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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sri Lankan children 'missing out' on education

Guardian: 22/12/2005" By Polly Curtis, education correspondent

Sri Lankan children affected by last year's tsunami are still struggling to get a proper education because of a lack of teachers and inappropriate donations from aid agencies, a study from Save the Children found today.
One child told the charity that his school had a new computer gathering dust in the corner of a classroom, but had no running water, while others talked about the school day being halved because so many of their teachers died in the tragedy nearly a year ago.

Save the Children interviewed 230 children from seven schools in the Galle, Hambanthota, Ampara and Jaffna districts of Sri Lanka and found that many schools still lacked teachers, equipment and even basic furniture.

But it did not reveal the experiences of children who have not been able to go to school since last Boxing Day, focusing only on the experiences of those now back in school.

One 14-year-old boy from Jaffna said: "They have given a computer which is now filled with dust, but no toilet and water facilities. Our immediate priority is sometimes forgotten". Another said: "We don't even have a table to keep our books on. And insects destroy our books. This is a big obstacle to our education."

Other children spoke of the problem of not having enough teachers. In one school in Hambanthota, a child said: "We don't have teachers. The school has nine periods. But we learn only for about four or five periods. Before the tsunami, we learnt during all nine periods. But five of our teachers went with the tsunami. Even the principal. We were promised teachers, but we never got them."

Other problems mentioned by the children included the inappropriateness of temporary school buildings, poor sanitation and the lack of canteen facilities, playgrounds and play facilities.

Save the Children's advisor for children in crisis, Susan Nicolai, said: "Education is the first thing children ask for once their immediate humanitarian needs are met. Quality education is critical to children's recovery and long-term development following a disaster. Restoring education should be a top priority."

The charity said aid agencies needed to develop a clearer strategy for delivering education following an emergency.

An annual schools census for Sri Lanka, published in June, revealed that 3,372 children died in the tsunami and a further 6,610 were disabled. Nearly 50,000 were displaced from their homes. Some 126 teachers died and 331 were disabled. More than 180 schools suffered some damage and another 446 were being used as camps for displaced people.

Since the disaster, Save the Children has helped rebuild 21 schools and provided new buildings, materials and bicycles for children to travel further afield to school. It has also set up new childhood development centres to help the youngest children.

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