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A solid foundation built with no tools

What is that thing which those from the affluent families take for granted? What is it that we complained about so much when we were young? A good school. This is the one such thing that those children from the less fortunate families place a high value in. We have all been guilty at times of not recognising how lucky we have been to receive an education with minimal fuss. For many of us our schooling lives comprised of waking up, having breakfast and going off to school. For those from the poorer backgrounds it was far greater battle but one they waged with a greater sense of commitment.

When I travelled to Batticaloa in May 2010 I accompanied my mother when she visited two “ Montessories”. It was during this visit that I realised how much of a hardship children have to endure in the rural regions of Sri Lanka to receive an education. Furthermore, I could see the dedication of these “Montessori” teachers, with little or no funds and no equipment they still strive to teach the children.

The first school we visited overlooked vast empty fields which were sparsely inhabited by palm trees. A dirt road ran up to the entrance of the school which was presented to us by a single board with the school name. Inside the premises surrounded by a chain link fence was a single swing set. The school building was a sorry sight, it was made up of a tin roof with walls that came up to my waist. A single room building with the latter half of the walls made up of iron grills. The view was spectacular and the breeze was a welcome escape from the dry heat. Next to the school building stood another smaller building with cartoon drawings on the side. Closer inspection showed this out to be a store room. The teachers had done the drawings in an attempt to liven up the school yard. One feature of the school which caught my eye was the rain water retention tank. The school had no doubt recognised the necessity for conservation of water, something the schools of Colombo could learn. The children and their parents had all gathered in the school and we were introduced to them. They listened to us intently and not one of the children made any fuss despite having been kept back at school till past 3pm.

The second school we visited was in a contrasting area, in the shade of large trees the abundance of vegetation was apparent. However the school premises were in no better condition than that of the previous school. A barb wired fence surround the school and a dirt playground was inhabited by a single swing. Entering the school it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness, there was little natural light. Along the three walls chairs had been setup in two rows, the front rows inhabited by the children, whilst the back row had their parents. The school was home to 35 kids and each of them had brought a chair from home just for this special occasion. As we were once again introduced to the children I took the opportunity to explore the school. A few paintings done by the children decorated the walls. Apart from that it was devoid of any other colour.

As we left the schools I was drawn back to thinking how lucky we in Colombo are to have received the education we did with such little stress or struggle. We take for granted the very thing these people have placed a greater importance on. Everyday for these children it was a great effort for them to get to school. Everyday in our school lives we complained about having to go to school, about the teachers or about the subjects. The teachers and children alike in these two Batticaloa schools struggle and yearn for the very thing we tried so hard to avoid. With so much at our fingertips we ask for more, for them with so little they ask for even less.

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Categories: Travel
  1. Prashanth
    October 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Thanks for your post. Certainly makes us remember the blessings we have received

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