Sri Lanka

Youth Unemployment at 17 Percent in Sri Lanka

By Danielle Roth, ChildFund Program Officer-Youth Programs

There is one issue on the minds of many Americans these days (myself included). In one word, it’s the economy. Many of us are trying to make it work in this difficult financial climate. Some of us are looking for jobs, others are working two and everyone is hoping for some forthcoming solutions to our financial woes.

Colombo, Sri Lanka skyline

Colombo, Sri Lanka, at sunset.

During my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I learned that those same worries are weighing on youth in the beautiful island nation. Youth account for approximately 26 percent of Sri Lanka’s populace, and those who are old enough, and out of school, are looking for work. The unemployment rate among youth in Sri Lanka is 17 percent. If you’re a woman there, that number goes up 11 points to 28 percent. Youth employment has become a focus area for the government of Sri Lanka, and ChildFund is providing support programs in this area.

There is significant breadth and depth to ChildFund Sri Lanka’s work around youth employment. Career guidance centers are serving as focal points for youth to learn about job opportunities. We’re also facilitating visits to places of employment so that young men and women gain exposure to different work environments.

resource room for youth

ChildFund-supported career guidance centers offer resources for youth.

Vision camps are helping youth develop a plan for their future that integrates their work and personal preferences. Youth are also learning entrepreneurial skills, participating in job placement programs and gaining practical life skills training that will serve them well as productive members of the workforce. Youth clubs are providing young people with hands-on leadership skills as they develop and administer projects that benefit their communities.

youth participate in training

Vision camps give youth an opportunity to identify their goals for the future and the skills they will need to succeed.

ChildFund is working to educate and empower youth in Sri Lanka to make decisions that ultimately will improve their futures, enabling them to contribute positively and productively to their country.

Youth pose for group photo

Danielle meets members of the ChildFund-supported youth club.

As humans sharing the globe, we are all connected in some way. Sri Lankans and Americans are both experiencing feelings of frustration in the job market and tentative excitement about new opportunities. We’re all looking to make a difference for ourselves, our families and society.

Guns Silenced; Farmers Fight to Rebuild Lives

By Sumudu Perera, ChildFund Sri Lanka

Guns have been silenced. Instead of soldiers and guerrillas battling one another, farmers are fighting to rebuild their lives beneath the scorching sun. Land that was once overgrown and strewn with landmines is today lush with golden paddy and green crops. Life has changed for the better in the Poonakari area of Sri Lanka’s northern Kilinochchi district, which bore the brunt of a 30-year war between the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The violence claimed thousands of lives and displaced even more from their homes. During the final stages of the war, hundreds of thousands of people caught up in the conflict were sheltered in camps. They remained there for months after the war ended in May 2009, depending on aid provided by the government, the United Nations and NGOs.

When the resettlement process started and people began moving back to their villages, they faced the dilemma of rebuilding their livelihoods. The fierce battle had severely damaged everything. Agricultural assets and livestock were devastated. The population continued to depend on assistance for the basic necessities of life. Knowing the outside aid would soon end, families were increasingly worried about food security. Most of the children were undernourished due to the inability of their parents to provide enough food.

Farmers in classroom training

Sri Lankan farmers receive training on field crop planning and agricultural practices.

Working with UN agencies and NGOs, the government designed a Joint Plan of Assistance for all humanitarian and resettlement efforts in Sri Lanka’s north. Aligning with this plan, ChildFund started implementing an agriculture rehabilitation project to rebuild livelihoods and ensure food security of returnees to Poonakari and neighboring Kandawalai. The project provided 1,650 small farmers with water pump sets to resume cultivation of irrigated rice paddies, other field crops and small-scale commercial vegetable cultivation.

The most vulnerable households (women-headed, high number of children and children with disabilities) were the first to receive the pumps. Local farmers also received training in crop planning, pest control and water management to effectively farm their land. ChildFund also distributed seeds and trained community mobilizers to frequently visit and connect with the farmers to provide support.

For most of the farmers, waiting on that first crop to mature was worth it—they received a good yield. In addition to providing their children and the whole family with nutritious food, the surplus crop brought a good income to the family.

Today, many families have reduced the dependency on dry rations and reached self-sufficiency through good farming practices. They have increased their income and are better able to meet needs of their families.

With savings from their successful crops, some families have started a second income-generating enterprise such as raising poultry or starting small businesses. They’re also saving the cost of buying seeds to plant next season by employing the technical knowledge received at the training on how to select and store seeds from the harvest.

Because of the increased income and reduced expenses on food items, families have increased spending on their children’s education. They are now able to send their children to schools in towns and to supplementary classes.

Woman with ear of corn

Pushparani checks on her corn crop.

Pushparani is a beneficiary of the program. She lost her husband during the war, and now she and her son live with her parents. “With the support from the project, I was able to start cultivating paddy and vegetable. This was a great thing as I didn’t have a proper source of income. I earned about Rs. 69,000 (US$530) selling the harvest last time. I used it for food, to construct a well, start a small poultry farm and my child’s education. I feel that I have been highly benefited from the project.”

Peace has brought a new purpose to families in northern Sri Lanka.

Empowering Children Through Their Parents

by Alan Elliott, ChildFund Sri Lanka intern

To create better lives for children means to provide not only for the needs of the child, but also for the needs of the parents. Across Sri Lanka, parents often face a difficult choice on how to use their limited income. Should they use it for food, or should they use it to expand their children’s education?

Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, parents understandably choose to put food on the table. Many families can hardly afford to pay for basic school materials. As a result, children miss out on the opportunity to take private classes (tuition classes apart from free public school) or to get the extra help that they need to succeed.

family portrait

Dilshan (center) with his family.

In the Polonnaruwa district, 16 -year-old Dilshan’s family, was finding it harder and harder to pay for Dilshan’s education. As an 11th grader, this is Dilshan’s last year of secondary school. If he passes the Ordinary Level (O/L) exit exam, he will then move on to advanced-level education. Dilshan’s school materials, including supplies, uniforms, private classes and books cost nearly 50,000 rupees per year (roughly US$500). These costs will only get steeper, and, as a seasonal farmer, his father Damarathna was not confident in his ability to support his son. Dilshan was in danger of being deprived of the education he had worked hard for these past several years.

When ChildFund’s local partner, the Polonnaruwa Children’s Program, identified this situation, they consulted with the family about possible solutions. It was decided that ChildFund would support Dilshan’s family by helping them start their own home garden. This is no easy task for them to do on their own—water is quite scarce in this area during the dry season, and an irrigation system needed to be installed.

ChildFund granted Damarathna 25,000 rupees (US$250) to buy irrigation equipment, tools and seeds. “ChildFund also offered me an awareness program for home gardening,” Damarathna says, “where I learned about suitable crops for this climate, safe chemicals and how to make organic fertilizer.” In fact, almost his entire garden is grown naturally, with local materials.

Now that the home garden is fully developed, it gives Dilshan’s family the boost they needed so that they don’t have to choose between food or education for their children. During the off-season, the garden crop is used mostly for personal consumption. But during the rainy season, the garden is plentiful enough to allow the family to sell some of the yield.

As for Dilshan, he’s on his way to higher education. “My dream is to study liberal arts in an advanced -level school,” he says. But, first, he must sit for the O/L. To help him with this, ChildFund recently began offering supplemental classes in Polonnaruwa, some of which are specially targeted at supporting students to pass the O/L exam. ChildFund-trained teachers give students opportunities to review past exams, receive hands-on attention to catch up on weak areas and brush up on the three critical subjects: math, science and English.

Now Dilshan can concentrate on passing his exam, and can be confident that his family can support him wherever his dreams may lead.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A Hopeful Future for Students on Sri Lanka’s Tea Estates

by Sumudu Perera, ChildFund Sri Lanka Communications Officer

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. In Sri Lanka, ChildFund and its local partner T-Field Federation are working to increase educational opportunities for children who live on tea-growing estates in Nuwara Eliya.

Sajeewani is excited. Today she is at school with her father to check her grade five scholarship exam results. Standing beside her father, her eyes follow his finger going down the results sheet. In front of her name is the figure 165 out of 200. A wide smile lights up her face. She has attained her goal of scoring high enough to attend a better school next year.

Sri Lankan studentEnrolled in ChildFund’s programs in Nuwara Eliya district, known for its tea-growing estates, Sajeewani has been taking supplementary classes. An eager student, she made noticeable improvement day by day.

The majority of students who live on Sri Lanka’s tea estates have low academic achievement. In fact, this region has the highest drop-out rate in the country. There are myriad reasons: extreme poverty, parents who are focused on survival, low value placed on education and a common expectation that children work to help support the family.

To better inform the community about the value of education for its children, ChildFund began working with the Parents’ Federation. We recognize that a child’s willingness to learn and a parent’s willingness to support that child often depend on the availability of quality learning opportunities and educational programming.

Cooperating with educational authorities in Nuwara Eliya, ChildFund began to support additional training for teachers. These trainings equip teachers with knowledge and modern methodologies to encourage student participation in the classroom. Instead of using only a traditional teacher-centered approach, teachers are empowered to implement student-centered learning activities.

“The trainings were very useful,” says Sonali, a teacher in Nuwara Eliya. “We understood how important it is to encourage children to participate in classroom activities. Now I practice what I learned in the classroom. The students show a lot of interest in lessons now.”

ChildFund also identified that remedial education was needed to help students who have fallen behind in the regular classroom. Working with its local partner, ChildFund began offering supplementary classes to help students improve their math and language skills, which are compulsory subjects. For average and low-performing students, the supplementary classes give ample time to interact with the teacher and reinforce what they have learned at school.

Special classes for slow learners are another initiative targeting students who perform at a low level in the classroom. A special curriculum was developed working with educational specialists and the educational authority in the area.

“ChildFund’s focus on slow learners is unprecedented in this area,” says Mr. Rajasekaram, Additional Zonal Education director. “Children attending the classes show improvements. The curriculum developed by ChildFund is now being used in other areas.”

Within the Nuwara Eliya district, ChildFund’s educational programs now serve 315 students at 11 locations in the estates. “After ChildFund started their education programs in the estates, we can see children scoring better marks at term tests,” reports Mr. Rajasekaram.

And once children experience success in the classroom, parents become more interested in supporting the child’s ongoing education.

“I got this many marks because I attended supplementary classes. Now I can attend the school in the town. I am very happy”, says Sajeewani.

Meanwhile, ChildFund and the T-Field Federation will continue to work to promote educational opportunities for children in the tea estates for years to come. We are committed to building a hopeful future for the children in the estates.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Sri Lanka and how you can sponsor a child.

One Small Loan Can Make a World of Difference

Reporting by ChildFund Sri Lanka

“After ChildFund gave our family the loan, everyone is much happier,” 9-year-old Ghopika explains.

Sri Lankan family

Ghopika (r) and her family.

Before 2009, her family was in a state of paralysis, both physically and economically. Both parents suffered from polio as children, and have debilitating foot disorders. These disabilities prevent them from securing agricultural or heavy labor jobs, common sources of income in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka.

Ghopika’s father was able to do some fishing with a borrowed boat, but the family was constantly living hand-to‐mouth. This left no spare income to support the three school-aged children in the family.

In Batticaloa, ChildFund has just finished its KOHA project, sponsored by ChildFund New Zealand, which offers low-interest loans to families interested in starting new businesses. Among the criteria required of KOHA loan recipients are that the families are low income and have children who are attending school.

To monitor and evaluate new loans, ChildFund has trained Child Well-Being Committees (CWBCs), staffed by community members, who are now carrying forward the work of KOHA. The overall goal is not only to provide families with a new source of reliable income but also ensure that this income will be used to benefit the education of children in the community.

Additionally, money gained from interest on the loan is partially reused to provide additional community support. Ghopika’s father used his particular loan of 14,000 rupees (US$140) to expand and improve his fishing business. He bought a secondhand canoe and a set of new fishing nets. Now he can bring in about 2 to 3 kilos (5 pounds) of fish per day, earning from 4,000 to 5,000 rupees (US$95) per month.

As for Ghopika, she now has the essentials she needs to succeed at school. Before, her family could not afford school books, materials or transportation to school. She also attends school regularly and is happy to go because she has ambitions of becoming a doctor. “One day it is my dream to heal my parents” she says.

Because Ghopika’s family has completely repaid their first loan, they are eligible to take on a second. With the additional funds, Ghopika’s father plans to invest in a bicycle with an attached carrying box. This will give him access to the markets in Batticaloa town, some 20 kilometers (about 13 miles) away. There, he can fetch much higher prices for his fish than he otherwise could in the local village.

A New Bike for Khopinat Changes Everything

Guest post by Alan Elliott

San Francisco Bay Area native Alan Elliott is taking time out from his master’s degree studies at the University of California San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies to pursue a 10-week internship in ChildFund’s Sri Lanka office. He is regularly blogging about his experiences.

Trincomalee, on Sri Lanka’s northeast coast, is a quixotic mix of crystal clear beaches nestled between villages devastated by Sri Lanka’s 30-year conflict. Now that the war is over, poor infrastructure is the new enemy, making the distance to school and a lack of transportation major obstacles to education in the area.

Khopinat, 16, from the Kuchchaveli area of Trincomalee, is a bright and optimistic young man. Better yet, he has never been absent for school. He is in 11th grade, which means this year he takes the ordinary level (O/L) examination, the exit requirement for secondary school and the gateway to higher education.

While many students dread this challenge, Khopinat isn’t worried at all. “With the support I’ve received from ChildFund, I have access to everything I need to do well on the exam,” he tells me.

Not long ago, Khopinat was in a tough situation. His school is more than 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles) from his home. Although public buses are available, they arrive infrequently and are unreliable. As a result, Khopinat was more often late to class than not. Out of 20 school days per month, he was usually late 15.

“Every class is only about 40 minutes long, so if I’m an hour late I’ve already missed almost two of my subjects,” he explains. Khopinat was in danger of becoming a dropout, a common occurrence in Trincomalee. Here, distances from school and a lack of transportation often prevent children from accessing what few educational opportunities are available.

Teen with bicycle

Khopinat with his new bike provided by ChildFund.

Khopinat was one of several children ChildFund identified as in need of transportation assistance. In July, he received a brand new bicycle. Since then, he hasn’t been late to school a single day. “I can even take my little brother with me on my bike and make sure he gets to school on time, too,” Khopinat says.

Now that transportation is no longer a problem, he has begun taking additional classes to get ready for the O/L exam. He is attending private school classes in three critical subjects: math, science and English. These classes give him access to good teachers and additional resources.

Once he goes on to advanced level schooling, he plans to follow the bioscience track. After that, it is his wish to become a doctor. For Khopinat, this dream is not impossible —on his final exam for 10th grade, he scored 98 out of a possible 100 points on the math portion.

It is ChildFund’s goal to make sure that children like Khopinat receive the help they need to realize their full potential.

A Brand New Garden and a Brand New Heart

Guest post by Alan Elliott

San Francisco Bay Area native Alan Elliott is taking time out from his master’s degree studies at the University of California San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies to pursue a 10-week internship in ChildFund’s Sri Lanka office. He is regularly blogging about his experiences.

Batticaloa, on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, was my first visit to an area damaged by the 30-year Sri Lankan conflict that ended in 2009. Aside from the destruction of war, Batti has a chronic water shortage. In this desolate area, many mothers are without adequate income or food for their families. When new children are born, they often become malnourished.

In 2010, Mrs. M. Pumarandai and Mr. S. Murukaya welcomed baby Nivethika into the world. But they soon discovered a serious problem. Nivethika was constantly crying, and even fainted at times. “I was very frightened,” Pumarandai explains, “I was unsure of what I should do.”

So they contacted ChildFund’s local Child Well-Being Committee (CWBC). There, community volunteers advised that the family visit the clinic, where it was soon discovered that little Nivethika had a heart problem. The nerves surrounding her heart were twisted and the only choice was to operate. However, Pumarandai and Murukaya did not have nearly enough income to pay for the operation or send Nivethika across the country to Colombo, where the procedure would be done.

mother with child

Mrs. Pumarandai and baby Nivethika in the family garden.

In Batticaloa, ChildFund has just finished its KOHA project, sponsored by ChildFund New Zealand, which offers low-interest loans to families interested in starting new businesses. ChildFund has also trained the CWBCs to monitor and evaluate loans and to carry on the work of KOHA. The overall goal is to not only provide families with a new source of reliable income but also to use this income to support the education of community children. Part of the income gained from interest on the loans is used to provide additional community support services.

Especially important for Pumarandai and family were the community funds gained from the service charges on these loans. In March 2010, the CWBC provided 5,000 rupees (US$50) to pay for the operation and the cost of transporting the baby to Colombo. Now, 18-month-old Nivethika is perfectly healthy and safely back home. She no longer has heart problems and soon will be having the residual lump on her chest removed.

Pumarandai and her husband even applied for a KOHA loan themselves. The first loan, received in 2010, provided them with 20,000 rupees (US$200) to begin a home garden. The lack of water in the area made such a project quite expensive, as it was necessary to install irrigation equipment. “But now our home garden is beautiful, providing plentiful and nutritious food for our family,” Pumarandai says.
The family now has extra food to sell in local markets, earning enough income to provide their other two, school-aged children with study materials and also ensure that Nivethika receives all the check-ups and treatments she needs.

As of 2011, they have repaid their first loan and are applying for a second, 30,000 rupee loan to expand their home garden business.

A Brand New Start for Clarendon’s Young Learners

Guest post by Alan Elliott

San Francisco Bay Area native Alan Elliott is taking time out from his master’s degree studies at the University of California San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies to pursue a 10-week internship in ChildFund’s Sri Lanka office. He is regularly blogging about his experiences.

The foggy countryside of Nuwara Eliya is unlike anything I’ve visited in the world. Experiencing this area is akin to traveling Tolkien’s shire — winding roads through beautiful tea plantations (home to the world-famous Ceylon variety), dotted with waterfalls, streams and cloudy peaks.

Old building used for school

The old child care center in Clarendon.

But amidst the serene beauty, not all is picture perfect. Access to education and basic resources can be meager. That became clear to me when I saw the old day care center in Clarendon — dusty and dilapidated with no room for children to grow or play.

In 2009, the Clarendon Lower Division Crèche, like many other day care centers and educational facilities in the remote areas of Sri Lanka, was no place for a child to learn. As is common in the high hill country of Nuwara Eliya, there was no access to clean water and no sanitation facilities. It was no safe haven for children, either. On one side of the center was a road frequently traveled by industrial vehicles and motor bikes, presenting a constant danger to children at play. On the other side was a poor neighborhood, exposing children to the sights, sounds and emotions of extreme poverty and desperation that a crèche should allow children to escape.

Wasanta, mother of 4-year-old Sumitra, explains the hopeless situation in Clarendon at the time. “We didn’t like the old building,” she says, “but we had no choice, there was no other place to go.”

The Clarendon estate is particularly isolated. It takes almost an hour by bicycle, mostly uphill on a slippery and unpaved road, to reach the next nearest estate.

In 2010, ChildFund and its partner, T Field Federation, provided building materials for the new Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) center in Clarendon, with the goal of providing a secure learning environment easily accessible to local families. The local estate management group agreed to build the center.

Children stand in front of new child care center

The new ECCD Center.

It’s situated along a sunny hillside, with colorful flowers and paintings lining its walls. At last, the children have an ideal place for learning. “The new building is not only beautiful,” explains Pakyawathi, head crèche attendant, “but it also has all the proper sanitation facilities and is far away from the roads and separated from the community.”

Since ChildFund helped open the new center, attendance at the crèche has increased from 25 to 40 children, all age 5 and younger.

The new ECCD center stands in stark contrast to the old one. In this airy facility, the vistas of Nuwara Eliya complement the bright minds of the children, who now have a safe and secure place to learn.

children in classroom

Children now have a school they love.

ChildFund also upgraded the learning and art materials for the center. Now children have the tools and resources they need for creative and emotional development. “Sumitra loves the new materials,” her mother notes, “and she has become very fond of singing, playing and giving speeches.”

The world suddenly looks brighter for these children.

Regaining Unity after Disaster: Sanath’s Story

Guest post by Alan Elliott

San Francisco Bay Area native Alan Elliott is taking time out from his master’s degree studies at the University of California San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies to pursue a 10-week internship in ChildFund’s Sri Lanka office. He is regularly blogging about his experiences.

I’ve just returned from Tangalle, my first visit to a zone affected by the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. I interviewed children and youth who were so traumatically affected by this disaster that they still struggle seven years later. One youth I met, Sanath, inspired me on a personal level. Not only did he give himself a new lease on life, but he also has become a leader in his community. He is proof that progress by the individual and by the community provides a recipe for sustainable development and positive change.

photo of Sanath

Sanath

“Before 2004, the community was normal, united,” 25-year-old Sanath explains, “but after the tsunami hit, everything fell apart and many youths became addicted to very ugly things.”

Sanath’s rural community was devastated by the tsunami that swept Sri Lanka’s eastern and southern coasts. Although ChildFund was quickly on the scene to provide emergency relief in the form of nutritional foods, infrastructure support and child protection, physical aid alone is but one component of disaster recovery.

After the tsunami, ChildFund identified drug and alcohol addiction as a big problem in Tangalle, especially in Kudawella. Many youth felt lost, with no skills, no goals and a lack of involvement in a community broken by disaster. Sanath was one who developed a paralyzing addiction to alcohol.

Children and youth needed more support so they could rediscover a sense of community and develop practical skills for employment. Working with the local parent federation Ruhunu Wellassa, ChildFund started children’s and youth clubs. At those club meetings, children ages 5-14 and youth from 15-24 come together to socialize, learn and develop job and leadership skills. Through these clubs, ChildFund prepares young people to become the primary agents of change in their communities.

At first, Sanath, who was 19 at the time, was “afraid to join” the Youth Club in Kudawella. He was unsure of what the club intended to do, and he lacked the self-confidence to participate. But in 2005 he overcame his fear and began rebuilding his own life. Leadership training, which offers confidence-building and teamwork exercises, helped Sanath become an effective organizer among his peers. He made such progress that he won election as chairman of the Youth Club in 2008-2009.

Additional career guidance and personal development programs also helped Sanath identify a career that was well-suited for him. He even received support in learning to drive and obtaining a driver’s license.

Sanath works with Youth Club participants

Sanath guides the local Youth Club during leadership training.

“The Youth Club helped me to discover my talents and what options were available to me” Sanath says. For the past two and a half years, he has been working for an insurance company, earning a good salary, and nurturing ambitions to become a manager.

Most important for Sanath is his personal recovery and the positive steps he and other youth are taking to help the community. “After joining the Youth Club, I have become freer of mind, and my community has regained the unity that it had before the tsunami.”

ChildFund Focuses on Local Solutions for Children

Guest post by Alan Elliott

Photo of blogger Alan ElliottSan Francisco Bay Area native Alan Elliott is taking time out from his master’s degree studies at the University of California San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies to pursue a 10-week internship in ChildFund’s Sri Lanka office. He will be regularly blogging about his experiences.

What initially drew me to ChildFund was the premium that the organization places on local solutions (i.e., through the creation of parent federations), as well as long-term commitments. My day-to-day tasks consist of learning about the specific faces and root causes of poverty in each area. Then, in consultation with the local parent federations, which are partnered with ChildFund Sri Lanka, I identify the cases that best show ChildFund’s successes. My overall goal is to not only shed light on the fantastic work that ChildFund is doing but also to piece together a coherent picture of what challenges children and their families face, both locally and in Sri Lanka as a whole.

On my first field visit, to Postholamulla School, I was shocked at the amazing contrast between conditions before ChildFund arrived and the situation afterward.

In Sri Lanka, computer and information technology skills are in dire need of improvement. The Ordinary Level exam, taken in grade 11 of secondary school as a graduation requirement, is a critical milestone for Sri Lankan children, as passing the exam is a gateway to advanced- and university-level education and often determines the direction of future careers. But island-wide, only about 50 percent of Sri Lanka’s secondary school students who elect to take the exam actually pass it. Two key factors that contribute to this problem are the lack of resources for learning and a low quality of education in poorer areas. Two years ago, the students at the Pustholamula School in Kirinda, Hambantota, were no exception.

According to the IT teacher, Mr. Rohana, the IT lab had only 10 computers and could only offer 40 minutes of class time per week. Not having enough time to learn as well as having to share computers created a situation that made acquiring strong IT skills nearly impossible.

Especially in Hambantota area, ChildFund and the local parent federation, Ruhunu Wellassa (RWAF), have identified dropping out of secondary school or not passing the exam as a root cause of poverty. Not only does it prevent bright and enthusiastic children from pursuing more education, but it also has a devastating effect on their job opportunities. Access to quality educators is also a problem here, where the best teachers are unwilling to accept lower pay or work in locations with fewer resources.

photo of students in computer class

Today: An IT class at Pustholamulla School.

To combat this growing problem, ChildFund and RWAF began offering supplementary evening IT classes at Pustholamulla, increasing total available class time to more than four hours per week. To increase the quality of education, ChildFund conducted training for the IT teachers at schools in the area, as well as management training for the principal.

“At the College of Education, we don’t receive comprehensive training regarding computer hardware,” says Mr. Rohana, “so ChildFund’s training programs have given us a deeper knowledge of IT.”

ChildFund also provided a stipend for teachers to ease the burden of transportation to and from school. On top of this, ChildFund provided assistance with spare parts, electricity bills and maintenance costs to ensure that the students had access to reliable and fully functioning equipment.

Photo of IT student

Successful student Ruvini

Last year, three students chose to take IT as one of their elective exams. All three passed—a 100 percent pass rate. Says one student, “The supplementary IT courses offered by ChildFund and RWAF gave us sufficient time to study IT and the necessary edge to pass the exam.” Now all three are attending advanced-level school and excelling in their subjects.

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