Sarvodaya Institute of Higher Learning (SIHL)
The Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya (LJSSS), popularly known as the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement – is the largest non-governmental development organization in Sri Lanka. (www.sarvodaya.org)
Sarvodaya has a focus and impressive track record on development and national reconciliation. With its holistic approach, built in significant part on Buddhist and Gandhian philosophy, embracing a multi-ethnic and multi-religious context, it promotes development and educational solutions that simultaneously cater to social, cultural, economic and political needs of the people in all regions of Sri Lanka. Over a period of 55 years, Sarvodaya’s programs and initiatives have reached over 15,000 villages in the entire country, with about 3,000 villages being empowered to serve as self-governed focal points for development (gram-swaraj – “self governing villages”).
In its latest evolutionary phase Sarvodaya has set up the Sarvodaya Institute for Higher Learning (SIHL) as a first step in setting up a Sarvodaya University. The aspiration and focus of SIHL is on integral education and development of entire communities, based on social, economic and spiritual transformation, thereby becoming a center for the renewal of Sri Lankan Society as a whole. Sarvodaya is keen to realize the implementation and development of SIHL together with appropriate local and global partners, who can help to design and implement this unique educational approach to integral development. SIHL seeks to build co-creational relationships with other Institutes for Higher Learning, or Universities who are equally engaged in renewing their particular societies.
It is the people in the villages and in the urban areas of Sri Lanka, particularly the poor and the disadvantaged who are served by the Sarvodaya Movement. In doing this for over five decades, Sarvodaya has truly evolved into a people’s movement. For more than five decades it has educated individuals, families, communities, public and private sector employees, school children and teachers, staff of educational institutes, staff of other institutes such as in the administrative, education and in the health sectors and the public at large using a variety of techniques.
The Sarvodaya Institute of Higher Learning (SIHL) was established in 2008 by the LJSSS (at its 50th Anniversary) to improve the quality of the educational services it provides to the community. Education at a greater depth and over a wider range was deemed necessary if people were to solve their own problems which is a fundamental principle followed by Sarvodaya in its development work with people.
With the ending of the civil war in the country, the context in which Sarvodaya works has changed significantly. Even before the termination of the civil war, Sarvodaya had taken note of the fact that many development activities at village level which earlier, Sarvodaya motivated the communities to engage in, were being carried out by the State through well-resourced local government authorities and provincial councils. e.g. construction of roads, culverts, wells, toilets, cleaning of irrigation channels. However we note that the important philosophical elements found in Sarvodaya’s holistic process of satisfying people’s basic human needs such as community participation, voluntary contribution sharing their resources and the other deeply rooted objectives of social transformation such as brining in spiritual and cultural values are missing in such State sponsored programs.
The creation of the SIHL by the LJSSS was in effect a response to these changes.
Another response was initiating radical changes in its organizational structure with an accompanying change in the role and functions of its field staff. A major shift is that much of the development work earlier carried out by the field staff, devolves on the Deshodaya Mandalayas (National Reawakening Councils) at Divisional and District levels that have now been established as the next stage in the evolution of the Sarvodaya Movement. These “Deshodaya Mandalayas” are voluntary associations of individuals who are members and office-bearers of community level organizations, registered under the law as Sarvodaya Shramadana Societies (SSS). It also includes other community leaders such as teachers, heads of schools, lawyers, doctors, engineers who subscribe to the Sarvodaya development philosophy and who together agree to undertake development activities in their respective areas.