Have a Seat: Furnishing Education in Sri Lanka
“I am very grateful to ChildFund because now I can be seated while attending class,” says Ravi, age 12.
Pause and consider that for a moment.
Sri Lanka, where Ravi lives, ended its 26-year civil war less than one and a half years ago. The conflict destroyed much of the infrastructure of Ravi's home town, Kilinochchi, including schools. Residents fled to displaced persons' camps in the area.
Once the war ended in May 2009, people began to return to their communities. Despite a severe lack of resources, schools began to reopen.
"We were suffereing without a proper place to keep our schoolbooks and documents, including important documents on children," says the principal of one of Kilinochchi's nine schools. "Teachers took the documents home and brought them to school the next day."
Classes were taught outside, with children sitting on tarps spread on the ground. “The dust and sand and dirt soiled my dress,” says Ravi. “My mother had to wash my dress daily.” There was also the difficulty of trying to write and take notes in that position, not to mention the sheer pain of sitting or kneeling on hard-packed earth for up to six hours a day. Nearly 5,000 children in Kilinochchi’s schools struggled to learn under such conditions.
The appropriate response to these needs is as simple as the needs themselves: ChildFund Sri Lanka provided all nine schools with basic classroom furniture and other materials, including student tables and chairs, teacher tables and chairs, cabinets, filing cabinets, white boards, markers and more. ChildFund Sri Lanka even oversaw the manufacture of the furniture to ensure that it would be of a quality to last a long time.
Of course, Ravi needs more than chairs and tables. But meeting this basic need clears the way for her and other formerly displaced children to do the work of achieving their dreams, free of discomfort and dust.