Building a national movement to empower children in Sri Lanka


Menuri Sachintha Kodikara
09 December 2021

About 28 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population is under 14 years of age. This is a generation of children who were not directly touched by the country’s thirty years of war, but society as a whole still suffers the consequences of those terrible times. More than one-tenth of Sri Lankans live below the poverty line and children are seriously affected.

Sri Lanka is among the top Asian countries in terms of literacy rate, and free education is provided to all school-age children. But a significant number are still uneducated. The impact of COVID-19 on education in Sri Lanka has been immense. Many children who had access to education have been deprived of educational opportunities due to the closure of schools. The dropout rate from schools is high.

National level examinations are being postponed day by day: A-level, O-level and scholarship examinations for 2021 have been postponed to next year.

As a young citizen of Sri Lanka, I believe that we have more than enough physical and human resources to create a formal integrated programme to help children achieve a better future.

The first aim should be to organise a national-level dialogue around the competitive education system. The impact of the grade 5 scholarship examination on children is particularly deplorable. The Scholarship Examination has become the only way for families to enrol their children in popular schools. As a result, parents and schools are putting a lot of pressure on children.

The Advanced Level examination has likewise become highly competitive due to the lack of adequate universities. I feel that we should immediately introduce a new national education system learning lessons from the modern methods used in countries with advanced education systems. I believe that a society which is empowered through an education system that prioritizes skills will be more stable.

It is my belief that empowering the children of Sri Lanka is not a difficult task. In addition to the government, civil society activists, journalists, teachers, doctors, and entrepreneurs must play their parts. We do have a lot of Sri Lankans who are willing to help others voluntarily. I would like to see a broad national movement with the involvement of young leaders representing children and youth. Together we can identify the core problems, find opportunities and skills and provide mentorship from experts to empower children. For example, young leaders can connect a child talented in playing cricket but lacking opportunities to improve his or her skills with an expert in the cricket industry tor uplift the talent. If we do, I believe that we will be able to create a very strong youth community within a few years' time.


By Menuri Sachintha Kodikara, 17, student at Wycherley International School, Colombo.