New School Building for Tsunami Affected Children in Southern Sri Lanka
By Harasha Gunewardene
The unruly waves pressure bewildered..
The sad memories vanished with the sun..
How great the service you rendered..
To make us loving to the sun..So went the refrain sung by the delighted children at the Balapitiya Siddartha Primary School in Galle district in southern Sri Lanka, as they welcomed the guests and parents at their new school, on August 17th, 2007. A unique feature of the charming ceremony was that it was planned and conducted by the children.
This is the first school completed under the UNICEF-supported School Infrastructure Programme- which will rebuild 35 of the badly damaged schools benefiting more than 20,000 children and teachers across the country.Thanks to the support of the people of Germany through the German National Committee for UNICEF, nearly 300 children are now able to have an excellent learning environment at Balapitiya Siddartha. Their generous donation of US six million dollars is supporting the reconstruction of five schools in Galle, Jaffna and Batticaloa districts.
“After that fateful day 26th December 2004 when the tsunami struck most of the children spent their time in fear. In the nights they start crying whether the waves would come again... Now more than ever before, they love this new school as they are now in a secure place” explained Lalitha Indrani a former teacher.
“After that fateful day 26th December 2004 when the tsunami struck most of the children spent their time in fear. In the nights they start crying whether the waves would come again... Now more than ever before, they love this new school as they are now in a secure place” explained Lalitha Indrani a former teacher.The former single storey building has now given way to a multi-storied school with 14 new classrooms, a playroom and an activity room creating a child friendly environment for children to learn and play.
“Our small children faced many difficulties after the tsunami... Every important resource of the school was destroyed. The most heartbreaking was the death of one of our students. Buildings were destroyed, children lost their homes and belongings-schools books, clothes. They were mentally and physically affected” stressed Principal H.A.N. De Silva as he recounted the ordeal they all underwent. “And so we gradually tried to pickup the pieces. First we sent messages and gathered the scattered children and temporarily re-opened the school. We had many problems... lack of water, no proper sanitation and meager resources. UNICEF came to our assistance with books and clothing. The school community was consistently consulted during the entire building process of this new school and we are happy that the views and suggestions of parents, teachers and the children were given due consideration and modifications made accordingly. Today I am happy that we have this beautiful school in a pleasant physical learning environment which I believe will fulfill the needs of our children and community in abundant measure”.
Delicious and nutritious food, prepared at the new canteen building was served to the pupils, parents and invitees, followed by an exhibition of creative art of the children.