Sri Lanka: Education for war must be transformed into education for peace I Education for war 1.i.

’’Friday Forum deeply concerned about leadership training, Jayantha Dhanapala (former UN Under-Secretary General) and Savitri Goonesekere (Emeritus Prof of Law, University of Colombo), 10 June 2011: ‘’ This programme has been introduced by the Ministry of Higher Education in a military environment under the leadership of the Ministry of Defence..... The curriculum of the training programme obtained by the Friday Forum after some effort reveals extremely problematic aspects. No mention is made of the authority responsible for the curriculum but a prominent photograph of the Defence Secretary on the cover of the study guide suggests authorship by the Defence establishment. .... What is more problematic is the content of the module on history and national heritage. .... “National heritage” focuses exclusively on prominent cultural symbols of the majority Sinhala community with none from other communities. .... On the whole the curriculum seems to discourage tolerance for viewpoint difference, and sensitivities for the pluralism and diversity of our country‘’ ii.Leadership training for the principals of Sri Lanka government schools too, 26 May 2011: ‘’The official said addressing a function held today at Isipathana College in Colombo that 1,000 principals will be trained at Rantambe Army Training Center soon’’ 2. ‘’ Education must rise on the agenda of peace building. We know the wrong type of education can fuel conflict. The use of education systems to foster hatred has contributed to the underlying causes of conflicts, from Rwanda to Sri Lanka, but also in Guatemala and Sudan’’ - Why education matters for global security, Irina Bokova(Director General, UNESCO), 1 March 2011, 3. NGOs have been pointing out the injustice to the Tamils and trying to help the people neglected by successive governments which have been resenting them. But this government has been highly criticising them and even expelling some and refusing to extend visas to some others. This government has begun to use education to poison the minds of students: GCE Advanced Level(August 2009) Sinhala question paper(prepared by the Department of Education): There are views expressed that the actions of some non government organizations in Sri Lanka has had an adverse impact on the country’s independence, peace, culture and even development. Write an essay backing your stance with reason. 4. The Changing face of Wesak in Colombo and Militarizing Sri Lanka, 15 May 2009 a.a school honouring ex-soldiers in a religious event with dancers in combat dress depicting guns b. Vesak cards with roses on guns. 5. Respect for Diversity in Educational Publication - The Sri Lankan Experience, Ariya Wickrema and Peter Colenso, 2003: ‘’It is necessary to trace briefly the historical links between the development of the education system and the development of an ethnic -based politics, leading to armed conflict. ....

Divisions were exacerbated by successive government policies discriminating against the Tamil minorities. .... Divisive ethnic politics and loss of confidence in non-violent and democratic politics8 fuelled the desire for autonomous, separatist solutions through the 1970s .... The Government dominates the educational publications sector in Sri Lanka through its provision of free textbooks to all students from grade 1 to 11 .... Tamils not involved in writing the textbooks - Textbooks written in Sinhala, and then translated into Tamil .... full of spelling, grammatical and factual errors .... distortion of history .... the history of Sri Lanka is confined to a few selected Sinhala kings .... the textbooks do not educate the child about the various characteristics of a multireligious and a multi- racial society; the majority of Sinhala medium textbooks emphasize Sinhalese Buddhist attitudes; distorted maps under-represent North and Eastern Provinces; "geographical, social, economical or cultural features" of Tamil communities (including the plantation sector) are not adequately discussed or presented; in studying art, the Tamil student only studies Sinhalese Buddhist aspects of art; the textbooks encourage children to develop "apartheid attitudes" ..... War is shown as patriotic while peace is portrayed as cowardice’’ 6. The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict: Towards a Peacebuilding Education for Children, Kenneth D. Bush and Diana Saltarelli(2000): ‘’The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict challenges a widely-held assumption that education is inevitably a force for good. While stressing the many stabilizing aspects of good quality education, editors Kenneth Bush and Diana Saltarelli show how education can be manipulated to drive a wedge between people, rather than drawing them closer together. After analyzing the increasing importance of ethnicity in contemporary conflicts, this Innocenti Insight outlines the negative and positive faces of education in situations of tension or violence, including the denial of education as a weapon of war (negative) and the cultivation of inclusive citizenship (positive). It emphasizes the need for peacebuilding education that goes further than the 'add good education and stir' approach, aiming to transform the very foundations of intolerance. ….Ethnic intolerance makes it appearance in the classroom in many ways…… Textbooks have often been shown to contain negative ethnic stereotypes..... A review of the textbooks used in the segregated schools of Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 1980s, for example, found Sinhalese textbooks scattered with images of Tamils as the historical enemies of the Sinhalese, while celebrating ethnic heroes who had vanquished Tamils in ethnic wars. Ignoring historical fact, these textbooks tended to portray Sinhalese Buddhists as the only true Sri Lankans, with Tamils, Muslims and Christians as nonindigenous and extraneous to Sri Lankan history. This version of national history according to one commentator, has been deeply divisive in the context of the wider state.’’ 7. Reggie Siriwardene, a well-respected Sinhalese writer, in a well-documented analysis of the effects of school textbooks on ethnic relations in Sri Lanka(1984): “Millions of school children are taught, in the name of social studies, through text-books published by the state, the myths of divergent racial origins which will help to divide the Sinhalese and Tamils for more generations to come... What this lesson does is to evoke the child's memories of being frightened by his parents with threats of the mysterious and fearful `billo' to identify these bogeymen as Tamil agents, and thus to enlist the deep-seated irrational fears of early childhood for the purpose of creating apprehension and hatred of Tamils.”

8. In the 1950s and 1960s Tamil and Sinhalese scholars vehemently protested this but the Education Department that produces the textbooks dismissed their concern.

II. Education for Peace is suggested by eminent Sinhalese but ignored by the government: i. Why Sirimavo refused to visit Jaffna after 1964 cyclone By Neville Jayaweera, 18 January 2009: ''.... Building a consciousness of nationhood is not a responsibility that can be left to politicians and constitutional lawyers. .... It is pre-eminently an educational task, to be initiated at the level of our schools. It requires a new way of looking at history, and helping young minds climb out of the constraints placed on their understanding by the sectarian myths, legends, and memories that are embedded in their ancient chronicles, whether they relate to their Aryan origins or to their Dravidian origins. This does not mean that children should be ignorant of, much less that they should reject, their rich historical inheritance, but that they should acquire a more global view of history and be equipped with a critical sense that will enable them to stand back and look at their respective narratives more objectively. .... Unless and until Sri Lanka can produce leaders who can realize that truth, and are willing to act on it, it will continue to be dismembered by conflict, long after the LTTE and Pirabhikaran have passed into history. '' ii. Justice C. G. Weeramantry tells LLRC, 29 November 2010: '' Peace education is an imperative at this stage of our national history ....'' iii. Address by Christine Robichon, Ambassador of France, at the Peradeniya University Research Sessions (PURSE) - 2010, 16th December 2010 : After almost 30 years of conflict, it also has to rebuild a Nation, a Sri Lankan Nation united in its diversity, where communities and individuals feel at ease. For this, there is not much foreign friends can do. This is the responsibility of Sri Lankan people, their political leadership, in the government and in the opposition, and also their civil society, and this is where academics and researchers have an important role to play, particularly those who are working in the fields of history, law, economy, sociology and political sciences. iv.‘’Chandra R. de Silva implies that Buddhist monastic opposition to a non-unitary state has contributed to the conflict. He appreciates the reasons for this, but pleads for a system of monastic education that would expose monks to other religions and cultures. …. one of the most complex and intractable conflicts in the world’’, Dr Elizabeth Harris (Liverpool Hope University), Review(2007) of Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka(2006),

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