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Getting a Second Chance for an Education

 

 Image of Anne Goddard listening to Jayanthimala speak about the importance of education
Jayanthimala talked with CCF President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard about why she dropped out of school and why she first enrolled in a program to help students like her return to the formal education system.

Nimala Nandami needed to get her point across.

 

A survey in her once-tsunami-ravaged community in the southern province of Sri Lanka revealed that many children had dropped out of school and never returned.

“The government wouldn’t listen, so we showed them the survey,” said Nandami, 31, the petite mother of four and the chair of the community’s Child Well-Being Committee.

A program for children who dropped out of school was needed to help integrate them back into their formal schools.  With support from the government, CCF assisted in making this program a reality. “I believe this program will be a blessing for our society as well as the children,” Nandami said.

It certainly impressed CCF President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard who visited the drop-out program in Hambantota in late February during her visit to Sri Lanka.

This program includes 30 children – between the ages of 7 and 16 – who had previously dropped out of school, mostly because they were being bullied. The program is helping these children integrate back into the school they previously left.  All the children are enrolled in CCF’s programs and many are sponsored.

“Kids laugh at me because I don’t have a leg,” said 13-year-old Prasad, who lost his right leg after he was hit by a van at age 5. “After the tsunami, I just stopped going to school and stayed at home. Now, I think it will be better when I go to school because my friends will be going too.”

When asked by Goddard why they needed to attend school, the children were quick to answer — so we can read the maps on the bus and figure out where we are going; and to become good citizens.

They all expressed their aspirations for the future – dreams which only an education can fulfill. The children want to be nurses, teachers, police officers, lawyers and one even wanted to be a professional cricket player. 

Yet the children have to keep up with the program and keep up with their education. To help remedy that, M.K. Shautha, the principal of the formal school the children previously attended, works closely with the drop-out program. He said if these kids drop out again, they will likely never return to school. Shautha plans to create extra progress reports for these students, focusing not only on school skills, but social ones as well.

“We’re not naïve enough to know this won’t be a challenge,” Shautha said. “These kids will be behind. But we will work with the teachers and the students.”

Goddard visited the home of 15-year-old Jayanthimala, who dropped out of school because of family problems stemming from the tsunami. Jayanthimala is the oldest of five children -- her two brothers had previously dropped out and were in the class with her.  Her mother is preparing to travel to Saudi Arabia to work, and her aunts and deaf grandmother will become their guardians while she is away.

Jayanthimala aspires to stay in school and get an education to become a police officer. Although her family is happy she is back in school, the teachers told us that many parents and caregivers are upset their children are attending as they would prefer to have them work around the house and engage in employment.

“The parents need to support our program for this to work,” Shautha added.