SEATTLE — On December 26, 2004, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake caused a tsunami in Sri Lanka and neighboring countries. With schools and other infrastructure destroyed, many of Sri Lanka’s children were impeded from education opportunities. Many years later, efforts to help school children in Sri Lanka have greatly improved.
How TSEP Helps School Children in Sri Lanka
In March 2016, Sri Lanka had 4 million children with 215,000 teachers and 10,000 schools. A project called Transforming the School Education System as the Foundation of a Knowledge Hub Project (TSEP) was designed to help students access primary and secondary education. TSEP also supports the Program for School Improvement, an initiative from Sri Lanka’s government to improve students’ learning and performance.
Several reforms were also being supported, including Sri Lanka’s establishment of a system to conduct national assessments of learning outcomes and school-based teacher development. TSEP helped with these reforms by improving Sri Lanka’s schools in the following categories:
- Improving students’ survival rate to 85 percent in 2016 (compared to 82 percent in 2011).
- Helping female students account for 52 percent (among 3.2 million students) of direct project beneficiaries.
- Introducing bilingual education to more than 1,000 secondary schools in all nine provinces. This exceeded the initial target of 900 for Sri Lanka’s schools.
Johnson Matthey’s Support for Sri Lankan School Children
In response to the tsunami, the company Johnson Matthey began support for three schools in Galle. The company’s June 2016 article revealed that Johnson Matthey had sustained a lasting relationship with those schools for more than 10 years and financed scholarships for 36 of Sri Lanka’s children. Two of the scholarship recipients now attend college and one of them is achieving significant academic success.
Johnson Matthey’s commitment to education has created a lasting legacy for three Sri Lankan communities. To mark its 200th anniversary in 2017, the company also funded the construction of a library for Thumbe, the most deprived of the three schools. Johnson Matthey intends for the funding to continue efforts to help school children in Sri Lanka.
Imasha Sathsarani, a dance student in Sri Lanka, passed a scholarship exam in 2017 and is seeking further education. “Once again, thank you very much for the help you are giving me. I hope to become a doctor one day. This scholarship is very useful in helping me to reach my goal,” she told Johnson Matthey. Another student, Heshani Nuwandika, thanked Johnson Matthey for helping her afford class tuition and books.
Teaching Sri Lanka’s Children Valuable Coding Skills
In October 2017, IT professional Prabhath Mannapperuma revealed his efforts to help school children in Sri Lanka. Mannapperuma sends volunteers throughout the country to engage students with a tiny device called the Micro:bit, showing them that coding is no “arcane art” and is within their reach. “Kids come up with new solutions for their day-to-day problems. Having the required computational thinking is vital for their future,” he says.
In the first seven months of 2017, Mannapperuma helped more than 2,000 Sri Lankan children in schools and government-sponsored computer labs learn how to write scripts for the microcircuit board. Four of those children submitted entries for the Micro:bit Educational Foundation’s Mothers and Carers global challenge and were mentioned in the final tally of winners. Some of the children’s ideas included a sensor that switches off a running fan, an alarm that rings for a full trash can and a refrigerator door alarm.
While the projects could be considered baby steps by more advanced programmers, Mannapperuma sees them as significant strides for Sri Lanka’s children, who have limited technological access. Mannapperuma is also planning more collaborative workshops that could reach 5,000 Sri Lankan students.
Following the tsunami in 2004, much work has been done to help the country’s children regain access to quality education. Sri Lankan children are learning coding skills and receiving funding for college. These efforts to help school children in Sri Lanka could initiate educational aid from other entities as well.
– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar