Lanka is employing foreign professionals to key positions in the corporate sector. These foreign professionals are employed at influential decision-making levels when there are equally or more qualified Sri Lankans who suit the job. This is not only sad but an embarrassment to the country, and is a situation that will trigger many unforeseen social issues in the country very soon.

There are plenty of job vacancies advertised via print and online media, and numerous interviews are conducted by Human Resource Departments in the corporate sector. There are also many small-scale business operations and workshops searching for unskilled and semi-skilled labour. But the commonest lament of most employers is that it is hard to find the right candidate. Let us find out why?

As a personality development consultant, I have observed that this situation is largely due to the failure of Sri Lankans to understand their own self worth. Lack of awareness and exposure to life skills results in low self esteem and has affected the new generation. The ‘island mentality’ fuelled with this low self esteem has made the people grow accustomed to a lifestyle of simple ‘existence’ only.

Parents force children to study in order to pass exams without a proper plan or a focus. The skills and talents of children are not identified. Many are not guided on selecting the correct subjects according to their talents or a potential fulfilling and suitable career. The focus is only on getting ‘a job’ rather than ‘the job’ which is right for you, or which you are good at. The job they look for is ‘according to the educational qualifications’ without realizing that education is an enhancement of the knowledge and not a piece of paper to be blindly used to get a job. 

The trend is get a job to suit one’s conveniences while staying within the comfort zone, rather than for personal and social development. There is a general lack of interest and a fear to take up new challenges professionally.

For example, HR professionals in mid to top level companies complain that the most common reasons for attrition are flimsy excuses such as the inability to work late or having to walk too far to the bus stop etc., This lethargic attitude is a clear result of the ‘existence mentality’ which has crept into our society. This is a distressing tendency spreading its roots deep into our society.

The change should start first at home, influenced by parents who have a primary duty to bring up children with good social values and to become responsible citizens. 

The State on the other hand, has a mammoth duty starting from the right curricular at school level to correct career guidance paths at each land mark stage of a child’s education. We should also not forget instilling cultural and religious values in children, which again rest on parents and the State.
Apart from the chosen line of work, people must be helped to realize their own self worth through soft skills training. This will help one achieve better results in all spheres of life, not only professionally, but also in personal life and become a more wholesome person. 

In my opinion and observation, the numerous issues faced by post-war Sri Lanka are largely attributable to the shortcomings of the following three main reasons i.e.

1. Food habits
2. Personal hygiene
3. Active lifestyle

1. Food habits
Most Sri Lankans who are in the low-mid income level generally eat more rice compared to vegetables and fish or meat. This habit, knowingly or unknowingly, makes one lethargic and also leads to adverse health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The experts in the nutritional and medical fields recommend the creation and promotion of a ‘national plate of rice’. A balanced meal of only ¼ plate rice (starch), ¼ plate protein (fish, meat, pulses etc), ½ plate of vegetables with added fruit.  

Certain national and international schools and some day care centres follow good nutritional lunch menus. Likewise, we need to launch a programme whereby the ‘national plate of rice’ is introduced to school canteens, corporate/government office canteens, private and government universities and right down to the simple ‘rice packet’ sold in a wayside ‘kade’.

President Maithripla Sirisena, during his term as the Health Minister, a few weeks prior to the elections said on national television that 1 out of 4 adults in Sri Lanka suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. If these following habits are inculcated in our people, this prosperous nation will easily be free of many life threatening diseases such as diabetes and gastritis. 

■    Change the way a plate of rice is served (1/4 starch, ¼ proteins and 12/ vegetables & fruit)
■    Drink 10 glasses of water
■    Reduce snack food
■     Encourage rice flour instead of wheat flour
■     Grind and not squeeze coconut to extract milk (the best fibre in Sri Lankan food is in coconut refuse which is sadly thrown to the bin after extracting milk)
■    Drink fresh milk instead of milk powder solutions. A very good example can be drawn from the recent milk food consumption and sales. The tendency towards the consumption of liquid milk has steadily grown in Sri Lanka. This amply shows that if guided properly, people would adopt to new good habits easily. Until recently, liquid milk was not accepted by the local consumer.

2.  Personal hygiene
We may be immune to our own body odour, but in my experience as an Image Consultant over the last 20 years I have observed that it is a silent but fairly significant contributor to our national productivity levels. Poor personal hygiene leads to equally poor, or even worse, self confidence and personal discomfort resulting in negative productivity. Poor personal hygiene is an embarrassment and a personal set back. The strange truth is that one may not even realize it!
Sri Lanka is still blessed with ample water supply. Yet, majority of the people from all income levels, do not have the habit of showering themselves   in the morning accompanied by the habit of wearing clean clothes. 

Lack of personal cleanliness is the cause of many skin diseases in babies as well as adults in Sri Lanka, thus, proving it to be a costly habit, not only in terms of productivity, but also in terms of private and state health expenditure.

3. Active lifestyle
Sedentary lifestyle is the cause of many social issues today. The adults should learn to be active and move as often as possible. Walk to the shops, take the stairs instead of waiting many minutes for the lift, go and fetch your own glass of water. 

Children need to be encouraged to take up sports, singing dancing and similar activities that keep them energetic, enthusiastic and happy.

These simple life skills need to be included in the national policies of our new government and the state and the private sector should both take responsibility to implement these policies.

A Few suggestions are:
■ Electronic, print and social media to be used to promote these policies, with fruitful programmes to influence each segment of the society. 
■ All school/academies/universities/vocational and technical training centres to include the 3 points in to their general curriculum and the Trainers to be trained.
■  All food outlets to be given guidelines on cooking the staple rice packets.
In conclusion it can be said that if Sri Lankans worked towards developing the three above mentioned social habits and values in their lives the county would change for the better with a healthy active society working better and harder.
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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.



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