The school system in Sri Lanka is very similar to that of Great Britain, because the country was a British colony for a long time. Schooling is compulsory in Sri Lanka. So children have to go to school. School does not cost the families anything. The public schools are called Maha Vidyalayas. From the age of five, they attend primary school, which corresponds to our primary school. This is followed by a secondary school, which they attend for three years. It’s called Junior Secondary School. They then graduate from secondary school. Then they can go to college and do their Abitur there and then go to university, because there are some universities in the big cities.
How and what is taught?
Teaching is in the two national languages Tamil and Sinhala. These are the languages of the Tamils and the Sinhalese. Sinhala is also called Sinhala.
In the north and east, where most of the Tamils live, Tamil is the only language of instruction in some schools. In the south and west, Sinhala is the official language of instruction. English is now compulsory as a foreign language.
Children in Sri Lanka always start school in the first week of January and the school year ends at the end of December. There are holidays for three weeks in April and August and a whole month in December. In addition to languages, children in primary school are also taught math, art, social studies and religion.
Consequences of the Civil War
Most people in Sri Lanka can read and write, especially the younger ones, because of the free school system. 91 out of 100 inhabitants are able to read and write, and the number is even higher among younger people between 15 and 25.
Even so, not all children go to school. Especially in the north and east of the country, where most of the Tamils live, more than 65,000 children do not attend school at all because the consequences of the terrible civil war in the country can be felt here.
Not an entirely fair system
Another problem is that many public school teachers are poorly paid. If you have more money, your children can be taught at home by private tutors. The public schools are again lacking teachers. Some parents in the country still send their children to primary school, but afterwards they have to work in the fields like the parents and do their part to support the family. Often the “normal lessons” are not enough to get a good degree. Additional tuition is necessary that many parents cannot pay for.
There are also private schools, especially in the vicinity of large cities, where students have to pay a monthly fee. The amounts vary and often only richer people can afford them. There are great differences in the education of children in Sri Lanka.
Why was there a civil war in Sri Lanka?
In the north and east of Sri Lanka mainly Tamils of Hinduism live. These felt oppressed by Sinhalese Buddhists. They wanted to establish their own state in which only Tamils should live. These conflicts have existed for many years. But in 1983 there were serious clashes between the two warring groups and more than 3,000 Tamils died. This started the civil war between Tamils and Sinhalese. For more information about Sri Lanka and Asia, please visit philosophynearby.
This civil war was not so much a religious war, despite the fact that Tamils and Sinhalese are of different religions. It was mostly a political argument. These wars lasted for 20 years and nearly 70,000 people were killed. A great many people had to flee.
In 2002 there was a ceasefire, but a few years later the war between Sinhalese and Tamils broke out again. The next and so far last armistice was concluded in 2009. But there is still the fear that the conflict could break out again at any time.
The consequences for the children
If you look at the statistics of Sri Lanka, it usually means that the country is developing well, especially in comparison with other, poorer Asian countries. Not many children die in Sri Lanka and people have a relatively high life expectancy. Nevertheless, it is the case that not all people have access to education or even to clean drinking water. So many children are malnourished. Every fifth child under the age of five does not get enough to eat. A major problem in Sri Lanka is the aftermath of the civil war that devastated the country for many years.
Land mines in the earth
As is so often the case, the victims of this war are the children. There is still a lack of food in the affected areas. There is a lack of jobs and there is great poverty, which especially children suffer from.
Especially in the north and east, where the Tamils live, many children do not go to school because there are still too few schools and teachers. Another dire consequence of the war are the landmines, which are often still in the ground and seriously injure children if they step on them while playing.