The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. The organisation’s purpose is to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.
Operating in over 100 countries, the British Council has been present in Sri Lanka for over 60 years with offices in Colombo and Kandy. Last week, the British Council’s global CEO, Martin Davidson, visited Sri Lanka to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. During his visit, he travelled to the North of the country to officially launch the brand new cultural centre in Jaffna which will be opened to the public on completion of building works, early next year.
The launch of the new Jaffna office demonstrates the organisation’s support to develop ties between the UK and Sri Lanka by connecting with people in key regions around the country. The event was attended by Sri Lankan Northern Provincial Council representatives including 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.
Speaking at the Jaffna office launch, Martin Davidson 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.”
Prior to the launch, Mr. Davidson delivered a lecture at the Jaffna Public Library on Education and Cultural Relations in the 21st century. He said, “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 our centre in Jaffna will bring.”
On Saturday, the British Council had a “royally” grand event in Colombo to officially launch its brand new building at its Alfred House Gardens premises. The event was graced by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and government officials including Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK H.E. Chris Nonis, Minister of Education Hon. Bandula Goonewardena, and Minister Mohan Lal Grero.
Keith Davies, the British Council’s Director in Sri Lanka, spoke at the launch in Colombo. He said, “Sri Lanka is an important country to the UK – never more so than at this time – as she hosts our Commonwealth partners for the important CHOGM summit. However, we would not be expanding our work and our programmes in Sri Lanka if there wasn’t evidence of increased demand and interest from Sri Lankans. This is indisputable – together with strong backing and support from government, civil society and corporate partners.”
Addressing His Royal Highness at the event, Mr. Davies said, “We have been triply honoured, as a quick tour of our premises will show. Foundation stones testify to the attendance of Her Majesty the Queen who opened our main building on 22 October 1981 and Your Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, who officiated on this site once before, to lay the foundation stone of the main English language teaching block on 2 February 1998. I doubt that there is a British Council office in our entire network, spanning well over 100 countries, that has been so comprehensively honoured – and we are extremely grateful.”
The new building in Colombo which will be opened to the public later this year, incorporates a state-of-the-art library with access to more than 80,000 on-line books and 14,000 e-journals in addition to the physical collection featuring the Best of British Literature, a brand new integrated Customer Services section providing customers easier access to the British Council’s range of educational and cultural services and a flexible and adaptable multi-purpose space.
The British Council organised a range of other activities in light of the CHOGM summit including a youth volunteerism event “Commonwealth Youth Unite” which promoted the Commonwealth values among thousands of youth in Sri Lanka and other Commonwealth countries, and the launch of “Commonwealth Class” – a digital platform to encourage discussions on the Commonwealth Games between school children in Sri Lanka and students in Commonwealth countries.