Social responsibility without borders

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:48:00 BST

Professor Mahesh Nirmalan, Vice Dean for Social Responsibility in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health recently visited Sri Lanka and hosted workshops in two secondary schools to discuss issues around personal development and multilingualism.

Social integration is a key element in the quest to achieve and maintain peaceful social relations. Research shows that countries having experienced a civil war have up to a 50% chance of relapsing into conflict within ten years, highlighting the fact that although promotion of social integration and coexistence should be a priority all over the world, even more efforts should be directed towards post conflict societies.

An example of a post-conflict country that has been promoting social integration as a means of creating an inclusive society is Sri Lanka. Professor Mahesh Nirmalan organised workshops in two Sri Lankan secondary schools, S. Thomas’ College in Gurutawala and Bandarawela Tamil Central College, to explore issues around personal development and multilingualism in a society fragmented by civil war. Approximately 125 students and 50 teachers from both schools were encouraged to confront and openly discuss social, cultural, economic and political barriers to personal development of young individuals and ways of dealing with and combating such impediments.

At the heart of the discussions was the need for broader engagement between the major communities to achieve post-conflict reconciliation and true social integration.

It was noted that the Sri Lankan society has to acknowledge its diversity and reiterate the values of inclusivity, non-discrimination and tolerance. Despite new initiatives by the government, the linguistic separations between ethnic societies still exist and thus, the need for multilingualism amongst future generations is essential.

Professor Mahesh Nirmalan said: “Nation building in post-conflict societies must be based on a bottom-up approach. In this context getting school children to confront some of the relevant issues as part of their core learning activities is crucial.”