In depth

Should Sunday schools be mandatory?

Sunday Schools in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan government recently applied a Gazette requesting for mandatory Sunday schools of all the religions in the country. The Gazette paper is currently under process waiting for cabinet approval. The recommendation for mandatory Sunday school to students aged 6-19 of all religions was proposed in 2017. This recommendation was done by Cardinal Ranjith Malcolm and chief Buddhist monks across the country.

According to the Catholic Church has over 1,155 Sunday schools. It has over 13,000 teachers and nearly 202,000 students in 12 districts all over the country.

The lack of encouragement by the parents to attend Sunday schools is outlined as the leading cause of the failure of morals and discipline among the future generation. One may even think whether sunday schools is the solution to the uplifting spiritual upbringing of a child. The principal intention behind this undertaking to establish sunday schools is to foster more discipline in the younger generation.

Forcing into sunday schools for a disciplined future

Father Piyal Janaka Fernando stated, all the students must be forced to take Sunday school final exams. He believes this will give them a more rounded education. It’s one thing to ensure one’s right to education. But can a child be forced to take exams? The freedom to practice a religion of their wish is a fundamental right ensured by the constitution of Sri Lanka. Provisions, as mentioned above, not only violates a fundamental right but develops a sense of false authority in the mind of the government.Sunday Schools in Sri Lanka

The right to practice religion cannot be forced to a person in a background where everyone in unison accepts that the law is above all. Gazettes as such, when enforced by law, makes us question twice on to what extent a minister exercise his powers beyond the limit they are supposed to. Don’t we as citizens, have a right to practice the religion we desire, right to believe the religion that an individual wants?

On the other hand, it is established that our generation lacks a true sense of discipline and an inability to tell what’s right from wrong. The level of democracy that needs to be exercised is put into question by imposing laws that take it a step closer towards an estranged legal framework. Regulations like these showcase the stereotypic figureheads Sri Lanka has and will continue to have.

Freedom to practice religion

Buddhasasana Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera believes that the initiative would help create a disciplined future generation within Sri Lanka. While addressing media briefing a few weeks back he added, “I wish to motivate the students to attend more and more religious education activities”. According to the minister, a student who succeeds in showing outstanding results at the provincial and national level Sunday school examinations would be given preference when transferring to another school. They are also given preference when seeking government job opportunities.

Ideally, state and the religion must be completely separate from each other. Religious education is essentially a family responsibility. The upliftment or sponsoring to enrich the existing spiritual education is what must be done by the government right now. For an example, in France, all the children are given an hour off during the week to receive religious instruction in their personal time. The freedom to choose and practice one’s religion is a fundamental human right. As long as it doesn’t infringe within reason on another’s same rights, should be upheld as such.

Tuition classes

Meanwhile, it is also reported that measures are to be taken to ban tuition classes on Sundays and Poya holidays. The proposal was brought up in retort to the trend of tuition classes on weekends focusing more on secular studies. This has often been viewed as a lucrative mode of income developed by the tuition masters for their own benefit. Tuition teachers spoon feed and often repeat the same model/past exam papers. Some teachers end up teaching one subject for many hours at a stretch. Ultimately, students find it difficult facing the actual examination.

Sunday Schools | tuition classes

Mass tuition classes isn’t an uncommon sight (Image Credits: rotaryhall.com)

Implementing mandatory  Sunday schools islandwide would indeed bring an end to this destructive impact on our education system. Undoubtedly teachings of any religious leader should be a liberating factor for the human mind. It’s a powerful tool to withstand violence, hatred, lust and so on. On the general belief, forcing students to take exams or mandatory classes is not the best solution to how this powerful tool can be incorporated into the lives of our future generation. The authorities should look forward to develop rather a more prospective solution in comparison to what is already proposed.

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