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Every child has a right to go to school. But not every child is fortunate enough to study in comfortable environments. School life is a fundamental stage that every child has to experience. In Sri Lanka although a majority of children go to school they are deprived of basic facilities, particularly in rural areas. The nearest school would have been the best school as per the programme launched by the government if every school was equally furnished and well-staffed. Certain schools don’t have teachers to teach compulsory subjects for O/Ls and as a result students fail their exams. Identifying the need to encourage students to face their examinations with confidence, a group of past pupils of Royal College decided to give them a hand.
The Hinguralakanda Maha Vidyalaya, a school based in the cool environs in Dehiowita houses close to 351 students with 24 teachers. The school curriculum extends until A/Ls but due to less teachers students have lost their interest in studies. As more students failed in mathematics, the team launched their project to instill confidence in these students. Titled as ‘Project Akuru’ the team visits the school every Sunday and teach them mathematics in the O/L syllabus while training them to do past papers as well.
During a recent visit to this beautiful area, the Mirror For Hope team visited the school and observed the proceedings of the project. “We don’t have teachers to teach English and Mathematics,” said W. Abeywickrama, the principal of the school. “The current mathematics teacher resides in Warakapola and it takes a lot of time for her to get to the school. She has to come by bus and then walk several miles as well. When such teachers are appointed it is a disadvantage for the students as well. I observed that most students failed their O/Ls because they failed in mathematics. But after this programme commenced the students have done well in mathematics. We appreciate the work done by this team to bring all the students and teach mathematics to succeed in their exams. Most students started leaving school because we don’t have teachers and the necessary facilities. But now it doesn’t happen because students started getting good grades. Even if there are teachers in close proximity to the school they have to be sent to the school via the Zonal education department. But what happens is that they appoint whoever they can irrespective of where they stay.”
According to Abeywickrama, most parents have lost their trust in the school and have sent their children to other schools. “Most of the parents are illiterate and a few students don’t come to this class because they are not aware of its importance. The present mathematics teacher doesn’t have the time to do an extra class because she has to rush back to the family after school. Most students didn’t score anything more than 35 marks at their exams. The teacher sticks to the syllabus and those who cannot grab it falls behind. The teacher cannot give individual attention to each and every student and some students therefore lack basic knowledge about the subject. But in this programme the students were put into groups according to their level of understanding and were trained to work on different mathematical problems,” Abeywickrama further said. Abeywickrama also said that the school is willing to provide all the facilities for a teacher if he or she is willing to come and work at the school. They require a teacher who could work follow up on the classwork done at school and encourage the students to face the exams with confidence.
The school is equipped with a computer laboratory and a library. They do not have a science laboratory and another part of the school is under construction.
A few students who sat for the O/L exam after this programme said that it encouraged them to develop an interest towards the subject again. “We didn’t like mathematics because it was difficult. However this programme gave us an insight to face the exam with confidence and would like to thank the team for supporting us. We would like to request other students to follow it and make use of it.”
“We wanted to teach students in a remote school,” said one of the team members of the Project who wished to remain anonymous. “The team lives in and around Kottawa and we wanted to pick on the nearest rural school. Hence we picked on Dehiowita and presented our proposal to the Dehiowita Zonal Education office. They gave us two schools and compared to the other school this had lesser facilities. In this school the teacher also helped us and assisted the students. Our volunteers come as and when they can. We come here on Sundays and I coordinate with them regarding the turns. We have asked for donations from people known to us because not everybody agrees to give us sponsorships. As at now we need support for transport and food and we hope to extend this project to other schools as we proceed.”