President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that it is crucial for students in the country to have comprehensive knowledge of modern technology and continually update themselves with the latest advancements to prepare for the future. This will enable them to take over the country by 2048.
Additionally, the President suggested that once the economy is stabilized with the support of the IMF in four years, it would be worthwhile to evaluate whether to continue with the same old path or take a new direction that aligns with the developing world.
During the 135th Annual Prize Giving ceremony at Ananda Vidyalaya in Colombo yesterday morning (29), President Ranil Wickremesinghe shared his thoughts. The event also included awards for students who demonstrated their talents in 2020-2021.
Upon arriving at the Vidyalaya, the President participated in religious rituals at the shrine room on the premises. He was greeted by boy scouts and received a salute from them. Additionally, he laid a floral wreath at the statue of the fallen heroes located within the Vidyalaya grounds.
Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya was awarded the "Anandabimani Award," a once in a life-time recognition presented to an Anandian who has demonstrated excellence in all national, religious, cultural, political, and economic aspects and has committed to promoting ethnic harmony. President Ranil Wickremesinghe conferred the award to Mr. Jayasuriya.
Additionally, the President also bestowed the Fritz Kunz Memorial Trophy, which is the school's highest honour, to W.S. Nimsith for being the "Most Outstanding Anandian" to pass out from the school.
The statement made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe is as follows:
Professor Sampath Amaratunga reminded me of the last time I attended a prize giving ceremony in this Vidyalaya. At that time, Mr. Kudaligama was acting as the principal. I have noticed that this Vidyalaya has made great progress since then. I would like to express my thanks to all those who contributed to its success.
As part of the "Nearest School - Best School" program, I was involved in providing a seven-story building to this Vidyalaya. It's worth noting that Ananda Vidyalaya is the only school in Sri Lanka with such a tall building. Additionally, the school also received a swimming pool and a playground.
Allow me to begin today's story with the reason behind the establishment of Ananda Vidyalaya. During the British colonization of our country, there were no schools available for our people. The only education available was being offered in English or Dutch through church-run schools. However, the temples continued to provide educational activities as well. In the same way, Tamil education was being offered in various locations throughout Jaffna.
The year 1835 marked a significant turning point for the economy of Sri Lanka, as the Colebrook Cameron Commission report was released. This report led to a shift from the feudal economy of cinnamon cultivation to a commercial economy. This new economy was built on the cultivation of tea, coffee, rubber, and coconut. Additionally, the port of Colombo was developed into a large port, facilitating trade and commerce in the region.
As a result of the economic changes of the 19th and 20th centuries, a new commercial economy emerged. This economy first took root in Sri Lanka and later spread to other countries, including Japan. Realizing the need for skilled workers in this field, it was suggested that a school be established. The school, initially named Colombo Academy, was founded near the Fort, Hulftsdorp. This school would eventually become my alma mater, Colombo Royal Vidyalaya.
During that time, as a response to the educational needs, missionary societies established schools, including St. Thomas Vidyalaya. Recognizing that the Buddhists also required modern education, Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera, saw the need for a modern school. At that time, the only options available to Buddhists were private education and learning in the temples. Hence, he partnered with Mr. Henry Olcott to create a school that incorporated modern education within a Buddhist environment.
The reason behind starting Ananda Vidyalaya was due to the Christian environment of the missionary system, whereas the Royal Vidyalaya of Colombo had a secular environment. Ananda Vidyalaya, on the other hand, was established with a Buddhist environment. Interestingly, the first two principals of Ananda Vidyalaya were Christians who later converted to Buddhism. Ananda Vidyalaya has produced many notable alumni who have played significant roles in shaping the independent Sri Lanka.
One such notable alumnus of Ananda Vidyalaya who was recently paid tribute to is Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, who is fondly referred to as "Ananda Abhimana". Mr. Jayasuriya has made significant contributions to his alma mater as a Speaker, a Mayor, and a Minister, and Ananda Vidyalaya can be rightfully proud of his achievements. His service to the school is a great example for current students to follow, as it highlights the importance of contributing to society in a meaningful way.
Those currently studying at Ananda Vidyalaya are indeed fortunate. As far as my knowledge goes, Ananda Vidyalaya is the first modern school in the world to have a Buddhist environment. It's important to express gratitude to the Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera for initiating the establishment of Ananda Vidyalaya and Vidyodaya Pirivena. Now, with the education received at Ananda Vidyalaya, students are prepared to enter society and make meaningful contributions.
The principal and the teaching staff of Ananda Vidyalaya are dedicated to providing students with the necessary training to succeed in life. It's important for students to take full advantage of the knowledge and resources provided by the school. Student leaders are also available to provide necessary support to the teaching staff, while sports leaders and presidents of student unions help to build a well-rounded school community. Additionally, the school's alumni are a valuable resource and provide significant assistance to the school.
As students of Ananda Vidyalaya, you have the privilege of receiving a valuable education that will equip you with the necessary skills to be leaders in society. It's important to make the most of this education and use it to contribute positively to society. The teaching staff plays a crucial role in providing you with the training needed to succeed in your future endeavours.
Once you enter society, it becomes your responsibility to lead and contribute to building a better society. While the government and parliament have a role to play in creating a conducive environment for growth and development, it's ultimately up to individuals to contribute towards positive change. The current state of society is fraught with crises, both political and economic, and it's imperative for the future generation to work towards rebuilding and creating a better society.
Now the economy is being stabilized with the IMF support. If we want to develop the country, we need to get support to stabilize the economy. That alone is not enough and we have to decide as to what kind of society we need after those 4 years. We should decide if we follow the same old path or a new system to go forward along with the developing world.
Following independence, we implemented free education and healthcare, initiated the Mahaweli project, established free trade zones, and made significant strides in our economy. However, despite our efforts, we have not progressed as much as other nations like Bangladesh, Thailand, and Indonesia, and we now find ourselves stagnating.
To move forward, we must decide whether to continue stagnating or to follow the lead of these countries. Today, we need to rethink our approach and take bold new steps, with the youth community taking the lead. Unlike our time, the younger generation has access to advanced technologies like high-quality phones and computers, which we must leverage to our advantage.
Green energy presents a significant opportunity for growth and development across all sectors. Solar, wind, and offshore wind power are all viable options that we must capitalize on, just as we did with tea, coffee, and rubber in the past. It is crucial to act quickly to ensure that we lead the way in the global shift towards green hydrogen. Experts predict that we can produce at least 20 GW of green hydrogen, which will give us a significant surplus, unlike many other countries that struggle with self-sufficiency.
Green hydrogen has tremendous potential as a future fuel for ships, and our country is fortunate to have access to Green Ammonia. By making Trincomalee the main port for these resources, we can establish ourselves as a country with an energy surplus. This will enable us to generate carbon credits that other countries will buy, providing us with a valuable source of income that can be used to reduce our debt.
In addition, we must focus on developing our tourism industry. The Maldives is currently leading the way, but we have a unique advantage with our cultural heritage and scenic beauty. We have stunning beaches, rich Buddhist and Hindu religious sites, and a diverse upcountry culture that we have not fully leveraged. With more than a billion people living in India, our neighbouring country, even attracting just one million tourists can have a significant impact on our economy. We must make a concerted effort to capitalize on these opportunities and reap the benefits.
India is rapidly developing but faces a shortage of certain raw materials and limited space in their ports to meet their needs. To address this, we should focus on transforming the Colombo Port into a larger port by expanding the South and North Ports and exploring offshore economy opportunities. We need to embrace new technologies like artificial intelligence and automation to position ourselves as pioneers in this field.
It is up to the youth to lead this endeavour and build a better future for our country. Just as Ananda Vidyalaya took the lead in building a modern Sri Lanka in the 19th century, it is up to the youth of today to take charge and create a new country for the 21st century.
This cannot be achieved overnight, but it will take one or two decades. Those present here today will be in their fifties by then, so it is up to them to shape their own future.
China aims to become a developed country within 100 years, and India has set a goal of creating a modern India by 2047. Similarly, we should set our sights on achieving similar goals and take responsibility for our country's development.
The talented youth of this school will play a crucial role in this effort, and it is up to them to take on the challenge and build a better future for Sri Lanka.
Ven Maha Sanga including Ven Ranwala Dhammarakkitha Thera and Ven Onagama Upali Thera, Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha, SLPP Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma, SJB Parliamentarian Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr Sagala Ratnayake, Education Ministry Secretary Mr M. N. Ranasinghe, UGC Chairman Prof Sampath Amarathunga, Professor Athula Kaluarachchi, Principal of Ananda Vidyalaya Mr Lal Dissanayake, Director General of the Government Information Department Mr Dinith Chinthaka Karunaratne were present at the occasion.