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Presentation on caste identity and access to education in Jaffna

Aftab Lall from the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) presented at the University of Jaffna on caste identity and access to education in Jaffna.  The presentation was held on the 15th of February with the participation of students and faculty from the departments of sociology, anthropology and political science of the University of Jaffna.

In his presentation, Aftab argued that caste continues to shape access to schooling in post war Jaffna. His argument problematized the widely held claim in Jaffna amongst bureaucrats, civil society members and religious representatives that discrimination on the basis of caste is no longer prevalent in Jaffna society.

Using two case studies Aftab illustrated how a nexus between caste based livelihoods, living along caste lines, and schooling perpetuate a marginalized identity for two low caste communities. The two case studies included a parayar community living in an urban shanty in Jaffna Town and a pallar and nalavar community in the rural Achchelu division.

The study underlined the fact that this nexus was specific to the two communities that were researched and not applicable to all low caste groups in Jaffna. Nonetheless poverty, landlessness, poor quality of access to services, and a history of violent marginalisation and discrimination are part of the legacy of low caste groups in Jaffna. The fact remains that caste discrimination continues to be a reality for low caste groups in post war Jaffna and continues to shape access to schooling.