The British Council marked the end of the Commonwealth Connections programme in Sri Lanka with an exciting two-day festival of Sport and Art. Held on Wednesday the 10th and Thursday the 11th of August 2022 at Ranabima Royal College, Gannoruwa, in Peradeniya, school children, members of their teaching faculty, as well as officials from the Ministry of Education and the British Council in Sri Lanka, engaged with a unique showcase of Sri Lankan culture, and also celebrated the successful completion of the year-long global initiative.
A joint project by the British Council and the Birmingham Organising Committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Connections was initiated with the goal of creating meaningful sports, arts, citizenship, and cultural connections between young people based on shared Commonwealth values. In order to achieve this, 60 schools from the West Midlands were paired with their counterparts from the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.
A cluster of six schools from Sri Lanka were chosen for the programme, and included the Pamunuwa Primary School, Hemamali Girls’ College, Ranabima Royal College, Kotagaloluwa Sri Jinarathana Kanishta Vidyalaya, St. Sylvester’s College (Primary), and Badi-Ud-Din Mahmud Girls’ College – from the Central Province. Students from these schools have been engaging with the programme since July 2021, working together and participating in various activities at the Queen’s Baton Relay in January, the Commonwealth Connections media launch in February, meeting with the UK High Commissioner in March, and finally the Art and Sport festival held in August. Throughout the entire duration of the programme, all performances, projects, and demonstrations were live-streamed, allowing the Sri Lankan students and their partner school peers in Birmingham to exchange ideas, participate in cultural activities, and engage with each other.
At the Art festival held on the 10th of August, both the UK and Sri Lankan clusters were given the opportunity to showcase their Art projects to each other. The Sri Lankan demonstration revolved around the traditional Kandyan and folk dances, and exhibited their paintings of selected landmarks –ancient Buddhist temples, forest reserves, botanical gardens, etc.- close to their school. In exchange, the students from Dudley exhibited how they had created a model of the Netherton anchor –an exact replica of the Titanic anchor- entirely from recycled materials.
At the Sports event held on the 11th of August, the Commonwealth Connections Sri Lankan cluster schools introduced their English peers to the national sport of “Elle,” by sharing instructional video clips and photographs on how to play the game. Additionally, presentations on a few Sri Lankan New Year folk games and “Angampora” (an ancient Sri Lankan martial art) were also presented to the Dudley schools.
“The Commonwealth Connections built international partnerships and collaborations among 6 schools in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and Dudley (West Midlands) UK by offering opportunities of joint work on arts, sports, and citizenship,” explained Maarya Rehman, Country Director British Council Sri Lanka. “As a result, the young people became more aware of the Commonwealth and its shared values. They learnt to appreciate and value diversity, gender equality, different global perspectives, and to respect others. In particular, the Arts component of the programme was an eye opener, enhancing creativity and highlighting the value of environment protection and ways of minimising climate change. The sports component supported themes of gender equality, harnessed the power of togetherness, and promoted inter-faith harmony.”
“The young people of participating schools from Sri Lanka were happy and proud to become a part of the Commonwealth Games through this programme,” she added.
Mrs Yamuna Rathnayake, Cluster Lead, Ranabima Royal College, also commented on the initiative, “In the Sri Lankan cluster we have six schools which are urban as well as rural schools. The students received the opportunity to visit the cluster schools, share their views, develop mutual understanding, and friendship. Students became aware of the Commonwealth values, and they applied those while they were engaged in activities. Especially the values of protecting the environment, tolerance, respect, gender equality etc. I think they’ll adhere to these values in future and set example to others.”
“Engaging in Commonwealth Connections was one of the greatest experiences in my life,” said I.P. Piyumi Maduhansika, a student at Kotagaloluwa Sri Jinarathana Kanishta Vidyalaya. “It inspired me to learn about sports, arts, and cultures from different parts of the world. It expanded my knowledge of skills for life with a greater understanding of the Commonwealth, and it built my confidence.” “Commonwealth Connections also provided an amazing opportunity for me to work collaboratively with our UK partner school, Thorns Collegiate Academy,” she added. “I learnt the value of respecting and understanding different cultures. I would like to pay my gratitude to the British Council for selecting our school.”