Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Rashida Najmudeen calls for a more holistic approach to education

Q: What’s the good, bad and ugly here in Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lankan hospitality is the best. The people are easygoing, friendly and ready to have fun – of course, they’re ready for a fight too! But due to a lackadaisical attitude, nearly everything takes more time than it should, which makes things somewhat inefficient.

There is also widespread corruption, which will curb national progress. And then there’s the ugly: sexual harassment of women; issues of child and spousal abuse; and rape.

All these negatives are on the rise and must be addressed.

Q: What changes do you see in the spheres of education and women’s empowerment?
A: I don’t see any significant changes in education other than the introduction of ICT to facilitate learning and an increased emphasis on the need for English language education.

But I do have strong beliefs on what needs to change. Schools specifically must inculcate critical and creative thinking to develop more holistic out-of-the-box views among young people that are inclusive and liberal.

In the area of women’s issues, there is a small group of activists working to empower females, which has seen results. Women are now heading organisations although there must be more female representation in parliament, which thankfully has been included in the present government’s mandate.

But for real impact, the idea that males are the head of households must be replaced by the fact that men and women stand together as equals – both at home and work, and in everything else they do.

Q: And what opportunities do you see for young Sri Lankans such as yourself?
A: Thanks to technology, we have more exposure. As a result, our needs and aspirations are different to those of previous generations.

For example, we want to travel, and have diverse and meaningful experiences with people from other cultures. We’re motivated by more advanced and alternative practices that we see during these experiences, and in turn are inspired to innovate and introduce these ideas to Sri Lanka.

Q: Do we have young leaders who can take the country forward?
A: We do, indeed! At any Colombo Operated Model United Nations (COMUN) session, there are young people interested in careers in international relations, politics and law. They are all progressive thinkers who want to take our country to a better place.

I would like to see these young people develop into strong, powerful, honest and compassionate leaders to move our country forward. One thing I’m sure about is that if there is no integrity, our country will never move ahead.

Q: And where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: While it is a cliché, I would definitely like to have my own family. But in terms of how I can impact my country, I’d like to work in a school or establish my own – which will be different. It will have a holistic outlook catering to students who have a thirst for knowledge and the drive to explore the unknown.

Q: What’s the good, bad and ugly of the world in which we live?
A: Literacy rates are higher while infant mortality and drug usage are lower.

So while there is war, trafficking, rape, abuse, crime and greed, our world has advanced – and it continues to develop to become a better place as there are people fighting for what’s right, and taking action to ensure there are results.

Observing the response to man-made and natural disasters – and the recent floods here come to mind – there is an increased social consciousness around the world. And despite the bad and ugly we see, this gives me hope that the good will triumph.

 Q: And what are your expectations of the world and its people
A: I hope people will realise that if they love themselves more and want to always be their best, they will begin to project this reality to others and the world in which they live.

Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media today?
A: The awareness and connection that social media has offered us has benefitted the world in countless ways.

Social media moots business and discussion, and provides a voice for what’s right. It galvanises people to emulate initiatives in other countries, which has seen progress in human rights as well as women’s and gay rights, and influenced economic development.