I feel like a few of my more reflective posts have been quite critical of Sri Lanka and before anyone can go on and make the comment about what a hater I am, I want to just quickly say that I love that beautiful island, I love its history, I love its rich cultural heritage and I love all the complexities that it holds within itself. In fact nothing makes me more sad than seeing people who are not aware of the beauty and wonder of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Some of the fondest memories I have of growing up is being fed by my grandmother (who incidentally used to make the world’s best Jack Fruit curry) and listen to her tell me stories about our past. Her stories taught me everything from the first king of Sri Lanka to the period of colonisation through to the cold war period. She was by far my favourite teacher.
However, I remember when I was teaching I was appalled by the fact that kids (from the more westernised Colombo society) didn’t know about their cultural heritage or about the legendary kings and queens of our past. It made me sad that for most of these kids Avurudu (Sinhalese & Tamil New Year) meant a buffet lunch at a five star restaurant and not a day of activities, dressing up in traditional clothes and eating delicious sweets. I was even more horrified when I found out that parents (consequently the kids) opted out of learning Sinhalese and Tamil as they felt that learning German or French is a lot more useful. The thing is, it isn’t always the parents fault – the education system, specifically the international school system (which I am a product of) have a huge role to play in this. A majority of the school syllabus is focused on teaching children about British and European history, geography and economy while there is very little emphasis given to understanding about your own country. So by the end of the 12 years they are absolute gurus when it comes to conversations about the Tudor period to talking extensively about the writers of the Romantic period to arguing about the pros and cons of the European Union but when it comes to things in their own backyard – NADA.
What I am trying to get at is that although I tend to be critical of so many aspects of Sri Lanka, I will always be a proud of where I come from and what that means. I also do strongly believe that going forward it is up to us to make sure the younger generations are able to relate, respect the amazing history and legacy as well.
So YAY for unsolicited advice.