About 40 kilometers northwest of Trincomalee in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, crumbling villages speak to the impact of 25 years of conflict on the people who live here.
One dusty road leads to Kivulekadawala Vidyalaya, a school with about 225 children in first through tenth grades.
Four years ago, the school had significantly fewer children and only conducted classes up to eighth grade. However, with a shift of fighting and conflict into northern area, the number of families returning to the eastern province increased, as did the number of children needing to enroll in school.
While increased enrollment meant more children would have the chance to gain an education, the Kivulekadawala Vidyalaya school needed upgrades including more space, access to clean water and materials and additional teachers.
Child-friendly school facilities are critical to attracting children to schools and engaging them in their education. Lacking adequate indoor space, teachers opted to conduct two classes under a big tree outside the school.
The Saviya Development Program, supported by ChildFund Sri Lanka, provided roofing sheets, and with community support, constructed a temporary hall to accommodate the two classes.
“Before this temporary building, on rainy days, we had had to cram five classes in one building, which was not at all spacious enough,” says Mr. Ilangarathna, former school principal, now the zonal director of education.
“The children could not properly study due to overcrowding,” he notes
A lack of teachers is another problem many of eastern province schools face. Two years ago, Kivulekadawala Vidyalaya did not have teachers for students enrolled in first through fourth grades, leading to poor attendance.
The Saviya Program employed three volunteer teachers who encouraged children to attend school regularly. Additionally, the Saviya Program conducts higher level English and math classes for students at other area schools, which lack teachers for these subjects.
The Saviya Development Program also provided teachers with a computer to use as a teaching aid. Using pictures and demonstration help the children in understanding the lessons easily,” explains a science teacher.
The school recently received a few additional computers, which will provide children with the opportunity to study information technology.
A lack of clean water was also a problem. The entire school had access to only one water point, which was a slow-functioning tube well. The school’s 20-minute recess was not enough time for all children to obtain a drink of water from the well. As a result, students were late returning to class, or missed the entire next period.
The Saviya Development Program, in partnership with another NGO, constructed a water facility on site at the school, which now provides enough water access points for all children.
“Those days we had only the tube well to drink water. The water was not of good quality because the tube was corroded,” says Nadeesha, a sixth-grade student.
“We had stomachaches frequently,” she recalls. “Sometimes, we had to go without drinking water. However, the problem is no longer there. We have enough quality water now.”
Another sure sign of progress at the school is the sound of music.
Achini, a seventh-grade student, always loved to learn and play music especially the violin. But for a long time, she and her friends did not have instruments to play, which made teaching quite difficult for their music instructor. Once again, ChildFund Sri Lanka, working through the Saviya Program, was able to help. Today, the music class has a set of instruments, and Achini is happily learning with her friends.
“The number of children who want to study the music has increased,” says Udarshani, the school’s music teacher. “They love to learn music. We thank the Saviya Program for helping us.”