Knowledge and charisma - essence of Culture Clinics
By Anuradha Samarajiva
Most children spend thirteen years in classrooms, learning everything from the alphabet to the capital of Tajikistan. When they finally finish school at 18, society expects them to be responsible young adults. But not everyone agrees that the system works. Researcher and educationist Saumya Kodagoda feels the traditional education is not sufficient to produce a child of good character. Having identified many draw backs in the school system she talked to teachers and parents, and compiled a list of common problems children face. These include scoring low marks, examination failure, addiction to television, video games, cricket matches, and diseases initially confined to adults.

As a solution she set up the Society for Promotion of Wisdom. She believes that lack of culture is the root cause for most of these problems. Thus, she developed the programme she calls "Cultural Clinic". According to Ms. Kodagoda, the character of a "wise" person depends largely on spirituality, with aesthetic sense, secular knowledge, good health habits, and versatility making up the remainder.

Reading is the centre of the programme, as Ms. Kodagoda believes the library is the heart of a school. Many small schools don't have adequate library facilities. Ms. Kodagoda has created and patented a tool called the 'Wisdom Kit'. It's a moveable cupboard that can store up to 850 books, along with maps, school supplies, and periodicals.

The Cultural Clinic has been tested in both homes and schools. There are four Cultural Clinics in villages serving three to four hundred families. To implement the project, local authorities are addressed and the area is surveyed. Ten to fifteen people are trained to be mentors who will run the clinic, and the Wisdom Kit stocked with the selected books. The term 'clinic' is used as mentors conduct a clinical evaluation of each child to determine his or her needs. The same process occurs for a single family, who can set up the Wisdom Kit in the study room of their house.

This methodology has been built by Ms.Kodagoda over many years. She has done research papers on education, and an annotated bibliography on the Sri Lankan educational research. Still, she says, "There's been so much research, but no improvement in children or schools."

Feedback from families and teachers is good evidence that this system works. Mr. A. Marzook, a father of three, asked Ms. Kodagoda to set up a Cultural Clinic in his home. After a few weeks, he said his son's concentration, as well as reading and writing abilities had improved. In a rural school in Mahiyangana area, for the first time a child got through the scholarship examination, thanks to the Cultural Clinic.

With her programme, Ms. Kodagoda hopes to endow children with their cultural heritage and conduct "an education of the emotions”. By developing character and knowledge simultaneously, she hopes that students can become valuable members of society.

Back to Top  Back to Plus  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.