Category Archives: Education

Ecological Conversation – All Gujarat Students Development Movement, india

An Ecology Camp was organized by the A.G.S.D.M (All Gujarat Students Development Movement) at Ashadeep – Human Development Centre, Vallabh Vidyanagar Gujarat on Sunday 23rd July, 2017. Trupti, Priyal, Nikunj, Ketan and Ratnadeep were mainly responsible for organizing the camp as a follow up  of the International Environmental  Workshop, “Laudato Si in Action”, which they five attended at Indian Social Institute Bangalore.  The first activity was the registration done by the youth.

The camp began seeking the blessings of the Almighty. Ketan shared some information on ‘Food sovereignty’. The points he raised was on how the farmer was getting less procurement price for his produce.  This phenomenon leads to frustration among the farmers who had taken huge loans and were unable to repay those loans leading to suicides. He also explained to the group that the amount paid for the food we buy from the market is proportionally much greater than the actual price. By providing examples Ketan’s message was well received by all.  Finally, it meant that the poor are the most affected.  This led to interactions among the participants,

Trupti Parmar spoke about ‘Global Warming’.  She dwelt upon how people were polluting the land, air and water. This is something we have experienced as we have seen this around us. There is an excessive use of Plastic which has replaced paper and cloth bags. The misuse of polluting vehicles has choked up the cities. Many trees have been cut down to broaden the highways. This has harmed our environment.

Ratnadeep Macwana explained about ‘Climate Change’.  He interacted with the youth and made his talk interesting. He spoke about ‘Laudata Si’ the Holy Father’s encyclical which was appreciated worldwide. Pope Francis had through his book had given a clear message that God created the nature and human beings alike. We as his creation ought to preserve and save Our Common Home (Earth). We as human being are responsible for what we are experiencing today. Through the discussions the participants were made aware that they are equally responsible in nurturing Mother Earth. It was due to our lack of interest and irresponsibility that we are feeling the effects of Global warming.  There are many organizations who are involved not only in organizing tree planting programs but are challenging those forces that are actually indulging in harmful activities resulting in creating damage not only to nature but to the all of humankind.

After a short break time, a few participants shared their experiences through which they expressed their desire that the youth get more involved in showing their concern and taking care of the environment.  One of them spoke about air pollution and the hazards it poses on our health.

We also conducted two activities in which the youth wrote and drew some beautiful and inspiring messages and on the need to nurture and save the environment.

We then had the tree plantation ceremony in the open plot. We planted around ten saplings mainly medicinal plants.

The team strongly felt that the outcome of our experience at Bangalore led us to organize the one day camp, with the aim of imparting information and creating awareness among the youth, on the dire need of caring and nurturing Mother Earth.

 

 

 

Yahweh! the God of Indigenous

By Sana Mariam

“Sana Mariam, is a graduate in Social and Cultural Studies from University of the Punjab. She is a former member from IMCS Pakistan. Through this article she’s sharing her experience of spirituality of Indigenous people of Philippines.”

The mighty, the creator, the provider, the healer, all of these characteristics belongs of the God All things were made to glorify Him. The trees the mountains the lake all things are filled with Gods spirits. Each passing moment they are praising and glorifying Him. Living experience with Indigenous (AETA community) from 12 June to 25th June is a close encounter with God and His people. Experiencing” Yahweh” in all his majestic power. There, I felt a deep conversion inside me. Where my all fears turn into strength, my worries into victory, My anxieties into amusements. Climbing the mountain is a life living reflection in itself already. Some time we walk under the sun very happily without knowing the miseries of life on the way because it seems so beautiful from afar. When we start walking then we realize its tiring and it’s not that easy there are ups and downs. We stop in the journey of life, take a rest, sometimes we continue walking even though its hard.Sometimes we need a hand to push us up, sometimes even cry and think to give up. That time kind word from a companion can boost up the energies and make you continue and not to forget the mission and purpose of life.

We the so called Literary “literate world” claims all the intelligence and knowledge belong to us. The small world of indigenous peoples still holds the treasure of wisdom simplicity though mystical in nature. The beliefs in the spirit in that’s all the spirits are sacred and everything has a spirit is a way of respecting life (the breath of life from GOD)whereas this respect brings a question mark for the oneness of the GOD for the modern religion. Wherein the book of Genesis supports the idea where God sees everything and he said its good. Everything is good because it is filled with his spirit. God’s spirit is within all the creation therefore they are all sacred and must be respected with love and reverence. Therefore Pope Francis in His encyclical Laudato Si’ calls our attention toward the Care for creation where all things magnify God’s Holy name. Consequently I find nothing that can challenge the oneness of God. If we give respect to the water, the trees the mountains, the wind and mother earth. Actually they are all life giver. Without air there will be no life, without water there will be no life, without mother earth where shall human kind stand where we will grow and what will we eat. We just need to accept their presence that is essential for us.

I found the mightiness of God. The infiniteness of God. Owns the beauty of all of it. The indigenous peoples are the one holding the wisdom of God in all His purity and simplicity, All the majestic power. I find myself so limited. My teachings were God stay/live just in the defined places like churches and the blessed sacraments. Indigenous peoples experience God everywhere. Even in the simple Umpukan (group of people sitting together). Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.Due to our busy life we are forgetting those values, whereas those values are still being practiced by indigenous people.

They are still keeping their values of being together. They are still sharing the cup of joy which reminds me the breaking of bread and communion everyday. Which bring community together. Being a city girl at first it was hard to understand that I was surrounded by the ancestor’s spirit, living in the 21st century one could say its useless to talk about that Moreover: the stories being taught to us through horror movies and dramas, where spirits are bad, they take revenge and disturb Us but knowing all those facts I felt a sense of security among them. Sense of protection, guidance knowing some objects specifically represents those spirits. I was not afraid my faith grew deeper and deeper. I experience sitting under the trees which was specifically residence of ancestral spirits and they did guide our discussion. There I learnt the culture of Respect.

Visiting Mount Pinatubo The sacred mountain where the Apo Namalyari (Creator-God of the Aeta) resides the experience is very challenging to put into words. It cannot describe in words where someone find oneself so small under the majesty of God. The breeze over the deep blue water and the mighty mountains automatically brings me to the prayer mode when I want to praise and worship God, the vastness of the nature is so clear though deep that I want to be lost and be one with nature in her immense beauty. What If I die today and God ask me; how was Heaven?The beauty of the deep blue wavy sea surrounded by the majestic mountains towering into the blue sky bring me to the depth of the Mighty One where God dwell with all divine majesty and beauty and where frail humans like me can dive deep down in himself consequently finding inner peace.

We become so private nowadays so much so that everyone has created her/his own God. And religion is just trying to impose over other religion. This is my God and these are God’s characteristics.Moreover my God/Religion is more powerful than yours. At least among the Aeta’s they are practicing the universal God that is everywhere. The rituals and practices being practiced since centuries immemorial have been transforming of the “civilized” cultures, with the same sense of reverence of the spirits that makes the Aeta community unique. The uniqueness stands out first of all in the rituals of praying with songs and dancing around the fire, and second, the (Umpukan) brings about the strong community spirits among the Aeta. Caring for each one in the community adds life to the community. Respecting nature, the trees and the fire flies, mother earth, the sun the moon, the stars, the rain, the wind, the thunderstorm are part of their daily lives as they acknowledge the Spirit’s strong presence with them and in a way nature is also communicating with them. Therefore, the Aeta’s culture is respect and reverence of nature which they learn from their elders by communicating with the nature and they continue to experience the rhythm, sacredness, depth and limitation of the land and the mountains, the streams, the deep blue lake, the forests, the moon, sun, the stars, the milky ways and galaxies.

Unfortunately, I found myself so selfish and limited.The community is practicing great values like respecting elders, women and children. And having code of conduct of how to stay together since the time immemorial.

They do have female kapitan/village head. Where my religion my teaching teaches me only my God and my salvation, where in Indigenous Believes in communion, they stay and practice communion. Where there is great love and respect for the women. Which make me thinks and rethink A community practitioner of such a kind values. How comes followers of other than God. I can sense a strong sense of Merciful Father, the protecting brother and the guiding spirit as Holy spirit. Where the whole concept of Trinity meet.

Unfortunately,the Government of Philippines under the tourism department open this sacred place for tourism. Where people are not given proper orientation how to pay respect to this sacred Place. Secondly The Indigenous Peoples are losing their land because of some political interests and of course the money which serves as a “God/Idol” for some. Through the given exposure I wish and pray for Indigenous peoples for their strong hold on their ancestral land where they can live dignified life. Moreover, I hope and wish that they can grow in their faith in Apo Namalyari, the ninunu and anito through the gospel of creation and umpukan.

At the end I want to make a request to all the readers to pay respect if you are visiting those sacred places because God Is everywhere and you never know when will you encounter God and when God will encounter you.

Education is a right. Not a commodity!

Written by Sheril Nimeshika Fernando – Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (Sri Lanka University Catholic Students Movement – SLUCSM)

education

“The Great Roman Emperor Augustus once blew his own trumpet stating that he turned the brick laid Rome, in to marble laid Rome. On this occasion, please allow me to say this. I humbly tell you, I am responsible in giving Free Education to all. Remember all this time you got Education for a big price. You paid a very big sum. I opened a book, which was closed all this time. I opened the door of Education to the poor, which was once meant only for the so called Elite class of this country. It was once a right of HAVES only. I opened it to HAVE NOTS.”

Christopher William Wijekoon Kannangara, the great personality known as the “Father of Free Education in Sri Lanka” uttered these words of pride & accomplishment on 4th June 1944. It was on this day that he, as the first Minister of Education of Ceylon presented the Free Education Bill in the State Council marking a golden day in the annals of Education in Sri Lanka.Then began the social revolution of opening the doors of education to all children in Sri Lanka from primary level to the university.

Education is a right. Not a commodity!

The oxford dictionary defines education as the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. That is education defined in its more restricted sense. In a much broader context education can be defined as a process, beginning at birth of developing intellectual capacity, manual skills and social awareness, especially by instruction. Education is an investment in a person’s future. It is the most powerful weapon one can use to change the world. Wisdom is the weapon to ward-off destruction. It is an inner fortress which enemies cannot destroy. In the words of Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is Power”. Power to live a decent life.Power to earn a decent income.Power that brings one respect and dignity. When knowledge can bestow the power for so many things, why should it be restricted to a few who have the advantage of wealth? Knowledge needs to be free for all those who deserve it, and what a person deserves should be decided by an individual’s capability and intelligence and not by wealth. The best and simplest way to disseminate knowledge to all those who deserve it, is through free education.

Concept of Central Colleges

Having realized the pivotal role of free education through the challenges that he himself faced in developing his capacities, C.W.W. Kannangaratried to make it possible for the young sons and daughters of Sri Lanka, to achieve their higher potential and to serve their motherland to the best of their ability.

When analyzing the Sessional paper 24 of 1943, the Report of the Special Committee of Education of which Kannagara was the chairperson, it can be noted that it covered two important aspects. Firstly, every individual must have equal opportunity, so that, provided he has the necessary innate ability, he can lift himself from the humblest to the highest position in the social, economic and political ladder. Secondly, Education in a democratic society should be free at all stages. Thereby, children were provided free education from kindergarten to university level in Sri Lanka.

The concept of Central Colleges, originated from his idea of equity that could cover all children, irrespective of the circumstances in to which they were born. Remarkably these Central Colleges he started produced some of the most brilliant Academics, Administrators and Professionals. The characteristic of this group was that they gave their best for the welfare and advancement of the motherland. The system initiated by Kannangara, produced, fortunately for Sri Lanka, a set of Leaders, who always put country beforeself.

Kannangara’s Central School concept was a great boon to the rural children. By 1941, there were 3 Central Schools. In 1945, it was increased to 35. By 1950, there were 50 Central Schools in the Island. Today, there are 57 Central Schools. During the Kannangara Era, every electorate had one Central School. This helped the rural children further their Education and enter Universities.

Present education system of Sri Lanka

Today, there are 10,390 government schools. The curriculum offered is approved by the Ministry of Education. Schooling is compulsory for children from 6 to 13 years of age. Education is state funded and offered free of charge at all levels, including the university level. The government also provides free textbooks to schoolchildren. Literacy rates and educational attainment levels rose steadily after Sri Lanka became an independent nation in 1948 and today the youth literacy rate stands at 97%. The medium of language could be Sinhala, Tamil or English. English is taught as a second language. Students sit the G.C.E. O/L (General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level) at the end of 11 years of formal education and G.C.E. A/L (Advanced Level) examination at the end of 13 years.

The education structure is divided into five parts: primary (grade 1-5), junior secondary (grade 6-9), senior secondary (grade 10-11), collegiate (grade 12-13) and tertiary(university).

State funded tertiary education

As of 2017, Sri Lanka has 15 universities, all of which are public institutions. These state universities recruit students, 60% by district quota& rest of the 40% by merit basis. The achievement of each student at G.C.E. A/L is assessed by a Z-Score which considers the difficulty level of each subject and gives a cumulative mark. Passing G.C.E. A/L examination with 3Ss (simple passes) is considered as the minimum eligibility criteria to enter a state university. Due to the poor expansion of state university system over the years & restricted facilities, admissions have become extremely competitive. So, only 18% of students who fulfill the aforementioned minimum criteria at GCE A/L get the opportunity to enter a state university to follow an undergraduate course in a specific field based on their Z-score.

Depending on the course a student chooses to follow a Certificate, a Diploma, or a Bachelor’s Degree is awarded at the end of the undergraduate programme. Certificates and diplomas are conferred after one or two years. A Bachelor’s Degree is earned after three years as a General Degree or after 4 years as a Special Degree.  A degree in Medicine is awarded after 5 years of study with an additional year of internship, which is compulsory.

District quota system

As the years went by Academics realized the original idea of “equal opportunity” is not properly implemented through Central Colleges alone as there were significant differences in resource division& educational facilities available. This was more evident in the process of recruiting students to universities for their tertiary education by G.C.E.A/LExamination. Thus district quota system was introduced in 1970s. This system provided means to both the unequal circumstances children would face at the level of secondary education & a practical solution to overcome it in the long term.

Firstly all the central colleges were not receiving the same amount of facilities & opportunities. So the childrenisland wide attending those schools were at a huge disadvantage when it came to national level examinations, specially the G.C.E. A/L examination which was the sole deciding factor to become eligible to get enrolled into a state university. Therefore a quota was allocated to each of the 25 districts depending on its population & its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. Even though this was not a foolproof system it chose students who performed their level best at the entry examination under a given amount of facilities. Originally it was planned to gradually increase the GDP allocated for education & to abolish district quota system & recruit students purely on merit basis once all central colleges reach a baseline standard. Unfortunately over the years there has been no increment but a severe decline in allocating funds for education. The percentage of GDP allocated for education (primary, secondary & tertiary) used to be 3.5% in 1970s& has steadily declined to a mere1.8% by 2016.

Secondly district quota system was established as a solution to the unequal resource division itself. The idea wasto produce qualified personnel from peripheries of Sri Lanka by providing them with a quality, state funded university education and to send them back to their hometowns as professionals instead of pooling them in & around well-developed cities which already had access to professional services. Thereby minimize the discriminations children & people as a whole would face by being born in a rural area of the country. Although the district quota system has not addressed the unequal resource division in all sectors with regard to differences in access to professional services, it has produced some excellent results in certain sectors like health care. Being categorized as a developing country Sri Lanka has best primary health care indices (maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate, vaccine coverage etc) in South East Asia which could even compete with that of developed countries. World Health Organization recommends Sri Lanka’s maternal & child health care model for developing countries since it is cost effective &works well at grass route level. This is due to availability of professional health care even at peripheries. (The credit of this achievement should go not only to the district quota system but also to the free health care system)

Private education

At primary & secondary level in addition to the Government Schools there are 33 non-fee-levying assisted private schools and 33 fee-levying autonomous private schools. These schools offer the local syllabus as well as the British system. There is another category of English medium International Schools approved and registered by the Board of Investment, Sri Lanka. Some international schools offer the curriculum for the IB Diploma while others coach students for the EdexcelG.C.E. Ordinary Level (O/L) Advanced Subsidiary (A/S) and Advanced Level (A2) examinations. A few schools offer the curriculum for the Cambridge Examinations as well.

Combined with the facts that securing a place at a state university is extremely competitive & those who take the British examinations are not permitted to apply for admission for state universities, private sector has seen the opportunity & stepped in to provide fee levying tertiary education since 1980s. At present Sri Lanka has 16 private universities registered under University Grants Commission as undergraduate degree awarding institutions. Although private higher education institutes have been there for nearly 30 years, over time they have given rise to many issues notably with private medical colleges.

Private medical education, NCMC& SAITM

The first well established private medical college of Sri Lanka was the North Colombo Medical College (NCMC) which was started as a non-profit institute by the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka. At the beginning NCMC maintained proper standards & Sri Lanka Medical Council recognized this medical degree. Yet within 4-5 years since its inception its transparency in student admission process & the standards deteriorated & it also threatened standards of state medical colleges by attracting teaching staff for better wages & better facilities. All these gave rise to a university student up rise demanding the government to nationalize NCMC so that university entrance would be purely based on merit &not one’s buying ability. Due to continuous pressure by the student body, doctors & other professionals government was forced to nationalize NCMC but at the expense of thousands of young lives. Their sacrifice to safeguard free education was not in vain as today Faculty of Medicine, Ragama (formerly known as NCMC) which is state funded & enrolls around 150 students each year purely on merit basis.

Today we see history repeating itself with the present crisis situation in Sri Lanka’s higher education & health sectors arisen due to an ill-conceived, self-proclaimed private medical college named SAITM (South Asian Institute of Technology & Medicine). Since its inception in 2009 this institution has acted fraudulently both academically & financially. Due to its substandard training, to this date it has not obtained Sri Lanka Medical Council recognition. Although a medical college cannot exist without that country’s medical council recognition, SAITM has prevailed for 8 years with the backing of corrupt politicians & misusing the loopholes in legal provisions while authorities have taken no legal action against this illegal institution. SAITM started “selling” a degree in medicine at LKR 6 million (USD 40,000) & within 8 years the price has shot up to LKR 12 million (USD 80,000). So basically, medical education being a field of highest demand, SAITM is targeting the “customers” who have a dream of becoming doctors but couldn’t fulfill their dream following the established system. The fact that a country’s medical education is designed to uplift the health status of the country & not to fulfill anyone’s dream of becoming a doctor has become irrelevant. Also the fact that 42% of Sri Lankans have a daily income of less than USD 2 (According to Central Bank Reports of 2016) & they would never be able to enter a private medical college like SAITM, has been purposefully forgotten.

This issue has given rise to a discussion about pros & cons of private higher education among university students, academics & citizens of Sri Lanka as a whole. Being a nation which benefited immensely by the products of free education, it is of paramount importance to analyze this issue intelligently.

Arguments for private university education 

The most popular argument is that private tertiary education, gives an opportunity to everyone to make themselves educated in a particular field, be employed, spend a decent life& be a part of the work force of the country. When this fact is taken into account in isolation, it appears rational. But when it is considered in the present context of the country, it is not so. In the recent past Sri Lankans citizens had to witness a child who hanged himself to death because he didn’t have shoes to wear to school, a child who had to steal from neighbourhood houses to collect money to pay for colour washing his class room, a girl who sold her body to strangers to find tuition fees, a mother who committed suicide because she couldn’t afford the cost of books of her school going child etc. Apart from these tragic incidents government has officially stated that there are more than fifty thousand school dropouts in the recent past. So when primary, secondary & college education are facing this many issues even when these are provided free of charge, will privatizing university education solve any of these or will it worsen the problems further? Will any of the above mentioned children be able to afford high costs of private tertiary education?

Then one can argue that at least the proportion of citizens who can afford the private education will benefit from it & therefore private & free education can co-exist giving the citizen the right to choose either of the two. But once something is privatized & opened into the market it cannot stagnate in one place. Rather it has to spread further & further which would at one point consume the non-profit oriented government institutions. In simple terms state funded universities would go for a natural death by promoting private universities & education will no longer be a right but a commodity.

It is also said that the government in a developing country is unable to fund the free education system to a level where all students are given the opportunity to study free of charge from kindergarten to university. Considering only 18% of students who fulfill the minimum criteria at G.C.E. A/L become eligible to enter state universities, this argument seems true at its face value. Arguably if a country spends more on free university education there is an opportunity cost of higher taxes or less spending elsewhere. Yet, there is a greater social benefit & it provides the country with a skilled, intelligent work force in the long run. Even today a major demand by both university students & lecturers is to increase the percentage of GDP allocated for education to 6% which is not an unreasonably high value. This will allow the state universities to expand gradually to provide free tertiary education to all.This should be a prime responsibility of a civilized government if itis to prioritizethe citizen needs.

Another wide spread misconception is that free education violates the freedom of education by depriving the students of their right to follow a course of study of their choice. As previously mentioned in this article knowledge needs to be free for all those who deserve it and what a person deserves should be decided by an individual’s capability and intelligence and not by wealth. So every student will not be able to follow their choice of study if there’s a discrepancy between what they like & what they are capable of. So free education system will differentiate these students based on their ability. But differentiation is not discrimination. The real discrimination will be depriving a capable student of obtaining tertiary education due to his inability to pay for it.

Some people suggest scholarship schemes for ones who cannot afford private education while the rest pay for their education. Although scholarships are intended for the disadvantaged few, the disadvantaged aren’t just few in Sri Lankan context. Scholarships help only a handful, for others providing free education would come as a great relief.

Is free education better?

The society is more divided by wealth than by any other criteria. There is the unbelievably rich few, the very rich, the middle income group, the poor, and those in utter poverty. And amidst all this are impoverishment, unemployment, and destitution. How can anyone think of spending money on education, when they do not have money for food and shelter? However, education is the remedy for all these ills that plague the society. Education is the only means that can open up the doors that lead to employment, and through it food, shelter and better quality of life. Therefore, providing free education to the deserving ensures that at-least the future generation can step through these doors to a better living.

Providing free education would enable students to concentrate on learning and gaining more through the education, instead of struggling with the payment of tuition fees and meeting other expenses. When the focus shifts to learning it leads to empowerment of the youth to work towards an increasingly intellectual society.

Free education would lead to more educated people. More educated people in the society leads to overall improvement in the quality of life in the society. Through better employment and elimination of the struggle for basic needs, people would concentrate on the higher aspects of life, such as improving administration and management of issues that impact the society in general. Therefore free education would have a very positive impact on the overall quality and thinking in the society.

More educated people would mean better governance from the grassroots to the national level. Educated people would make better choices in electing their representatives and are better equipped to question corruption and misuse of power. Therefore, education is not only the remedy for the ills of unequal wealth, but also the remedy for the ills that plague our administration and governments. By making education free, we prod our society towards the path of better governance.

Intelligence and talent are not the forte of the wealthy alone. There is lot of untapped and undiscovered talent and intelligence lying covered under impoverishment and destitution. Free education opens the doors of opportunities to these talented people. Through free education, we can ensure that the talented and intelligent can gain the assurance of a better tomorrow through maximizing their academic potentials.

Free education would be beneficial to those who deserve it, as well as, to the society as a whole. Where everybody is talking about equal and better opportunities, the prospects of a better future should not be lost due to lack of equal opportunities for education.

Let me conclude this article with a famous quote which is applicable not only for today but for tomorrow & generations to come.

“Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is left in darkness sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”

~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

References:

01. C.W.W.Kannangara – Father of Free Education

            http://freebetterebook.blogspot.com/2009/10/cwwkannangara-father-of-free-              education.html

  1. The Educational System of Sri Lanka

              http://www.fulbrightsrilanka.com/?page_id=609

03.නිදහස් අධ්‍යාපනය රැක ගත යුත්තේ ඇයි?

              http://www.boondi.lk/article.php?ArtID=3475

04.Benefits of Free Education

              http://benefitof.net/benefits-of-free-education/

05.THE BENEFITS OF FREE HIGHER EDUCATION

              https://progressivespring.com/2014/10/17/benefits-free-higher-education/

06.Should university education be free?

              http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/949/economics/should-university-      education-be-free/

07.පිස්සු කෙළපු ති‍්‍රමාලා හා වැඬේ ගොඩ දාගත්තු ධම්මිකලාගේ කතා වස්තුව

              http://rivharapinnaduwa.blogspot.com/2017/02/blog-post_28.html