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Nilanthi Wickramasinghe

The Tertiary & Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) as the apex body in Technical & Vocational Education &Training (TVET) sector, is geared to accomplish its mandate through its main goals, which is to formulate, review, update and implement robust TVET policies and strategies. It also includes planning TVET activities to develop and maintain information systems. Thus developing TVEC’s institutional capacity to establish and maintain a credible and quality assured National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) system which is here to stay.

“TVET was established in 1992 as the overall body for the Vocational Education Sector, of which the oldest institution is the Dept of Technical Educational Training (DTET). There is also the Commission and the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) established simultaneously.

Then the Vocational Training Authority (VTA) which was established a little later, and a Teacher Training Branch which was upgraded subsequently intothe University of Vocational Technology (UNIVOTECH)”, said Chairman- TVEC & former Chairman- Academic Affairs Board, National Institute of Education, Rajiva Wijesinha.

“Something that the Education Commission and we were very keen on was to develop a University level qualification for Vocational Training & they created UNIVOTECH. However, typically they did not really give UNIVOTECH its freedom. It tends to have more of an academic approach, although they now have a very good Director General who has come through the trade, but still inadequate in promoting the practical way of looking at things,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

The last letter I got from the former Chaplain of my College reverberates still in my mind. He was already old when I went up as an undergraduate, and no longer Chaplain, though he continued as a Fellow in History. Oddly enough he had been a sort of spiritual adviser to my uncle, Lakshman Wickremesinghe, when he had been reading for a Master’s degree at Keble 20 years earlier. This was in Political Science, in which he had excelled at Peradeniya, getting the best first ever in the subject, Dayan Jayatilleka coming near but not quite rivalling him thirty years later. But Lakshman gave up political science and, perhaps because of the influence of Tom Parker, decided to become a priest, and went on to Theological College at Ely in Cambridge. His understanding of politics and his commitment however never left him, which is why he was seen as a Red Bishop and wrote, when his mother exulted at the UNP victory in 1977, that his party had lost.

Tom had no College position when Lakshman was a student, for he was considered too High Church. But Univ later gave him a home, where he was able to deliver the most erudite sermons. ‘You will all remember’ he began on one memorable occasion, ‘the controversies associated with the question of the double procession of the Holy Ghost’. Fortunately he had handed over by then to a younger man, who was more in tune with the times, and became a great friend as well as a mentor.

Tom came from a distinguished family of Butchers and, while still Chaplain, he became Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, one of those strange trade guilds that still exist in Britain, and hold elaborate ceremonies in the Guildhall. As a special mark of favour, he took one of his pupils to dine there when he presided. This was Ravi Dayal, whom I met in the eighties when he headed Oxford University Press in Delhi, and I was trying to get permission to republish some of the later poems of Patrick Fernando in one of the early collections I brought out while at the British Council. This was before some Thatcherite groupie in London declared that it was not the business of the Council in Colombo to take bread out of the mouths of British publishers.

Ravi was a delightful man, and we got on well, not only I think because of the Univ connection. He regaled me with the tale of the dinner which consisted entirely of red meat, notably beef, which as a orthodox Hindu he could not touch. Tom, unworldly to a fault, had no idea of the solecism he had committed. Read the rest of this entry »

Only two people are now left at Lakmahal of those who filled the house 50 years ago. First of all, in those days, there was my grandmother, who still dominated the place at the age of 65, just a bit older than I am now. My parents and my brother and sister were also upstairs, each with their own rooms, though I still had to share a bedroom with my brother, the dark room which needed the lights on at any time of the day if one wanted to read. It had been my uncle Lakshman’s in the thirties and forties, and I have suggested elsewhere that his deep sense of social justice, so magnificently asserted when he was Bishop of Kurunagala, might have had something to do with the deprivation he suffered from in comparison with everyone else in the house in his youth.

Downstairs we had an old friend of the family who had come to stay when he was seconded to work for the newly established Tourist Board, a factor I recall now that I am charged also with developing better training mechanisms for the hospitality industry – including competence in English, which has been so woefully neglected in the curricula in existence now. In addition my great-uncle and his daughter came down once a fortnight from Kurunagala, a high point for me since they brought cakes aplenty and I was allowed to share a beer with the old man on weekday mornings. Read the rest of this entry »

Time, passing, introduces us to activities which we will have, we suddenly realize, to continue with for ever. I recall still my sense of disquiet, way back in the early seventies, when my mother was diagnosed with high pressure and had to take tablets. When I asked her for how long, she said for the rest of her life, with an equanimity I could not share. The fact that she was growing inexorably older was not something I liked.

I had had a similar sense a decade earlier, when I started at S. Thomas’ and realized I would have to set off each morning, for school, and then for work as I saw my father doing, for the rest of my life. Most children do not understand the rigours of the walls closing in on them when they start school, for they do this when very young. So they have got used to their lifelong prison by the time they are old enough to appreciate the relentless forward march of time.

But I had had a reprieve.  I had begun in the Kindergarten at Ladies College, and then my family went to Canada, and I found myself free again, since the age of schooling there was higher. I could spend mornings at home with my mother, when my brother and sister, muffled up against the cold – we got there in the October of 1958 – set off for school. And when I was bored, I could go downstairs and play in the front garden. It stayed enormous in my memory for a couple of decades, but turned out to be tiny when I revisited the place in 1979 while waiting for my doctoral viva. It was there and then, in that first winter, that I stopped a lady in the street and asked if I could throw a snowball at her. I saw the incident, when I wrote ‘Explorer’s Diary’ about my voyage round the world in 1986, as the first sign of a thirst for adventure, encompassing the trivial as well as the exotic. Unfortunately for me what I thought of as an anonymous encounter became a tale to be told to entertain visitors, when the lady saw me with my mother at a supermarket and made the connection. Read the rest of this entry »

  1. You were one of the few MP’s who   crossed over with Mr. Maithripala Sirisena  in  November 2014. You supported him at the January 2015 Presidential poll. He was elected president and you were made a state minister. Subsequently you resigned from that Govt but remained supportive of President Sirisena. However after the August 2015 Parliament elections you were not appointed a national list MP. Why  do you think that happened and where does it leave you now?

I suspect I fell victim to the internal warfare between supporters of President Sirisena and President Rajapaksa. I took seriously the President’s decision to give his predecessor nomination, since that was the best way of promoting a SLFP / UPFA victory, and ensuring indeed that the party was not decimated.

But those around the President panicked him with stories of what a Rajapaksa led SLFP victory would mean for him, while in turn this was fueled by the latter’s supporters claiming that they would be revenged on the President if they won. Neither side took note of the reality that the party was not likely to win an absolute majority, and that even if it did, there were enough solid supporters of the President to ensure that the Prime Minister would be someone he chose (though it would of course have had to be with his predecessor’s support).

As a result the President played games with the Secretaries of the parties, and sadly the UPFA allowed this to happen. The claim was that he had to be absolutely sure of the allegiance of any National List nominees, and those who were currying favour – none of whom had dared to speak out when the Sirisena campaign was launched – doubtless told him I could not be relied on, even though I had been told that he had wanted me on the National List, and he should have known better. But in any case the UNP had been allowed a significant plurality, which is why this is not really a genuine coalition, but one dominated by the UNP. Perhaps that is just as well, since it is more likely that President Sirisena, if he really believes in the manifesto on which he won the election, will realize that that cannot be fulfilled by a UNP government as constituted at present.

 

  1. When you became State minister of Higher Education in President Sirisena’s Govt much was expected of you as you had wide knowledge and experience in that sphere. Yet due to differences with the  cabinet minister and also the Prime minister you resigned within 5 weeks. What  led to your resignation?  Has the passage of time made you  regret the decision?

Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2016
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