Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo

EDUCATION HOLDS THE KEY

Ravindie Tilakaratne notes the importance of educating the next generation

Q: What are the challenges facing the country today?

A: Since it is a primary aspect of my life, education is what’s most challenging. There aren’t adequate higher education opportunities even for those who pass their A-Levels with satisfactory results.

Employment is another challenge; it’s difficult to gain employment that matches one’s qualifications. Even for young people who receive good training  under the free education system, employment is a distant dream.

The country must take youth aspirations into account, and develop measures that provide opportunities for higher education and employment generation so that youth can make a greater contribution to national development.

Q: Have there been changes in the spheres of healthcare and environmental sustainability?

A: From my childhood, I’ve seen people close to me succumb to cancer and its incidence is on the rise in Sri Lanka. In healthcare, there should be better mechanisms for early detection.

The positive changes are that Sri Lanka has been able to eradicate several debilitating diseases.

Air pollution is a major factor impacting environmental sustainability. Moreover, chemicals are dumped in water bodies and there’s increased use of timber to make luxury household items. While Sri Lanka has instituted proactive practices to ensure environmental sustainability, there’s a need for much more action.

Q: What opportunities do you see for young Sri Lankans like yourself?

A: With employment opportunities and higher educational avenues being more varied than in the past, young people can explore numerous options that they’re passionate about. They include even the more unconventional streams such as dancing, music and yoga.

Knowledge is accessible through manifold spheres with social media playing a large role in helping young people gather facts and figures. The youth must use this knowledge responsibly by seeking opportunities and making the most of the avenues open to them.

Q: Do we have young leaders who can take the country forward?

A: Being a prefect myself and having met prefects from other schools, I’ve observed salutary leadership traits among all of them, which augurs well for the country’s future.

Leaders must be dedicated, selfless, visionary and transparent in their actions, and win the trust of people. They should explain the pros and cons of various issues and situations, and guide people to achieve goals that truly benefit the nation.

Q: Where do you see Sri Lanka in 10 years’ time?

A: I’m an optimist so I believe Sri Lanka will be in a better place with all sectors including healthcare, education, transportation, the environment and technology improving immensely.

There are plans to establish electric and light railways by 2029. Our generation will be a major force in driving the country forward. Many items being imported today would be manufactured in Sri Lanka. Having learnt from past mistakes, we will balance the country’s economic progress with improved psychosocial dynamics.

Q: What’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the world we live in?

A: While it has developed both technologically and scientifically, this has resulted in poverty, displacement, conflict and war. However, technology has also improved lives and lifestyles.

Seamless communication is another positive – although it is often used for misinformation, hate speech and propaganda, all of which cause irreparable damage. Technology has also become a tool for distancing people from each other, prompting them to lose the human touch.

Q: And what are your expectations of the world and its people?

A: Ideally, the world should be a peaceful place. But at present, countries and people are in conflict due to power struggles.

Ambitious egocentric leaders and negative influences should be eliminated. People must focus more on living according to the values of their religion. A disparity between the rich and poor, not only among countries but people of the same country, is unjustifiable. I also wish people would respect each other regardless of race, religion or nationality; and that equality in society could be achieved.

Q: So where do you see the world in 10 years’ time?

A: I remain optimistic about the world. The main challenge facing it is global warming but I see many people acting responsibly these days.

And I foresee a more peaceful world because people will realise how hopeless wars and conflicts are, and accept nonviolent solutions. The world will be more technologically developed. Humans would have visited Mars and outer space will be a new adventure zone.