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Submitted by Nishantha Mallawaarachchi(Dip Youth Development) on
Many youth issues remain unaddressed also because youth lack sufficient access to the decision making process. Leadership and commitment to participation in decision-making processes is not at a satisfactory level among Sri Lankan youth and in addition, in a culture that venerates age and experience, there is little space for young people to reach leadership positions. Dissatisfaction and frustration of youth, specially the educated rural youth, is already recognized as one of the major threats to the political stability of the country. National insurgencies led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the early 1970s and late 1980s has been attributed mainly to the failure of national mechanisms to address issues such as unemployment, class disparities, and unequal distribution of resources to rural areas as compared to Colombo (the commercial capital). It has been argued that the 1971 and 1987 insurrections and contemporary youth politics reflect dissatisfaction with the domination of the Sri Lankan political and administrative structures by upper middle class elite (Serasundara, 1998). Despite publicly provided free education from primary level all the way to tertiary levels, the education system in Sri Lanka is primarily blamed for youth employment. Many young people believe that the education system has failed to fulfil their career aspirations. For rural, monolingual youth, a common sentiment is that the English language is used by the urban elite as “a sword of oppression” and that access to learning the language has not been fair. Fuelling the discontent was the emergence of bureaucratic inefficiencies, corruption and apathy in governance (Presidential Commission on Youth 1990; de Silva and Peiris 1995). Despite there being 13 nationally recognized universities in the country, they can accommodate only 2% of eligible candidates. In addition, many universities lack resources and qualified and able teaching staff. Many feel that there is a mismatch between the education curricula and labour market. Insufficient knowledge of English and lack of practical training has been one of the deciding factors for this situation. However, of late there has been more focus on skills development through vocation training institutes but they are yet to have a significant impact on youth employment. Even though the government is developing strategies to reduce the information gap by establishing modernized facilities such as Internet access in post offices, NENASALAs in rural areas, many young people cannot access these facilities owing to economic constraints. Although some universities are now offering diplomas and university degrees in new fields with good career prospects, information on these new opportunities is not readily available.