The above illustration graces the first page of the grade 5 Mathematics work book in Sri Lanka. It shows four friends cycling along a road with cheerful smiles on their faces. Ameen (the Muslim), Meena(the Tamil), Saman(the Sinhalese) and Rosi(the Burgher) continue to appear side by side in the text book to make Mathematics more appealing to the students.
However, to most of us, such inter-racial harmony is a rare sight. I myself have a majority of Sinhalese friends and sadly, only a handful of others. A great friend of mine says that according to a survey, 70% of Sri Lankan youths do not have friends outside their circle of status, religion, language, ethnicity etc.
While I do appreciate the fact that text books promote friendship between segregated groups, I believe that more could be done. For example, the government has decided not to allow schools to be ethnicity-based in the future.( http://www.ceylontoday.lk/16-34034-news-detail-no-more-ethnicity-based-schools.html)Minister of Education, Bandula Gunawardane himself says that, “We believe the children of this country should mingle with each other so that they would understand each other better. Therefore, the ministry decided not to allow schools to be divided based on ethnicity and do away with Sinhala, Tamil (Hindu) or Muslim schools”
Indeed, it is practically impossible for us to have everyone as a “friend”, but surely, being “friendly” is possible. It is my sincere wish that that a day would soon arrive when friendships between Ameen, Meena, Saman and Rosi would be a common sight and not looked down by the society.