Bridging the Education Gap: Empowering Children in Batticaloa

In recent months, my visits to Batticaloa allowed me to connect with schools, gather valuable insights, and delve deeper into the local school system. Staying at the Child Action Lanka Centre, near Iluppadichchenai Ambal Vidyalayam, gave me an opportunity to witness firsthand the lives and livelihood of families in the Eastern province. Many of those living in the community recognize me easily, as I stand out as a little different (being from Colombo) no matter how much I try to fit in.

Life is simply different in Eravu Pattu. When I step outside during the early morning hours, I see large tractors and trucks transporting groups of children to school. Many children find it difficult to commute to/from school. Some cycle or walk for miles. When I see older boys dropping their younger siblings at school, I wonder, “Shouldn’t they be in school too?”

There are basically two types of students – those who can keep up in school and those who find class a daily struggle. Of course, those who struggle find it logical to drop out of school, as they can find unskilled, daily wage jobs (such as sand mining) which offer higher wages than a teacher’s salary. One teacher from Kithul Sri Krishna Maha Vidyalayam explained the boys are not shy to point this out to her when she discusses their future in school.

Many of the boys find school to be a waste of time as they don’t see themselves being able to keep up, nor is education relevant to their lives, so they’d rather drop out of school and engage in work that pays them well enough to help support their families. Similarly, many girls either stay at home to help with the family or get married young, hoping their husbands will look after them. Batticaloa West Education Zone has approximately 250 to 300 students that drop out of school each year.

Then there are students like Ranakshi, a student from Kayankudah Kannaki Vidyalayam, who’s about to take her O-Levels this year. She travels from Pulayaveli, a small village located 3 km away, to school every day. Not only does she excel academically, but she participates in athletics and takes the initiative to organize events at her school. Sadly, limited access to advanced-level courses in the zone creates a serious hurdle for promising students like her as they’ll need to relocate for further studies. After her O-Levels, she’ll have to change school to Chenkalady (6km away) for Advanced level classes.

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