October 2023

Improving Public Service Delivery Through Engagement

The course participants of the Advanced Certificate Course, Inclusive Service Delivery for Sustainable Peace, which is funded by Freedom House and facilitated by NPC with Sabaragamuwa University, held a language camp and fact finding mission. The participants comprised government officials, most of whom engage in front line activities with the people. This activity was focused on school children and the estate community living in the Nonperiel Estate, one of the oldest tea plantations in the country. The language camp was held at Vivagananda Tamil School located outside the estate, which has classes only up to Grade 8. The children study under tremendous hardships. Some students walk 12 kilometres up and down daily.

During the activities of the language camp, the government officers who follow the certificate course engaged in dialogue with school children in Tamil, a language that course participants were not conversant in. They got details about the background, difficulties and studies experienced by people of the estate from the viewpoint of the children. The session ended with the handing over of rain coats, exercise books, instrument boxes and school bags to the children as donations by well-wishers and by NPC.

In the afternoon the participants met members of the Malaiyaha (up country Tamil) community living inside the estate to get an idea about the reach of inclusive services and make an assessment of their needs and wants. The research showed that even basic services, such as the free ambulance service, were not accessible to them. The economic crisis of 2021-2022 had impacted negatively on their ability to buy for food. The threefold increase in food prices had not been supported by any increase in their wages and now they had no alternative but to skip meals.

It was regrettable that the estate management has ignored their welfare. The students of the certificate course - the grassroot level government officers who are involved in providing inclusive services - got the full picture of the situation. The course students said they would pay more attention to those underprivileged communities when delivering inclusive services in future. The most important takeaway of this visit was the value of the certificate course in improving delivery of public services to the disempowered. The more government officers following this course means improvement in delivery of inclusive services to the recipients with customised attention to underprivileged communities.