schools in political cross currents
By Faraza Farook andNilika Kasturisinghe
Undercurrents of party politics arising out of the co-habitation
crisis appear to be blocking a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation
programme to salvage hundreds of schools which were virtually drowned
in the recent floods. With nearly half of the student population
in the Ratnapura district displaced and similar reports from other
flood and landslide affected areas, thousands of children and schools
School books have been destroyed, desks, chairs and buildings in
some of the schools have been either totally or partially damaged
and some of the children still languish in makeshift camps.
As the government
has begun its battle to reconstruct damaged buildings, provide relief
assistance to the school children, provide land for the displaced,
one of the issues the authorities have been facing has been conflicting
estimates by the provincial educational authorities and the Ministry
of Education on the extent of damage to schools. While the Ministry
of Education is under the UNP run central government some of the
provincial education ministries come under the PA controlled Provincial
of Education is challenging the estimates provided by the Provincial
Education Departments on the damage to schools. Sri Sumana Saman
Vidyalaya in Ratnapura for instance, has estimated Rs.1 million
for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the buildings. However,
this estimate is being challenged on the grounds that much damage
could not have been caused to the building, which had only 1 ½
feet of water.
officials argue that not more than the foundations could have been
submerged and therefore the damage could be rectified with about
"The Education Ministry officials should be encouraging us
and assisting us to restore the education in the flood ravaged schools,
rather than arguing over details," Sabaragamuwa Province Education
Director M.P.T Navaratne told The Sunday Times.
that some people were trying to become floody heroes overnight rather
than getting down to the practicalities of the situation. While
the Central and Provincial authorities controlled by different political
parties are clashing over the extent of damage and who does what,
relief is pouring in.
Government has offered to rebuild 40 schools that have been completely
damaged. Some 8000 students from schools in Ratnapura, Galle, Matara
and Hambantota districts are likely to benefit from this. The aid
of US $ 250,000 will be used to restore water and sanitation facilities
and to buy equipment such as furniture, blackboards, chalk and learning
material for classrooms, school kits and material for school uniforms.
Both the Government
and the UN childrens' fund UNICEF are looking at providing school
children with tailored uniforms instead of material. Minister Karu
Jayasuriya who heads the Sub Committee on Disaster Management said
the government was looking at utilizing the services of Sathosa
and Salu Sala to provide tailored uniforms.
The Sampath Bank is to rebuild three schools while the Bank of Ceylon
has undertaken the rehabilitation of ten schools in the Ratnapura
meeting was held on Wednesday at Isurupaya to brief the Principals
of national schools regarding the immediate needs of the students
in flood ravaged parts of the country. Schools other than those
completely destroyed in the floods are open but the children are
not yet returning to school due to unhygienic conditions, lack of
clothing, school material and psychosocial trauma of losing family
said that the services of NGOs such as 'Sahanaya' would be obtained
to help those psychologically affected due to the trauma of the
worst ever floods in more than 50 years. A circular has been issued
by the Ministry of Education informing the children they can attend
school in coloured clothes.
examination which was disrupted by the flood havoc will be completed
with the final paper being held today. A total of 1356 students
from Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Matara, and Ratnapura districts
were expected to sit the last paper today with the largest number
of 460 coming from Kalutara. Students who could not complete the
exam this year due to the floods would have to sit for the exam
next year. The Grade 5 scholarship exam scheduled for August has
been postponed to December.
have been postponed, the students are worried that they will be
losing a lot of time. When the education ministry officials visited
the flood affected areas, anxious parents had expressed fears that
their children's studies would be disrupted due to lack of books
and a proper environment to prepare for an examination.
textbooks printed each year were sent to the schools in the flood
affected areas on Wednesday. Initially school books were provided
to the worst affected educational zones Nivithigala, Hakmana and
Walasmulla. Schools have also been asked to return extra books to
make up for any shortages. On Friday, books were dispatched to the
other affected schools in the Southern Province, Ministry sources
have suffered damage to technical equipment including audio visuals
and computer units as water levels sometimes reached upto 50 ft
and left behind 1 ½ feet of mud.
GA's office said damage to educational buildings had been estimated
at Rs. 21 million and equipment at Rs. 7 million. In the Matara
district seven schools have been completely destroyed, 71 partially,
while 4,475 chairs have been damaged. In the Galle District 32 schools
have been affected. The worst affected Lankagama Vidyalaya requires
an estimated Rs. 2 mn to be rebuilt.
in Elpitiya, Matara, Morawaka and Deniyaya are still being used
as welfare centres.
Committee seeks international aid for restoration
The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Disaster Management is preparing a
project proposal in coordination with UN Disaster Management experts
to seek international assistance for the rehabilitation of flood-affected
areas. A report on the relief and restoration programme by the Sub-Committee
stated that while assessments on the extent of damage was still
being worked out, the cost of rehabilitation and reconstruction
was likely to run into several billion rupees.
intends to request the Ambassador in Geneva to convene a donor gathering
on June 10, to seek international assistance for the restoration
Some of the recommendations of the report included the prohibition
of resettling people in landslide prone areas; an integrated communication
network between the Met department and the National Building Research
Organisation to alert people and the government of any potential
dangers in the future and the establishment of a permanent Disaster
Management Unit with UN assistance.
said the committee was now looking into the resettlement of displaced
people by providing funds, construction materials, land and credit
facilities.The assistance of the University of Moratuwa, Organisation
of Professional Association (OPA) and the Department of Census and
Statistics have been sought to assess the damage to houses and other
has also highlighted the threat of disease and poor water and sanitation
facilities with many people still living in makeshift centres. Sporadic
cases of diorrheoa, sore eyes and skin diseases have been reported
from some areas, but they haven't reached alarming proportions,
the report said. Hospitals which were earlier affected due to a
shortage of facilities such as power, communication and water have
now been restored to normalcy, the report said
need foster parents
With many children being affected in the recent destruction, the
Social Services Ministry has called for foster parents both locally
and internationally to assist more than 60,000 children below the
age of 15 years.
of the Foster Parents Campaign, Vinitha Weerasekera said that continuous
assistance was necessary but the response had been poor so far.
She said Rs. 3000 was required for a child for a year and the assistance
was required for a minimum of three years.
Those who wish
to be foster parents could contact the Sevana Sarana Foster Parents
Scheme, at the Ministry of Social Services, Sethsiripaya, Battaramulla.
cover for school closure?
Education officials expressed fears that on the pretext of renovating
rural schools in flood-affected areas, authorities might revive
a World Bank sponsored programme of closing down poorly-attended
Ministry officials have assured that no school in the flood-ravaged
parts of the country would be shut down. "More than 300 schools
have been badly damaged in the recent floods but none of these schools
will be closed down," Education Ministry's Additional Director
Indrani Kariyawasam said.
said earlier the government was under pressure from the World Bank
to close down schools with poor student attendance although such
a move would be counter-productive on a long-term basis in maintaining
a high literacy rate.
The Sunday Times learns the Education Ministry has suspended the
programme of closing down of rural schools with poor student attendance
and is awaiting the report of a team to take a decision.
According to Government statistics, 50% of students in the Ratnapura
district have been displaced due to the floods. Although some schools
have now re-opened school attendance is low, education officials
Those who wish
to help these displaced students could call: 342993.
Figures of displaced students of some of the schools in Ratnapura
are as follows;
Mihindu Vidyalaya - 700, Aloysius Vidyalaya - 500, Sri Sumana Balika
- 696, Batugedara M.V. - 493, Dharmapala Vidyalaya- 400, Sivali
Vidyalaya - 381,Ferguson Vidyalaya - 300, Hattongama Vidyalaya -
275, and Infant Jesus Convent - 255.