Schools and the flowering of
announcement that it would be launching a countrywide scheme to
develop 5000 primary schools, happily coincides with the naming
of a road in Gampaha after the late eminent Sinhala writer K.
Jayathileke. We consider these simultaneous developments to be
highly momentous in nature, although the two events may seem to
be totally unrelated.
However, when examined more than superficially it would dawn
on the observer that K. Jayathileke and public education bear a
close relationship to each other and a searching look at this
link would help drive home the vital importance of the state
education sector to the common weal.
It is beyond dispute that the late K. Jayathileke was a Sri
Lankan creative writer of the highest distinction. He was easily
one of our 'Greats' in the Sinhala literary field and it could
be said that it was the state-run education system, which is a
mainstay of the rural people, which provided the foundation for
his rise to eminence as a writer and a public figure.
Jayathileke's novel Charitha Thunak remains to this day a hard
to beat 'Evergreen' in contemporary Sinhala Literature and a
uniquely insightful mirror to rural Lanka.
However, Jayathileke is just one of the scores of eminent Sri
Lankans who rose to fame, thanks to the solid academic
foundation provided by our public school system. There are
scores of artistes, scientists, jurists and public figures of
this country who owe a considerable part of their success to the
enduring grounding in learning provided by the public school
The likes of K. Jayathileke prove the point that the
country's public school system must be continuously developed on
account of its innate strengths. The women and men of
distinction produced by our rural milieu ought to also remind us
that there is probably an abundance of talent which is going
untapped in the provinces on account of the fact that they do
not rise to public prominence amid the constraints which are
part and parcel of the rural situation. They live and die unsung
and unappreciated in 'rural obscurity', whereas, the lot of the
average town dweller is not as burdensome and is comparatively
bristling with interesting possibilities.
Accordingly, it is most judicious of the state to make it a
declared aim to keep our public school system in fine trim. We
do not see any reason why the average rural-based student should
seek admission to city-based 'prestigious schools' if the
provincial public school system is developed to meet his
essential educational needs. If the primary and secondary school
systems are vibrant and continuously upgraded there would be no
need for the now customary wild scramble for admissions to
so-called big schools. Therefore, the state's programme of
developing 5000 primary schools would receive a 'thumbs-up' from
the more enlightened sections of Sri Lanka.
However, the good work must be continued on a sustained
basis. The cynics would greet the state's announcements of
development plans and the like with the acerbic rejoinder that
these are mere 'election goodies', but the government must prove
these deriding sections wrong.
Education is too sacred a thing to be trifled with. The
educated woman and man is an invaluable asset to her and himself
and society. Frankly, no worldly power could undermine them or
bring about their downfall because their achievements are
usually impregnable and unassailable.
It just would not do for the state to lay the foundation for
a multitude of schools and even ensure that their physical
structures come into being and thereafter do nothing about them.
Such negligence and moth-balling would prove the cynics right.
These schools must be developed qualitatively to such a
degree that they could hold their own with the so-called best in
the land. This is no pipe dream. The Central School system of
yore easily matched the 'good schools' of the city. It is such a
system which produced men of the stature of K. Jayathileke. The
Central School era must be reproduced.