Legislator urges voting rights for Sri Lankans back home

Sunil Handunnetti
Updated 23 January 2017
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Legislator urges voting rights for Sri Lankans back home

RIYADH: Visiting Sri Lankan legislator Sunil Handunnetti told Arab News that the country’s expatriates should be given voting rights, and that their community schools should be affiliated to the Education Ministry in Colombo.
Handunnetti, chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) in Parliament, was on a brief visit to Riyadh to tell his countrymen about his brainchild, the Organization for Overseas Sri Lankans (OOSL).
Handunnetti, who was given a red-carpet welcome by his countrymen, met Sri Lankan expatriates in the capital and explored ways of assisting them back home.
He told Arab News that he was happy that Sri Lankan workers are happily placed in the Kingdom, but that their interests in their homeland had to be looked after.
“Irrespective of the period of stay in the Kingdom, Sri Lankans are natural citizens of the island and they should have their civic rights back home. They should be given voting rights to elect their own representatives to Parliament,” he said, adding that his organization would do its best in this regard.
He said returnees from the Kingdom should be given full assistance to earn a living back home, including a duty-free allowance to import machinery to continue their businesses. “They should be given a monthly pension to keep the home fires burning,” he added.
Handunnetti said he had visited some 20 countries and has set up the OOSL in 26 countries. “They have nothing to do with the local set up, and will only work for their countrymen’s welfare back home,” he added.
He said he would make representations to concerned authorities to make overseas Sri Lankan community schools affiliated to the Education Ministry in Colombo, so teachers and students will be treated as if they are in Sri Lankan government schools.
He lamented that Sri Lankan expatriates are treated as foreigners when they want to admit their children to Sri Lankan universities, and that they have to pay exorbitant fees.
He thanked Saudi authorities for hosting his countrymen and thereby helping their homes and motherland.


Grandma Stories: Saudi storyteller teaches values and critical thinking by letting children speak up

Updated 22 April 2018
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Grandma Stories: Saudi storyteller teaches values and critical thinking by letting children speak up

DHAHRAN: You can see children forming a gigantic circle and listening carefully when story time starts. Ghadeer Yamani, the founder of Grandma Stories, found her passion for spreading the love of reading among children and delivering values through her storytelling sessions.
The Grandma Stories initiative started six years ago when Yamani returned home after spending years abroad owing to her husband’s work. Yamani has read stories in both Arabic and English for more than 6,000 children of 15 nationalities all over the Kingdom and the Gulf region, including the UAE and Bahrain.
“The idea of Grandma Stories was not an epiphany; it came to me after I saw how reading was a huge part of children’s life abroad. I used to see children reading in libraries, in bus stops, in hospitals — everywhere. I wanted to help spread reading culture in my society.
“I wanted children back home to love reading! And with the support of my husband and family, I think I was able to do this,” Yamani told Arab News.
With the prevalence of national reading competitions, school contests and reading clubs, awareness among families and society members is growing. “The interaction and excitement of families and children are amazing when it comes to story time,” said Yamani.
About the title of her initiative, she said: “When I was a child I used to visit my father’s grandmother in Madinah who had a phenomenal way of telling stories and riddles. I still remember how the entire family would get around her as she started telling her tales, and in an atmosphere filled with love and contentment.
“No one ever wanted her stories to finish and nothing could ever distract us while listening to her. That is exactly how I want children to feel in Grandma Stories story time.”
Storytelling is not only a fun way to ignite imaginations; it also improves children’s verbal and critical thinking abilities. Yamani allows children to criticize the stories by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each one. The advancement in such skills is what inspires Yamani and keeps her going.
“The fondest moments throughout my years in storytelling have been when mothers come and tell me how their children used to be shy and reluctant but have started to become fluent and can express themselves well, and that Grandma Stories is the reason for this great progress.”