Peace must begin in our classrooms. The picture shows students returning to classes as schools re-open across the country after the Easter attacks in Colombo on May 6, 2019 AFP
Nearly two week have gone by, and yet we cannot overcome our shock and disbelief that such dastardly acts were committed in this country.
Many of us may not have lost anyone close to us, but yet..., a whole family wiped out; three children standing by the coffins of their parents; a father who has lost the entire family, these pictures that we saw continue to haunt us. Some of us are reminded of July 25 in 1983, when we watched helplessly as neighbours and friends were beaten, some killed and their properties set on fire. Although many friends, colleagues and relations left this country as a result of what happened then, we had come to believe that after going through nearly 30 years of war, such atrocities would never reoccur. But we were wrong, so wrong. Why ? What have we not done right?
Perfect peace not achieved
We know that perfect peace has not yet been achieved, but there are many good people committed to this cause. Most of us are very disappointed in our political leaders who appear to be interested only in remaining in power or ousting the current leaders; many for personal gain. They ignored warnings, in order to remain in power.
It is not possible to make a full analysis of how this happened in an article of this nature. I write to suggest simple steps that must be taken by the government to lay the foundation for lasting peace. We must begin with our children. Some of these suicide bombers were young; maybe they were teenagers 10 years ago. How did they grow up to be terrorists? What sort of education did they receive?
Although many friends, colleagues and relations left this country as a result of what happened then, we had come to believe that after going through nearly 30 years of war, such atrocities would never reoccur
In the past few months much was said about education in Sri Lanka: Grade 5 scholarship exams to be abolished; Grade 5 scholarship exam to be reformed; modern revolution in education to begin etc. etc.
What then was wrong with our education system?
I believe successive governments, the ministers in charge of education, the administrators of education and indeed the teachers and principals of schools have all contributed to create these monsters who caused so much death and destruction. Why is there so much hatred between people of different races and religions?
We are a multicultural, multi religious country. But look at our education system and our schools. Even in large urban areas where all racial and religious groups of the country live in, the classroom is mono-cultural, except in a few privately managed schools where they make it a policy to have children of all races and religions in the class. Of course it is difficult when you have multicultural classrooms, but that is the challenge we must face. This must be made government policy. It follows that there must be no school, government or private for a single racial or religious group.
I believe most government schools are open to students of all races and religions. ( We have a few Government Hindu Colleges and Muslim Vidyalayas and these must be changed.) It is usually some private schools that have been established for a particular racial or religious group. This must not be allowed. Clear instructions must be given to such schools that they must admit any child who meets the requirements during admission. Belonging to a particular religion or race is not a criteria or acceptable requirement.
Even in large urban areas where all racial and religious groups of the country live in, the classroom is mono-cultural, except in a few privately managed schools where they make it a policy to have children of all races and religions in the class
( I digress - Religion is a compulsory subject for the ‘O’Levels. A child must be taught his or her religion. It is a matter for much regret that even in a suburb like Dehiwela, children in some Government schools are forced to study the religion of the majority because there are no teachers to teach the religion of a particular child. This is not acceptable. Answers must be found to these issues)
School uniforms must be standard. Boys in shorts or long trousers and girls in the traditional school uniform. The colours may vary. We are in Sri Lanka and ‘foreign’ uniforms must not be allowed. There has also been much publicity that foreign teachers ( without visas!) are in some of these schools. This cannot be allowed. How was this possible?
Peace must begin in our classrooms. We must make the required changes in our schools immediately.