Logeshwar, 16, has a dream – one of becoming a politician. For those who think that his dreams are similar to those of any teenager will change their opinion once you get his complete introduction. He comes from Mullaitivu, the theatre of the last battle between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE in 2009.
Even after three years after the war, the children in Mullaitivu did not have much hope of taking advantage of the new found peace as they lacked resources and the professional capability to compete in the education arena and jobs market. This is when Sri Lanka Unites took the challenge of capacity enhancement through Reconciliation Centre in the year 2013. The Centre was equipped to initiate the students into subjects like Information Technology, Business Entrepreneurial Studies and the English language.
“Earlier students found it difficult to compete for Advanced level and University entrance examinations. Without educational qualifications they ended up doing unskilled labor jobs. Now they have got a more level playing field to compete with the students from the other parts of the country for jobs,” said SLU’s National Director Ramzi Zain Deen while addressing the students during the Graduation Ceremony. Among the graduating students 206 were awarded IT Diplomas, 168 were awarded English Diplomas, 58 Business Entrepreneurship Diplomas and 20 kids were given IBM prizes.
The Reconciliation Centre has been a step in the direction of integrating the different communities of Sri Lanka in the social fabric, all of which suffered during the two and a half decade long war. It is with this new find hope and confidence Logeshwar said: “I want to be a politician and will counter propaganda.”
Logeshwar is not alone in his endeavors. Sixteen year old Kugajiny, who is fond of making colourful Kolams in her free time, is all enthused to finish her A-levels. She aspires to be Lab technician thereafter. Though she was young during the time of the violent conflict, she still has memories of it. “There were no studies, schools had stopped functioning. Most of us have lost our near and dear ones in the war. It was difficult,” said Kugajiny in English. But brimming with youthful exuberance, she said it was time to put the past behind them. “Now we are going to make Sri Lanka stronger and will live like brothers and sisters,” she added. Her proud teacher Remo Shihan looked on. Hailing from Jaffna, Remo has joined the efforts of post-conflict reconciliation of SLU with much vigour.
Just like the Kolam prepared by Kugajiny and her friends, Graduation ceremony was also a reflection of the colourful social fabric of the country that has several ethnicities and religions in its folds. The ceremony was conducted in three languages – Sinhalese, Tamil and English – a small step but it went a long way in winning hearts of the people. Later the dance group from GTMS Kallappadu performed a Mullaitivu dance, followed by two Sinhalese songs presented by the members of the Reconciliation Centre in the Southern district of Matara.
The rekindled hopes in the district have given strength to the students to work for their communities. Most of the students graduating wish to contribute to authentic reconciliation process and create a united Sri Lanka.