Dear Students,

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We are sorry. The rest of us cannot begin to imagine the stress and anxiety you are going through due to all that is happening in our country. Examinations are stressful enough as it is; add to that the weight of a pandemic, online learning, extreme economic downfall, power cuts, paper shortage, lack of food and other essentials, in addition to navigating life in general – the adversity you are faced with is one we are truly sorry you have to endure, especially because it’s out of no fault of your own. Nevertheless, we laud you for your resilience even if that looks like just having mere hope for your future. 

It is unacceptable and incredibly disgraceful that at a time we are supposed to be acting smarter and should have advanced by leaps and bounds in every which aspect an economy should, we feel like we are stepping into our history books dating several years back – anecdotes we only heard generations before us ponder on at story time, as a distant memory. 

It’s hard to digest the fact that some of you are forced to study in endless fuel queues that run from rainy mornings to the scorching afternoon sun. Instead of a peaceful room with a floor of scattered textbooks to refer to, you are taking down important notes on the back of a motorbike or car. Worse, sometimes you have no choice but help push the vehicle you are travelling in when it stalls before you’ve reached the pump.

You can’t sleep, eat or study yet you are supposed to do all of that in order to get good grades. What makes it even more painful, we’re sure, is that you see how much your parents are doing to make ends meet, and if they are unable to do so, you see them distraught, beating themselves up for not being able to do more for you. These are conditions they never imagined for you, and you, them. 

Not just that, some of you had to write exams despite flood water filling classrooms; which if you think about, should not still be the case at all. We as a country should have made progress to have better systems and facilities in place to avoid such circumstances that are guaranteed to occur, as we are after all an island nation. But of course we haven’t made such strides, rather we’ve taken steps backwards more than we ever took forward, invested in more grand white elephant projects than those that would have allowed you to have a decent classroom to write an exam in without water reaching  knee-level. Successive governments have prioritised anything and everything over you while State leaders still continue to make decisions that endanger you, our future. But they also have the audacity to tell you to be patriotic and serve the country that gave you an education without fleeing for better ground when you can. Tell me that doesn’t sound like Stockholm Syndrome.

It is unsettling how they will never understand the importance of safeguarding you.

Yes, most of us are to blame, for allowing these people to walk all over us, the public, because we didn’t come forward in numbers to challenge them, as we have now perhaps because there was much at stake for anyone who did it on their own. I know all of you are despondent and don’t believe that we can turn the tide so you can ride the crest of this renewed enthusiasm, and to be honest we too can’t assure you with great certainty that tomorrow or the day after will be the day your bad days end – but one thing is for sure, those who walk in through the door, next, to take these seats of those we make our policy makers, will be chosen wisely by all of us, you included.

There is no understating the times, conditions and hardships you are experiencing. We wish all of you had access to mental health professionals to help yourselves, but the reality is that not everyone has the opportunity. And even if you have, you may not have the fuel or power to tune into a session. So for those of you who have the means to get psychological assistance to get through this extremely crucial time and mounting pressure, please do.  

Here are some helpful organisations:

CCCline – 1333

National Institute of Mental Health  – 1926

Helping Hands – 077 960 5617

Sincerely,
the rest of us

By Dilshani Palugaswewa,