Sri Lanka happens to be my one of the first choice as a place to explore, hang around, and experience, I have been two times and I still am looking forward to more. It’s an island, a huge island. I imagine of me being an ant and the country a big chunk of land surrounded by the sea on all sides.
Although, it was not the beaches that dragged me there. It was the world-famous tea estate, I wanted to see firsthand how a country can develop so quickly and transform itself becoming having the highest literacy rate in SAARC. I am not in that huge favor of the people, especially in the urban areas. The logic being simple, there are many tourist traps around. I have been netted in some.
On my two visits, my destination remained the same. A one full day train journey from the capital Colombo to a place called Haputale. Many prefer to go to Nureliya, as it is a city favored by most of the tourist. But I happen to escape that and move 5 stations more upwards the hills.
It’s a small town, there were not many houses and the population was less. Actually, I think there is nothing much to do there even. As an explorer or a tourist, I think even you might get bored just staying in the hotel and roam around the town.
What I usually do is I take a bus to a nearby big tea factory, then I take a majestic hike to a place called Lipton’s seat. The reason I call it majestic is there are very few people and you are surrounded by fog in a moment and in another moment the fog is gone. The hike usually doesn’t take much time to reach the summit but the wilderness of being surrounded by nothing than the greenery as long as you can see. All the surrounding hills have been turned into tea estate. You can easily get lost in the tea forest if you misjudge the way. But, I don’t mind being lost in it instead I love the sensation of the tea bushes. They don’t come as high as my chest and they are so neatly cut, I feel as if the whole scenery has been painted.
On my first visit, I had very few locals I interacted with, in the next one I knew where I was heading and I often used to take a break and try to have a conversation with the locals whenever I could. Haputale is not a town, comparing my country Nepal but it had most of the essential and I was quite surprised the government has provided most of the basics like roads, hospitals, employment, and schools to name a few.
Upon my conversation, I had some few school girls making their way back home after the studies. They were neatly dressed and well packed with bags. I just wanted to know if I can take a short cut to the summit, so the conversation began. As i have mentioned Haputale is not an urban town, it is much like a farming community. The girls I interacted with had so much good communication skill, I was quite surprised. They spoke very well good English and they knew their future intention. It was not like I want to become a doctor, engineer or pilot. Instead, these girls from classes as much as 3-5 wanted to become scientific agriculturist, biologist, and even a plumber to a beekeeper. They grew up in a tea estate, they haven’t been much in the bog cities and all they wanted was to become something so that they can contribute towards a place they were born in.
These kids were the future of the society and I sensed a moment of pride in themselves being born as they are and making the best resource they had on hand. Well, fair enough they might have changed their intentions as they grew up or maybe not but, things were quite clear. The Boat was heading in the right direction but not where the wind blew it.
Another, interesting chat I had on the summit of Lipton’s Seat was with the guy. A fresh graduate, I asked him what are his intentions next. He had just finished his schooling and wanted to study at a university. He was preparing for the entrance exam for it. I asked him aren’t there private collages or universities around here or nearby town. He answered Yes, then I asked him again after sensing that he came from a strong financial household, Why not bothering yourself in joining private collages or after school stuff, back in Nepal we call it 10+2 or now collages.
His answer completely shook me somehow. He said in Srilanka after finishing the education and if you look for a job. The first priority goes to the one who had attended Government collages and passed through it then after it goes to Private. I said what the heck…..I imagined back home, my country Nepal. We take so much pride in finishing our studies from private colleges. The more expensive, the more reputed it becomes. We look students graduated from government schools and colleges as if they know nothing, the students are not even catogerized as students by private firm and institutes when they look for a work later on.
It was just the opposite back there, the education was free, they didn’t had to pay anything and on top of that, the merit was simply passing the education system through government collages.
I think maybe now things have changed a bit, but not to the extent that the most prestigious private schools and collages in Nepal are better in educating the students. Our whole system of education is relied upon the business of education. There are countless numbers of schools that are collages in Nepal, some claiming they are affiliated to some European collages. The fee structure is so pricy that most parents claim 70% of the income goes towards educating their kids.
Every country is different and so is economic structure. I am not comparing mine with another. This is not a battle of being the best instead it is a experience I have experienced firsthand. It had me change the perspective upon how i look at the education system in my Country. The system where, some kids have to walk miles and cross many rivers to reach school only to find their teacher absent. The issue where the kids are forced to go home if it rains cause the roof of the school is leaking. Things like where the first thing a fresher learns upon his entry in the collage is which political party he wants to be in. Things like where the kids are forced to be crammed into one bathroom for urinating on their breaks. Things where a tie and a blazer cost more in a private collage than a cost of studies and other expenses for 6 months in a public collage.
It’s a never ending circle and point of discussion.I believe my country is changing and will change, people like me are exploring and getting a experience so much richer that money nor many be any education had bought it. This first hand conversation with a few locals in Srilanka did change me, me,but to what extent I myself am confused.