( January 23, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) Chairperson former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga ( CBK) said her office was working with the Education Ministry to include ‘reconciliation’ as a special subject in the school curriculum.
She said it aims to further strengthen efforts already being taken towards national unity and reconciliation.
The former President was speaking at an event to mark the National Integration and Reconciliation Week at Ananda College, Colombo last Tuesday. The event was a part of a series of programmes titled “National Unity and Reconciliation” organised by the National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry at schools island wide.
The former President said, “Education is not merely about learning subjects such as languages, religions and sciences. We should take a holistic approach to education. The children should also learn about the society in general.
“They should learn about the prevailing social issues, the solutions to overcome such issues and about what we should do. They should study these things in-depth. Now we are discussing with the Education Ministry to include a special subject in the school curriculum for National Reconciliation and Unity. During my term, I introduced “Peace Education” as one of the subjects. But the next government discontinued it. We are, therefore, going to make it a subject that students should study and also face at examinations.”
Kumaratunga said that during recent discussions she had with relevant stakeholders, it had come to light that although a majority of Sinhala and Tamil students like to learn languages of others, lack of qualified teachers remains a major obstacle in this regard.
The students and teachers who attended the programme gave a pledge to protect national unity and reconciliation. The former President advised that this should not confine to mere words. “Everybody should commit to protect the pledge they gave whenever it is needed,” she said.
National Integration and Reconciliation State Minister A.H.M. Fowzie said Sinhala Buddhists are not inclined towards racism. “As a politician when I contested for Colombo district at elections, 23 Sinhala Buddhist candidates contested alongside me. There were many strong candidates among these 23. But the Sinhala Buddhists voted and made me the first in the district because I am not a racist,” he said
He said certain groups attempt to topple the government now by provoking racism and religious animosities. The country cannot be developed in this way, he said. “Ananda college has done a lot over the years to propagate national unity and reconciliation. Schools can be the cradle to promote lasting national unity and reconciliation in our country.
This is why we have started a programme like this covering schools island wide,” he said.
National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry Secretary V. Sivagnanasothy said the country has people belonging to different religions, ethnic backgrounds and cultures, and all should strive to live under one identity as Sri Lankans while respecting diversity of each.
He said national unity and reconciliation was of utmost importance to propagate socioeconomic development and prosperity. He urged students to act as envoys to take the message of peace to all sections of society.
National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry State Secretary, President’s Counsel M.M. Zuhair said an overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans do not approve racism or religious discrimination, but a small minority are trying to divide the country by inciting racism and religious discrimination.”
“We should defeat their attempts. If we are to develop this country, it is of utmost importance that we sustain national unity and reconciliation. We all should shed our petty differences and unite as one to achieve this goal,” he said.