Sarvodaya Institute of Higher Learning
‘To provide a Centre of learning and leadership training, that is rooted in the community with the aim of generating solutions to the unprecedented challenges facing humanity and the planet’.
Highly driven on the above purposes, the Sarvodaya Movement 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 centre 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 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 six decades, Sarvodaya has truly evolved into a people’s movement. Itt 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 Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya (Inc.) (LJSSS) 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 prior to the termination of the civil war, Sarvodaya had taken note of the fact that many development activities at village level were being carried out by the State through well-resourced local government authorities and provincial councils. However, the important philosophical elements found in Sarvodaya’s holistic process of Awakening were found to be missing in such State sponsored programs. The creation of the SIHL by the LJSSS was in effect a response to these changes.
Another response consisted of a radical organizational restructuring with an accompanying change in the roles and functions of field staff and launch of the Deshodaya Mandalayas (National Reawakening Councils) at Divisional and District levels. These “Deshodaya Mandalayas” have since been established as the next stage in the evolution of the Sarvodaya Movement and are voluntary associations of individuals who are members and office-bearers of community level organizations, registered under the law as Sarvodaya Shramadana Societies (SSS). They are composed of other community leaders such as teachers, heads of schools, lawyers, doctors, and engineers who subscribe to the Sarvodaya development philosophy and who agree to undertake development activities in their respective fields.
The focus of Sarvodaya development work in the village communities is essentially educational. The initial shramadana (sharing of labor) camps conducted in the villages have an in-built education, learning and training component. The work to be done is decided by the village community. The organization of the camp, in which the village community is very much involved, requires the consideration of such aspects as the labour force required to do the work, the tools and equipment needed, the food needed, the residential accommodation needed, etc. Such organizational work is part of the education of the community. It is learning-by- doing, harnessing the knowledge and skills available within the community.
This type of initial educational work is followed by institutional training at various Sarvodaya centres at different levels. Short-term courses are conducted in areas such as pre-school education, community health and sanitation, savings and credit, village-level planning, and vocational training.