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The concerns raised at the last set of Divisional Secretariat Reconciliation Committees I facilitated this week in Mullaitivu and Vavuniya, after a long hiatus given an excess of travel in March, were both reassuring and upsetting. This last was because, though problems aplenty were raised, there was appreciation both of what had been done, and the commitment of the government to do more. They were upsetting because in so many simple areas government is simply not acting, in part because government structures are so archaic that they cannot respond swiftly to modern needs.

I do not refer to subjects such as water and electricity and roads, because there is a clear understanding that much has been done, and the rest is planned. The people I was amongst recognized the great strides that had been taken, and that it was impossible to do everything at once. Though sometimes it might help to make clear why there are priorities, and what the timelines are for what cannot be done straignt away, I believe there is general satisfaction with the infrastructure development programme.

I will discuss the various issues raised at the meetings later, but here I will look simply at one area where we are really serving the people of the North, and I suspect rural children in general, badly. I refer to education, where there is widespread appreciation of the schools that have been constructed, and the fact that uniforms and books are supplied well on time. However the lack of teachers is indeed appalling, and also the organizational structure that permits several tiny schools without sufficient teachers to continue to operate. Unfortunately a dogmatic approach to such problems means that there is no concern about education itself, as opposed to a sausage machine that consumes funds without purpose.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

April 2012
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