Establishing a strong Civil Society Structure for effective implementation of the Official Language Policy at District and Divisional Levels

NLF Partner Visit | Sri Lanka Centre for Development Facilitation (SLCDF)| Galle District

It was an afternoon of inspiring engagement when NLF partner SLCDF arranged for the NLEAP team to meet with the team responsible for implementing their project in the Galle District. Joining the NLEAP team to assess the progress achieved by SLCDF was Ms Veena Verma, the Project Director – Canada Based & Human Rights, Gender and Governance Advisor from Alinea International). NLF Partner SLCDF is working in the Kandy, Moneragala, Galle, Matara and Kilinochchi districts to build a strong civil society structure at District and Divisional levels for the effective implementation of the Official Languages Policy (OLP). SLCDF sees Language Rights Promotion and Second Language Learning as playing a vital role in building social cohesion and co-existence  in these multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-ethnic community groups.

The presentation of  SLCDF’s progress in the bi-lingual Yakkanamulla and Nagoda Divisions of the Galle District was held at the Yakkalamulla Praja Shakthi Sanwardana Padanama by theGalle District NGO Consortium. District Officials supporting the project as well as youth and women beneficiaries of theLanguage Training Classes, and their parents also participated. The progress report by Ms. Priyalatha Kalansooriya (Galle District Consortium Coordinator) and the comments by Ms. Yamuna  (NGO Coordinator) provided the NLEAP team a bird’s eye view of the length and breadth of SLCDF activity in the district, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. SLCDF mainly targeted Government Officials and Civil Society Organizations having a significant representation of women and youth. Through the  Galle District NGO Consortium, SLCDF has worked towards building the knowledge and skills of , Co-existence Societies and Civil Society Organizations, at both, to promote the Official Languages Policy.With the support of National Institute of Language Education and Training (NILET) Second Language Learning classes were also conducted to improve the Sinhala and Tamil language skills of Co-existence Societies, CSO leaders, youth, women and children in these areas. The strong representation of women amongst the Consortium leadership and the beneficiaries, and the active engagement of youth was unmistakable. The NLEAP team were privy to a Second Language Learning Lesson, witnessing Sinhala women and youth learn the Tamil language not only with text books and grammar but also with the aid of cultural tools like song. A young female post-master serving the area of Kottawagama shared how learning the Tamil language has helped her provide a better service to the Tamil members in her areas of service. ‘Now not only do I understand when a Tamil person asks me a question, but I am also able to read the addresses on Tamil letters and deliver them accordingly’. Another beneficiary shared that the Tamil children belonging to the neighbouring estates didn’t have the opportunity to attend school in the language of their choice as the classes in the local school were conducted in Sinhala. Though this meant that these children learnt the Sinhala language fluently there was also a danger of them losing the capacity to communicate in their mother language, which this young teacher saw as a threat to protecting the cultural identity of this community. She was hopeful that the work being achieved through the NLF would be a stepping-stone to the Tamil children receiving their education in their mother tongue. Identifying such resource gaps is another way in which NLEAP is able to support the National Languages Division of the Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government.

Ms Veena Verma commenting on the community participation and engagement noted ‘The innovation to respond to the challenges of the COVID crisis is a testament to your resilience. We are very happy to hear about the progress achieved with Second Language Learning Classes, Language Rights Training and look forward to what can be achieved further through the Language Societies’. The Consortium members in turn were deeply appreciative of the support extended by the SLCDF team to implement such activity in the area. They thanked the NLEAP and Alinea team members, and the Government of Canada for the investment being made in their community to promote and support social cohesion and harmony through Language Rights Promotion and Second Language Learning.