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Education for Upcountry Tamils

Our Goal: Building A Science Lab

Dehiowita Tamil Mahavidyalayam

Situated in Dehiowita, Sri Lanka, Dehiowita Tamil Mahavidyalayam is an educational institution with a century-old history. Established in 1906 within the premises of the Church, the school has evolved into a prominent center of education, catering to generations of students. Originating from modest beginnings, Dehiowita Tamil Mahavidyalayam underwent a transition from Christian ownership to government administration in 1963, a pivotal move aimed at widening access to quality education for the local populace. The year 1977 marked a notable milestone when the school found its permanent location in Dehiowita, reinforcing its commitment to imparting knowledge and values. A substantial setback occurred in 2016 when a devastating landslide inflicted severe damage on the school's infrastructure, disrupting its academic activities. However, the resilience of the community demonstrated their unwavering dedication to education.

The Struggle of the Upcountry Tamils in Sri Lanka

Discriminatory Life of Estate Tamil People in Sri Lanka

The history of estate Tamil people in Sri Lanka is marred by a long-standing legacy of discrimination, exploitation, and marginalization. Descendants of laborers brought by the British during colonial rule to work on tea and coffee plantations, estate Tamils have faced systemic challenges that have deprived them of their rights, opportunities, and dignity. Estate Tamil people, also known as Indian Tamils, form a significant segment of Sri Lanka's population. Their origins date back to the 19th century when the British colonial authorities brought them to the island to work on plantations. Despite their integral role in the country's tea industry and the broader economy, estate Tamils have been subjected to a range of discriminatory practices that have perpetuated their socio-economic disadvantages.

Upon Sri Lanka's independence in 1948, estate Tamil people were designated as "temporary immigrants," rendering them stateless and denying them full citizenship rights. This classification subjected them to a perpetual state of uncertainty regarding their legal status and identity. The absence of citizenship rights hindered their access to basic services, education, and political participation. In the 1960s, around 40% of Hill Country Tamils were granted Sri Lankan nationality and many of the remainder were repatriated to India. By the 1990s most Indian Tamils had received Sri Lankan citizenship, and some were not granted citizenship until 2003.

The tea and coffee plantations where estate Tamils have toiled for generations have been marked by exploitative labor practices. They have faced grueling working conditions, including long hours, low wages, and inadequate living quarters. The British colonial legacy of indentured labor has persisted, trapping estate Tamils in a cycle of poverty and deprivation.

Estate Tamil children have historically been denied access to quality education. Inadequate schools and a lack of resources have perpetuated illiteracy and limited their opportunities for social mobility. Similarly, healthcare facilities in plantation areas have been substandard, contributing to poor health outcomes for estate Tamils.

Landlessness has been a pressing issue for estate Tamils. Many were brought to Sri Lanka as laborers under contract, and their lack of land ownership has made them vulnerable to exploitation by plantation owners. Forced evictions and displacement have further marginalized their communities.

Estate Tamils have struggled to secure meaningful political representation. The absence of citizenship rights and the inability to participate in the democratic process have stifled their ability to advocate for their needs and concerns.

Beyond plantation work, estate Tamils have faced barriers to economic opportunities in other sectors. Discrimination and lack of access to credit and resources have hindered their ability to engage in entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite the numerous challenges they have faced, estate Tamil communities have demonstrated remarkable resilience. Over the years, they have organized protests, strikes, and advocacy movements to demand fair wages, better working conditions, and equal rights. The "1000 Movement," aimed at securing a living wage of 1,000 rupees per day, exemplifies their determination to overcome systemic injustices. The discriminatory life of estate Tamil people in Sri Lanka reflects a history of exploitation, inequality, and marginalization. From labor exploitation and lack of citizenship rights to inadequate access to education and healthcare, the challenges they have confronted are deeply entrenched. While progress has been made through advocacy efforts, the struggle for equality and justice continues. Addressing the systemic discrimination faced by estate Tamil communities requires sustained commitment, policy reform, and recognition of their rights as integral citizens of Sri Lanka.