Is education now on Sri Lanka’s priority list?


With no food on the table, a few hours of electricity a day, curfews and social media bans, lack of medicine and other necessary commodities as money continues to lose value, what exactly is the future of education in Sri Lanka right now?

Sri Lanka popped up on everyone’s social media when news broke that the country didn’t have enough money to import paper and ink for millions of students.

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Years of government mismanagement and corruption, compounded by poor policymaking, an unforeseen terrorist attack and the pandemic have led to this tragedy where the poorest are soon to face starvation. People struggle to get the basics needed to survive. There is an endless list of problems to solve right now and the number of people affected is growing. The country will take time to recover but, as in any conflict, the most vulnerable and important part of the population – its young citizens – are the hardest hit.

The simple reality is that when basic human needs such as hunger, sleep and medicine become hard to come by, anger grows in every member of a community and suddenly sending children to school becomes the last thing on the list of priorities.

Although Sri Lanka has one of the highest literacy rates in all of South Asia, circumstances have made education one of the hardest hit sectors in the country today. University students take to the streets to protest.

Amid the crisis, the government cut funding for school meals, leaving millions of schoolchildren hungry. With nearly half of the population living in poverty before this, they needed school meals to meet their daily nutritional needs. As a result, millions of people should stop going to school or even drop out now. The vast majority of the 28,000 Sri Lankan students abroad are struggling to pay for their education due to lack of funds from their parents in Sri Lanka.

The mentality of the general population of trying to leave to study abroad and stop going to school in the country is increasing, as in any conflict. Thousands of schools closed on May 6 as workers went on strike demanding the government step down.

Academics are criticized for not intervening, due to greater obligation in politics as their choices influence others and are accused of academic dishonesty, for turning a blind eye to earlier events leading up to here.

Principals who wanted to call students and teachers back into classrooms to reap the “real” benefits of education have also had their tunnel vision of education challenged. This narrow view of learning within the four walls of a “school” while a grim reality that endangers human lives has been severely scorned. This perspective itself has been blamed for this catastrophe that exists today, producing so-called professionals who fit into the draconian concepts of today’s world order seeking the gain of the few over the many.

The protests are sure to escalate as many realities exist right now following the resignation of the former prime minister. The importance of the contribution of youth in building a new ironclad framework for a change in national policy and the political sphere of the country is evident. Normality is not expected to return soon as the country is in a state of war. And therefore, the ordinary flow of education is far from a priority in the current socio-economic situation of the country.

Procrastination virtuoso by day and discursive perfectionist by night, Eahsan doesn’t know if his experiences have generated his personality or if it’s the other way around. Send him help at eahsanabedin@gmail.com

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