The British Council has announced plans to open a new cultural centre in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, which will open to the public in early 2014 on completion of the building works.
The British Council has worked in Sri Lanka since 1949, and has offices in the capital Colombo, and Kandy. The launch of the new Jaffna centre demonstrates the organisation’s support for developing ties between the UK and Sri Lanka by connecting with people in key regions around the country.
Speaking at a ceremony in Jaffna on November 13 to launch the centre, Martin Davidson, the British Council’s Chief Executive, said: “We intend to expand our work in building links between the UK and Sri Lanka through our new library in Jaffna, which will provide the people of Jaffna with direct access to English learning and to the UK’s arts and education sectors.”
Mr Davidson also spoke of the importance of cultural relations: “Culture is an essential foundation of post-conflict development, along with good governance, security and prosperity. Both countries will benefit from the stronger partnerships in culture, education, and creative industries that this centre will bring.”
Keith Davies, the British Council’s Director in Sri Lanka, welcomed the Northern Provincial Council representatives present at the ceremony, saying: “At this time of economic growth, development and reconciliation for Sri Lanka, we think this is the ideal time to expand our operations. It is clear that education is highly valued by the people of Jaffna. The demand for the British Council’s cultural and educational programme to the North and East has been steadily increasing, with strong backing and support from government, civil society and corporate partners. Our new centre will help to meet this demand and provide a stronger cultural and educational programme to even more people at even higher standards.”
Sri Lankan Northern Provincial Council representatives at the launch included the Chief Minister of the Northern Province Hon. Justice C. V. Wigneswaran and the Provincial Minister of Education, Cultural Affairs, and Sports Hon. T. Kurukularajah.
The British Council has been actively delivering a wide range of educational and cultural programmes in the North and East of Sri Lanka in recent years through its offices in Colombo and Kandy. Since 2006, the British Council has trained over 3,500 public servants in the North and East through STEPS (Skills Through English for Public Servants), a project funded by the German Development Corporation and delivered by the British Council. The British Council has also trained over 200 English teachers, working closely with the Ministry of Education and the Jaffna Regional English Support Centre.
Over 30 schools in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa are linked with schools in the UK through the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms programme and the organisation offers a range of UK qualifications through local partners in Jaffna (e.g. IELTS). In September this year, the organisation hosted a virtual exhibition in Jaffna featuring 19 UK universities, providing the opportunity for the people of Jaffna to obtain first-hand information about the UK’s offer in higher education.
In Colombo, the British Council will be re-opening its new building including a state-of-the-art library featuring a collection of the best of British literature.