Spoken Sinhala Classes
A Great Demand in the North & East
Spoken Sinhala classes are in great demand in many parts of the North and East today. In a country where more than 70% of the population is Sinhalese and many students leave the Sinhala medium, it is heartening to note that many still make the effort to learn Sinhala in the North and East.
Sri Ranjan who runs Spoken Sinhala classes near the Jaffna University has become a famous Sinhala teacher. He was an old boy of Jaffna Sinhala Maha Vidyalaya which burned down during the war. He is proud to say that his parents chose a Sinhala school for him instead of one of the many noteworthy Tamil schools in Jaffna. He says that it was no secret that the Sinhala education he had at the time helped him to teach Sinhala to people in his part of the country.
The classes run in Jaffna without any need for advertising, similar to how popular Spoken English classes are in the South of the country. Sri Ranjan is proud that he teaches Sinhala to many government officials, lawyers and doctors in addition to school and university students. After his own education, Ranjan worked as an auditor at the Kankesanthurai Cement Factory. When the factory was closed down, he started his classes with just four or five students during the conflict in Jaffna. Now, large numbers of students learn Sinhala from him – something that has contributed immensely to the reconciliation process.
“My full time job is to teach Sinhala in Jaffna nowadays. My class usually has about 30 children. Teaching Sinhala is a bit more difficult task than English. However, I must say that Tamil children in Jaffna have a keen interest in learning Sinhala. This will help reduce the tension between us” he says.
It is noteworthy that those above 50 years of age also come to Sri Ranjan’s Spoken Sinhala class in Jaffna. Sri Ranjan speaks with pride of his students, saying that “The Tamils of Jaffna are born to learn something. Some people come to Spoken Sinhala classes even after the age of 50 and they want to speak Sinhala before they die”.
Mohamed Hilali, a resident of Dyke Street, Trincomalee, and his wife, Chamila Vajirapani, have introduced a modern form in spoken Sinhala classes in Trincomalee, challenging the traditional Sinhala teaching methods that existed so far. Mohammed Hilali, a mathematics teacher by profession, now gives preference to his wife’s spoken Sinhala class ahead of his professional subject.
“My wife started a scholarship class for Sinhala children. Meanwhile, a Tamil boy in front of our house was selected to the Moratuwa campus. His parents request us to teach him a little Sinhala before he went to the campus. That was the starting point of our Spoken Sinhala classes” he said.
The spoken Sinhala class by Mrs. Chamila Vajirapani, who started with one child, has grown into a large class in a short period of time. Now she is unable to manage alone and requires her husband, a professional mathematics teacher to join her. She also gets support from her two daughters who have studies in the Sinhala medium.
“When I got married to Hilali, I didn’t know Tamil. My husband did not try to force Tamil on me. He said, you will just get used to it. My husband’s father is a lawyer. But he couldn’t speak in Sinhala. I taught my father-in-law to speak Sinhala first. It was then that I learned Tamil. The first boy whom I taught is an engineer now and speaks Sinhala like a Sinhalese himself. It gives me great pleasure” said Chamila Vajirapani, recalling the past with great satisfaction.
“Intelligent parents want their children to learn Sinhala along with Tamil. If you are in Sri Lanka, you should know Sinhala. Can there be any more pleasure for Muslim parents when their children pass out in Sinhala language and Buddhism subjects in their examinations? Not a single child in our classes ever failed. I think its because Tamil children have a strong desire to learn Sinhala” said Mr. Hilali.
“By now, the Governor’s Secretaries, doctors and top government officials have come to our spoken Sinhala class to learn Sinhala. They treat us well wherever we meet them. It’s a great pleasure for us. Money can never buy that happiness.” he continued.
People like Sri Ranjan in Jaffna and Mohammed Hilali and Chamila Vajirapani in Trincomalee are doing more than teaching Sinhala to Tamil speaking people – they are passing on invaluable tools to help Sri Lanka reconcile from many years of tragedy.