Equipping the Future Generation for Peace Building and Reconciliation through Second Language Learning
NLF Partner Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena Sansadhaya (Shanthi Sena – the Peace Brigade), is the youth wing of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. Sarvodaya, one of the oldest and well reputed civil society organisations has been committed to community building for almost 65 years. Established in 1978, Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena is a country wide youth force covering the 25 administrative districts of Sri Lanka and consists of over 120,000 youth volunteers dedicated to peace building and community development through some 9,800 Youth Circles around the country. Drawing from the guiding principle of its parent organization, ‘a movement to awaken all by sharing’, Shanthi Sena primarily seeks to empower the Youth. Fostering Youth Leadership amongst grassroot communities Shanthi Sena engages their skills, talents and youthful energy to effect sustainable growth. Recognizing reconciliation and collaboration amongst the diverse religious and ethnic communities of our nation as critical to peace and development, Shanthi Sena has been operating in the districts of Kalutara, Nuwara Eliya, Kegalle, Ampara and Killinochchi to strengthen the Official Language Policy through Second Language Education. The overall goal of the Shanthi Sena Project is to improve the language intelligence among different communities – by improving the capacity of youth who are conversant in only one language (Sinhala or Tamil) to practically communicate in day to day situation in their second language. The ability to communicate with each other facilitates inter-personal relationships amongst communities, creating a bridge to communicate shared values important to developing and promoting national reconciliation. The youth Shanthi Sena Youth focused initiatives have ranged from Second Language Training Workshops, Second Language Learning Courses, Second Language Youth Clubs, building awareness of language rights through social media platforms to organising District Level Second Language Learning Convocations.
When the worldwide pandemic created barriers to commencing language classes, Sarvodaya, quick to identify the risk of the students losing interest in participating in language classes, fast tracked the Language Youth Clubs. The Language Youth Clubs created a forum to discuss the importance of learning a second language in a multicultural country like Sri Lanka. Virtual meetings were organized via ZOOM bringing together the Language Youth Leaders and District Coordinators from the 5 districts, enabling the Club Leaders to brainstorm and dialogue with each other, sharing ideas, suggestion and opinions about the planned project implementations.
When the second and third waves of the COVID-19 in Sri Lanka deemed in-person classes impossible, Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena quickly adapted to the new normal by pivoting the second language classes online. The Six Month Second Language Courses commenced in August 2021 via ZOOM. Supported by NILET and Government Trained Language Teachers innovative and attractive online teaching methodologies were employed to conduct 10 Second Language Training Courses; Sinhala & Tamil, in the five project districts. Nearly 400 youth between the ages of 14-25 who were identified as suitable and potential beneficiaries through the district level selection process participated. These courses, following the PRH Model (Participation, Reflection, Heart Holding methodology (PRH Model) recommended by NILET, focused on creating an exciting and relatable space for the youth to develop their practical language Skills through activity – such as listening to music, dialogue exercises, reading the news. They were also encouraged to use self-learning opportunities to practice Second Language Learning –such as listening to Ads, songs, news, weather in their second language. Knowledge about the Official Languages Policy, respect for and appreciation of cultural diversity and insight into Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment were incorporated into the curricula.
In January Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena celebrated the successful completion of the Second Language Classes with 5 District Level Convocation Ceremonies. The convocations gave the young language aspirants opportunity to showcase their newly acquired second language skills through diverse creative and aesthetic expressions such as songs, speeches, dramas and photo essays creating a colourful and vivid celebration of the Official Languages and Local Culture.
Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena having successfully completed its NLF Project continues to promote Second Language Learning amongst youth. Follow-up programs are being developed to leverage the Second Language Youth Clubs to build awareness about the Official Languages Policy and promote Language Rights at District Level.