but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done
It was at the Cambridge seminar I think, in February 2016, that I realized how much could be done to increase opportunities through vocational training. This was the way the world was heading and, unless someone took the lead, Sri Lanka would be left far behind.
It also became clear to me there, given the reactions to my presentations amongst the more innovative Indians, that I was uniquely equipped to introduce new ideas. I had greater experience of all aspects of education than anyone else in the country, having worked in universities and in the Ministry of Education, and then, while in Parliament, having devoted much attention, as well as funding from my decentralized budget, to vocational training centres. Then there was also the fact that had allowed me to do more to bring English to rural youngsters than others, namely that, with my academic qualifications, no one could claim that I was lowering standards.
Mahinda Samarasinghe was right then in saying that he knew that, once I became committed, I would devote myself to the task. But in March 2016 I had a few commitments, albeit of a personal nature, that kept me from embarking on the massive reforms I have already described.
The first was another trip to India, for a meeting of the Board of Aide-et-Action, organized together with a field trip to visit educational projects they were implementing for tribal communities. This was near the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, which allowed for a safari into the Park, though once again I was not fortunate enough to see any tigers. But the Park was beautiful, and so was the Lodge at which we stayed, with a couple of stunning sunrises.
But even more impressive were the schools and creches the organization ran, with a couple of bright youngsters from urban areas devoting themselves in this remote outpost to building up teams amongst the tribal communities. It was heartening to see the innovative materials they used, ensuring that the children did not lose their mother tongue, but were also introduced to the tools that would allow them to compete in the future.
At my request, on the way back to Raipur, the capital of Chhatisgarh, where we were due to meet with university personnel to discuss further collaboration, we visited the Boromdeo temple which had seemed the most interesting of the sites described in the brochures I had picked up when we landed at the airport. It proved a magnificient site, an isolated example of intricate art set deep in the forest. And to add depth to the experience, AeA arranged the final debriefing in the grounds of the temple, so that we had a glorious architectural backdrop to the concentration of the teachers and teacher trainers discussing how they could improve the services they offered.
A week later I was due to meet Vasantha Senanayake in Zambia, where he had gone for the Inter-Parliamentary-Union conference. Initially I had planned to go back to Colombo, but I realized that it was much cheaper to fly direct to Lusaka. However there was the problem of how I was to fill in the time. Continue reading