Opinion

Yaka and the Test Tube Students

Summary

They are the test tube babies of ’77: they know not about here nor there.

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Yakhanda recently ‘hung out’ with some young students from Colombo’s more expensive schools, including the international schools. 

Out of uniform, quite phat in their faux-poverty-torn oversized jeans exposing the onset of butt, with midriff t-shirts exposing navels again (like their hip-hugging reddha-wearing counterparts), they acted ‘cool.’ 

Like Asian children born in the imperial and settler kingdoms, they know zip about the real world or of Sri Lanka. Like their parents, they parrot what the English Foreign Office’s BBC and their ‘camel’ division Al Jazeera or the US State Department’s marvelously illiterate CNN blare. Or what their local English mimic-media echo.

One student invited us to watch from Kanatte the extravaganza outside their school. She described it as mimicking Hollywood’s ‘Oscar’ night, but an every morn-and-aft ritual: The latest imported tax-evading de-luxe four-wheel-drives parade away from the cemetery entrance, dropping off one merchant’s child at a time, in pseudo-grand pageantry. A smoke ring of expensive carbon monoxide hula-hoops the entrance, some students even carrying aloft some elaborate presentation on ‘global warming’ or ‘carbon footprints.’ 

Pity the child who takes the public bus or walks to that school. That would be truly ‘common.’

Yet in them we see glimmers of our own alienated childhoods.

Kolombot students live in a twilight zone, like their polar opposite, the rural child. The villager, seething promise, is trapped in an underdeveloped agricultural economy constrained by the meta-economy of the slave-wrought plantations; the merchant’s child, bored by excess, is trapped in a Kolomba – a badly photocopied exurb of the worst of what is London or Manhattan.

Schools (some name-boarded ‘Asian’), wishing to boast modernity, advertise hiphop for boys and cheerleading for girls as subjects! Modern corporate culture has spread afar the stolen kinetics and liberating gestures of the handcuffed children of the USA. Those post-pubescent “gangbangers of the ghettoes,” who once tried to protect Black children from white supremacist cops and gangs in their inner cities, but were then turned on each other.

This import-export class mimics these moves. A class imbued with righteous pride, claiming to support free speech, free-this and free-that. The mercantile Colombo import-export political culture these students arise from and grow into is probably the most colonized and backward and repressive in the world.

JR’s Spawn of ’77

Here are the children of ’77, new harvests of alienated kalusuddho of the open economy. Engineered to choke out the rest of the ‘banian-reddha’ yako in the country. To call their schools ‘international’ is a joke. The more appropriate term is visa agency – but a ticket to where?

A local Harvard grad hired at one ‘international’ school, was paid less than half her predecessor received. The white woman she replaced had no known teaching qualifications, let alone, for imparting science, except time on her hands, as the spouse of some expat aid worker (who cannot alleviate impoverishment in Anacostia, Washington DC, one of the largest ‘ghettos’ in the US). She left when his contract was up. The principal assured the new teacher such salary scales were unfair but blamed it on their merchant clientele. They want ‘white’ teachers. 

Like nouveau looters everywhere, this class seeks to polish off the rough edges and bloody stains of their ascent. They want children to parrot whiteness as their first language. They don’t seek egalitarian relations with the world. They wish to ally with more corrupt elements abroad to suppress the majority of the country. Old story.

These schools may not be that different from their public counterparts. 

Non-settler colonies like ours are not allowed modern industry. Our education system is not geared to investment in the art and science of production, but promotes consumer culture. In 1910, England’s Thomson, Tetley & Co. set up in Colombo, to sell European piece goods, claiming “the majority Sinhala people preferred more expensive materials than other Eastern peoples.”

But only a narrow grouping can afford such indiscretions. Vunnabes preen the latest imported fashions and gas guzzlers, sporting knowledge of the genetically-modified A-lists of ‘wine, women and song.’ The pedagogy of productive manufacture is alien to them as a mechanical screw: less a device to fasten one solid to another but what one does to a customer, women or the country. 

The Making of Mahattayas

In Sri Lanka, International Schools, illegal under the Education Act, operate like renowned turf accountants aka bookiyas, within the shifting shades of legitimacy. 

19th century English Missionary schools, like St. Thomas’ were used to prevent the development of a modern university system. Ancient Lanka boasted the best universities in the world such as Abhayagiriya etc. We were still able, in the 20th century, to develop a university system based on free education, yet constrained by our underdeveloped economy. It has become the basis for a health and safety network in Sri Lanka, that was not just the pride of Asia, but has better statistics than the USA and many European countries including England!

The international schools, like the missionary schools, are also meant to undermine local intelligence. They will be used to destroy free education in the country, as a faltering imperialism seeks new treasures to plunder.

So what should our education system produce: crass Ladies and Gentlemen or creative Yakini and Yaksha?

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