By Jane Best
On Friday morning we drove from Killinochchi to Mullaitivu, where the RIJ-funded programme is.
Mullaitivu was the last conflict area and therefore the last area to be resettled.
I saw areas where the development is going well and other areas where the buildings are still bullet-riddled and shell damaged. A constant reminder to the people of what they have been through.
This is juxtaposed with the beauty of the area – fantastic bird life on the lagoons and a beautiful shoreline.
My visit to Killinochchi had provided a good introduction to the pre-school system and the needs of the teachers and children.
In Mullaitivu, I was looking forward to meeting the beneficiaries of the RIJ-funded programme and hearing their stories.
The first school we stopped at in Theravil is funded privately by the local parish priest and they provide two meals for the children. The priest is gradually reducing his funding and preparing the parents to provide the meals. Although this is due to lack of funds I think this is a great opportunity to move towards self-sufficiency.
I talked to Isaigamatathy, an older teacher who is currently doing the Diploma training. She has been teaching for 35 years and is incredibly positive about the training. She welcomes the chance to learn new techniques and to share with younger teachers. She particularly mentioned that previously they were too theoretical in their approach and the training is much more practical. Something I heard regularly as I met teachers.
At the second pre-school near Puthukkudiyiruppu, we arrived in time to see the children having lunch. I noticed that the children were using spoons in both schools I visited, whereas people tend to eat with their hands in Sri Lanka (I had to learn the technique!). I was told this was to teach hygiene (a reason I didn’t really follow), but as I watched, I realized it helps them learn coordination too.
This school has set up a garden to grow fruits and vegetables to include in their meals – again working towards to self-sufficiency. Each plant had a child’s name on it and they are responsible for watering their own plants. This is great as the child takes responsibility and they love to see the plant grow and prosper.
The next day, Saturday, we met with all the teachers who are the beneficiaries of RIJ funding.
It was really interesting to hear their opinions on the training and how it impacts their work. In addition to comments I have already mentioned, they say it teaches them how to handle a difficult child and they learn about the children through what they choose to draw. It helps them talk with the parents and encourage them to understand their children too. Some even said it had helped them to overcome their own shyness in the classroom – to sing and dance freely with the children.
We were able to observe some training on Sunday morning just before heading back to Colombo. The teachers were doing group work, using leaves and seeds to make collage pictures – they were having great fun so I can imagine the children will too.
Of course, the teachers still face problems with facilities and some schools cannot provide meals for the children, but they are clearly very happy to be doing the Diploma. I felt enriched by the visit and inspired by the women I met and their dedication to the children. It is clearly a good escape from home problems for them too.
Many thanks to World Vision Japan for facilitating the visit.