Children doing their daily walk of 16 kms to school
The estate workers appeal that a bus service be made available for the children to attend schools and return to their homes
The school, said to have been established by foreigners, is located at the entrance to Nonpareil Estate
There are classes only from Grade one to Grade nine and only 92 students are presently attending this school
At a time when city dwellers, while enjoying the perks they are blessed with and sending their children to popular schools in their own luxury vehicles, private vans or by public transport, it is too remorseful and disheartening to note that some children domiciled in tea estates trek 16 kilometres through rugged terrain braving inclement weather to attend school daily.
This story is related from the plantation sector in the periphery of Nonpareil Estate; regarded as the highest located village in the Sabaragamuwa province. It is here that children from Nagrak, Pudukaattu and Uggalduwa villages walk to the Vivekananda School situated a long distance from home.
Several other senior villagers expressed similar sentiments saying that the distance to the school and the absence of a dependable road transport system discourages children from attending school daily
Distance wise from Nagrak village to the school is 16 Kilometers, from Pudukaattu it is 12 Kilometers and from Uggalduwa village it is about 8 Kilometres.
V. Mari Amma pictured with some children
A dispensary is located at the very end of Nagrak village where the villagers obtain routine treatment in the event of village folk falling sick. Their income solely depends on plucking tea.
They have to travel to Balangoda at least once a month to obtain their household needs. The only bus that travels from Balangoda to these hamlets is scheduled to operate two trips a day, but the bus in bad repair hampers these journeys more often. This bus only travels from Balangoda to the entry point of the Nonpareil village, and from there on the commuters have to walk several kilometers to reach their homes.
The estate workers appeal that a bus service be made available for the children to attend schools and return to their homes. They urge the authorities to develop the road for this purpose.
Those visiting World’s End would no doubt have spotted this village from the top of the viewing spot at the mountain range at Horton Plains. And if one accidentally slips the individual would fall right onto the Pudukaattuwa village. There had been some incidents where suicide was committed. Bodies were recovered from this village.
There was also an incident recorded where a foreign tourist had almost fallen off from the cliff to this village if not for the creepers on the cliff which the foreigner had held tightly onto.
The villagers, in addition to the tea plucking, are maintaining home plots containing vegetable plantations. The three wheelers, numbering two or three, have served the people of the villages who treasure them. They serve the villagers in transporting their produce from farms to Balangoda and Belihul Oya for sale.
World’s End is regarded as the highest point in the Sabaragamuwa Province. The small villages are located over 5000 feet above sea level and the population consists of Estate workers. The lack of sufficient facilities in these villages had affected some children from attending any school and there are some who had terminated their studies without proceeding to higher levels in the villages around Nonpareil Estate. The school, said to have been established by foreigners, is located at the entrance to Nonpareil Estate. There are classes only from Grade one to Grade nine and only 92 students are presently attending this school. Students completing Grade nine have to then enter a school in Balangoda which is about 35 Kilometres away. As travelling to and from the school in Balangoda is tiresome and expensive most of the students do not show keenness in furthering their school life.
When inquired about the plight of these children V. Mariamma (35) said that she has three children and two attend school. They leave home around 05.00AM and reach school by about 08.00 AM and more often they are subject to capital punishment for arriving late to school. They return home every day around 04.00 or 05.00 PM.
Children living in Nagrak village have a hostel in their school and everybody cannot afford it as much money is needed to remain in a hostel
R. Krishnamoorthy (42), a resident of Pudukaattuwa, stated that these roads are derelict and people are unable to make a journey by foot. If the roads are in good condition the children can attend school using private vehicles. It is only during elections that they come and make promises, and afterwards nothing happens.
Several other senior villagers expressed similar sentiments saying that the distance to the school and the absence of a dependable road transport system discourages children from attending school daily. Those who have means send their children to Balangoda town for their education. Villagers are leading a hand to mouth existence from the daily wage they receive as estate workers.
Munian Nallathamby (72) said that children living in Nagrak village have a hostel in their school and everybody cannot afford it as much money is needed to remain in a hostel. We are poor wage earners and only authorities can offer a solution. If the roads are developed and buses start serving people of these villages it would bring in much relief to the children as well as the elders.