11th June 2000
By Ruhanie Perera
Everyone has a dream of making the world a better place. Most young people look hopefully to the future waiting for that 'some day' when they could make a difference. And then there are some who don't wait, they spring into action the minute they get the opportunity. Many schools play a big part in providing students with the opportunity of making that 'big difference' in their world.
The 'United Nations Clubs', a fairly modern concept in schools, is a way through which many students work on various projects. On June 3, the UN Club of Museaus College organised as their first project a workshop on child abuse - a cause which all the students in the club are passionate about.
"The UN club was initiated just this year and the idea for it came from the very enthusiastic students. We don't intend to stop at conducting workshops, in fact we want to conduct more interactive projects like drama competitions and debates.
All our projects will deal with subjects handled by the United Nations." says Mrs. M. Solomonsz, a teacher-in-charge of the club. "We chose to work on the subject of child abuse since we all felt that it was a current and pertinent issue that has to be dealt with."
"As friends we wanted to get together and do something good for the school," came the reponse from the Committee. "We wanted an active society that reaches beyond our school," and the UN club sure seems like a good way for them to make their contribution.
Being children themselves they felt that this was a burning issue they needed to address. And firmly felt that they could make a difference especially among their peers.
"We concentrate on promoting awareness among our friends," says Nimali Ganasinghe, President of the club. "I think we need to know what child abuse is, that even verbal abuse is child abuse and how we can help ourselves or our friends," adds the Secretary of the club, Aloka Nandasena.
The main part of the workshop was the panel discussion conducted by Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne, chief programme officer - UNICEF. Professor Harendra Silva, chairperson - Child Protection Authority, Mrs. Maureen Seneviratne, chairperson PEACE and Dr. Mallika Ganasinghe.
The speakers covered a variety of topics ranging from what the rights of the child are right down to how children can actively make a difference in society.
It was obvious that what was discussed had not fallen on deaf ears. Once the panel discussion was over the invitee schools were divided into workgroups to first discuss and then present their ideas on the subject. All the groups chose to present their views in the form of skits as they felt that drama was the most effective medium.
There was hesitation at the beginning, but as things warmed up stories of abuse, and of how to cope and deal with it were enacted. It was obvious that all the information presented at the workshop had been soaked up.
The happy smiles of the organizing committee, indicated satisfaction with their first project.
Just what they needed to spur their passion on.
By Aditha Dissanayake
Contd. from last week
But I survived. Survived because I enjoyed what I did. Studying was no longer a drudge. I read what I had to read with interest. And what I need not have read, with even greater interest. But occasionally there would come unbearable pangs of guilt.
Seated in the reference library, pouring over the Riverside Chaucer, I would feel I was wasting my energy and intelligence on matters of trivia, when I could have been in a laboratory mixing chemicals or inside an operating theatre learning about the human anatomy. After spending a sleepless night trying to figure out whether Tolstoy condemns Anna Karenina for committing adultery or not, and coming to the conclusion that he does neither, I would ask myself of what use my analysis would be to the world.
I knew how to dissect a poem, but not the body of a human being. I could write pages and pages on what it is like to travel across the Kelani bridge, but never be able to contribute to its maintenance. I could not save a life or build a bridge with what I knew. Such thoughts would cloud my days, until I would come across an essay of George Orwell or a passage in a Balzac novel. Dazzled by the sheer beauty of their language I would return to my studies with a tilt in my step. The clouds would clear and my world would be filled with light once more.
Meanwhile I began to cultivate a tremendous respect for my lecturers. I admired them for what they knew and was forever eager to listen to them. Each made a tremendous influence on my life. They taught me to be methodical, to be independent, to aim for the stars and above all they gave me the freedom to be myself.
The latter meant a lot to me, for even though I was majoring in English I did not hail from an exclusively English background. At home we spoke in our mother tongue and at school English had been just one subject among seven others. I grew up wading through the huge collection of books my father had gathered across the years. (There are more books in our house than furniture, clothes or electric goods) these ranged from Herman Hesse's Sidhartha to Maxim Gorky's "Mother". Profuse reading had helped me master the English language well enough to put my thoughts down on paper. With a pen in my hand I was a chatterbox. But sans ink and paper, I had precious little to say. Articulating my thoughts in this alien tongue was a torment. Seeking the asylum of the library after a tongue-tied session in the practical criticism class, I would seek a cure for depression by writing down my thoughts on paper.
At such times a line picked up from George Burns would be my sole comfort - " I would rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate".
Four years have passed me by. Looking back I see my stint at Kelaniya as the most enlightening period of my life. It is not everyday after all that one gets the chance to devote all the waking hours of the day to decipher the variety of meanings hidden behind "The Scarlet Letter" or walk about muttering lines from Henry IV, and enjoy every moment of it.
Today I trudge down the "campus kanda" for the last time as an undergraduate. I bid a silent farewell to the roofless bus halt on the Colombo-Kandy road, to the Esala trees with their yellow flowers, the sunlit lecture rooms, the chipped mugs in the "gym" filled with steaming plain tea.......
I leave behind me a computer printout stuck to a notice board, where, under the heading First Class is the name A.U. Dissanayake. That's me! I am the Prometheus who survived thanks to the unshaken faith my family, my lecurers, my friends and the two doctors who saved my eyes from going blind sometime early last year, had in me.
When you aim for the stars you are likely to fall somewhere worthwhile.
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