AIT Mission to SRI LANKA

From left: Mr. Sanjeev Jayasinghe, Prof. Gajendra Singh and Mr. K. Mahalingam

"Ayubowan!" was the first warm welcome for the AIT delegation on arrival in Sri Lanka. The mission visit took place 17 – 24 May, 2004, and comprised of two phases, the first phase led by Prof. Gajendra Singh, Dean of AIT Extension, and accompanied by Mr. Sanjeev Jayasinghe, Director of Promotion Activities. The second phase of the mission was led by Mr. Sanjeev Jayasinghe and included Mrs. Ann Lopez-Fontanilla, School Outreach Officer of the School of Civil Engineering and Ms. M. A. Nadeera Rangika, Program Associate in the Office of the President.

The first leg of the visit by Prof. Gajendra Singh and Mr. Sanjeev Jayasinghe was to the North East provinces of Sri Lanka, where they met with Mr. S. Rangarajah, the Chief Secretary, Mr. K. Mahalingam, the Additional Secretary to Ministry of Construction and Rehabilitation and Deputy Secretary Finance and Mr. T. Lankaneson, the Director of the N/E Community Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Project. During discussions, it was noted that the Ministry would be requiring non-degree professional training as offered by AIT Extension for the training of its officials in the fields of GIS, ICT, Rural Development and Financial/Planning Management.

From left : Mr. Sanjeev Jayasinghe; Prof. Gajendra Singh; Mr. Selvanathan; Mr. J. Krishnananthan, Deputy Secretary/Director for Management Development and Training Department; Mrs. K. Sevasithamparam, Secretary, Provincial Ministry of Public Administration, Local Government and Rural Development.

During the next visit, to the Ministry of Education, Mr. Anura Dissanayake, the Project Director of the Secondary Education Modernization Project (SEMP) appraised the successful completion of the first batch of the Professional Development Program for Provincial Level Trainers of Teachers Teaching Science and Technology Using English Medium, which concluded on 15 May, 2004. The second batch – this time around comprising mathematics teacher trainers – started their program on 24 May, 2004. Mr. Dissanayake and Mr. Nihal Herath, Technical Advisor for SEMP came to AIT in early june on a familiarization visit to observe the learning and living environment of the trainees, and to find out more about AIT ’s work in Thailand and in Vietnam.

The AIT delegation’s visit to the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) included a courtesy call to its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Uma Commaraswamy, as well as to the Director of the Distance Education Modernization Project (DEMP), Mr. N. Shantha Abeyawardena. This ADB project will fund 6 non-resident PhD students for the August 2004 Semester in AIT. Of these, three students have been offered admission in the School of Management, two in the School of Environment Resources and Development and one in the School of Civil Engineering.

As a goodwill gesture and to access the ground situation in AIT, Prof. Coomaraswamy paid a courtesy call on the President on Friday, 28 May 2004, and also met with representatives from the three schools (see the AIT Bulletin of 31 May, 2004 for further details). A delegation of 18 senior administrators from OUSL will also visit AIT on 23 July this year.

From left: Dr. Ranjith Premalal De Silva, Senior Lecturer; Prof. Raphel O. Thattil; Dr. Buddhi Marambe; Mrs. Ann Lopez-Fontanilla; Mr. Sanjeev Jayasinghe; Ms. Nadeera Rangika; Prof. Kapila Goonasekere; Prof. M. A. K. Lakshman Dissanayake; Dr. Jagath Gunatilake, Senior Lecturer.

During the second leg of the mission at the University of Moratuwa on Friday, 21 May 2004, the AIT delegation met with the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Dayantha S. Wijeyesekera as well as Prof. Sohan Wijesekera, the Chairman of the International Center for Geoinformatics Applications and Training (ICGAT), Dr. Ajith Madurapperuma, Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology and Dr. K. D. Fernando, Head of the Department of Town/Country Planning.

Under a recently lapsed MoU with AIT, the University of Moratuwa had enrolled two masters and four doctoral students at AIT with ADB funding. The university has contributed immensely to the development of human resources in Sri Lanka by educating engineers of high caliber. To contribute to its efforts, AIT will soon sign a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to succeed a previous lapsed MoU, with the aim of faculty upgrading, staff development, academic exchanges and split doctoral programmers. AIT will offer 24-credit masters degree fellowships to a maximum of five students, with the balance (24 credits and accommodation and living expenses) financed by the University of Moratuwa. The new MoU is expected to open avenues for bilateral collaborations and corporations with interested donor agencies. The university also indicated interest in tailor-made short-term training with a focus on Information Technology and Engineering, and highlighted the need for training on Spatial Information Systems. The first batch of five students under this MoU is expected to be enrolled in the August 2005 intake.

The same day, the delegation made a courtesy call at the University Grants Commission (UGC), where they met its Vice Chairman, Prof. L. L. Ratnayake. Prof. Ratnayake has in recent years maintained successful cooperation with AIT , and has been a key person promoting human resources development within the academic sector of Sri Lanka. He recently made a courtesy call to AIT on 26 April 2004.

At the Office of the Improving Relevance and Quality of Undergraduate Education Project (IRQUE), a USD 50 million, six-year World Bank project, the delegation met with the Project Coordinator, Dr. V. K. J. Thalpawila and Dr. Lal Tennakoon. The project aims to strengthen the institutional capacity of 12 universities in Sri Lanka by improving the relevance and quality of undergraduate education.

All smiles at the AIT alumni hosted dinner held at the Vice Chancellor’s Lodge in the University of Peradeniya

Early on 24 May 2004, at the picturesque University of Peradeniya near Kandy, the AIT delegation met with the university’s senior administrators, including the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kapila Goonasekere, as well as Prof. M. A. K. Lakshman Dissanayake, the Director of the Post Graduate Institute of Science (PGIS), Prof. Raphel O. Thattil, the Director of the Post Graduate Institute of Agriculture (PGIA), Dr. Buddhi Marambe, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Dr. S. D. Pathirana, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Senior Lecturers, Dr. Ranjith Premalal De Silva and Dr. Jagath Gunatilake.

A new MoU will be signed with the University of Peradeniya. The MoU will be similar to that with the University of Moratuwa. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya is expected to visit AIT during the signing ceremony.

Finally, the AIT delegation had the honor of getting together with AIT alumni at the University of Peradeniya for dinner on the night of departure. Interestingly, a majority of faculty at the Department of Civil Engineering are AIT alumni. Currently, AIT has graduated 719 masters and doctoral graduates from Sri Lanka; Sri Lanka also has had the third largest number of participants – 1018 – on professional non-degree short-term training. Current student enrolment is 35, a number expected to rise steadily with the various collaborations between AIT and leading universities in Sri Lanka.

With the mission successfully completed, resulting not only in strengthening old relationships but also in opening up new avenues for collaboration, the delegation returned to Thailand with memories of long journeys on winding roads and spectacular sceneries on the morning of 25 May 2004.