Damage to schools is one of the most devastating effects of conflict. It destroys not only a familiar and important part of the local community, but can affect children’s educational experience and outcomes for many years.
When the school at Kilinochchi, in Sri Lanka’s north, re-opened in 2010 only 36 students returned. The school had been badly damaged in the conflict and none of the school buildings were safe for use. Students took their classes in temporary shelters and under the trees.
Now, 2,000 students are enrolled at Kilinochchi. With support from AusAID and UNICEF the school has 24 new classrooms, an open air theatre and an auditorium.
At the official opening of Kilinochchi Maha Vidyalayam (provincial school) last week, Australia’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, HE Ms Robyn Mudie, said ‘The Australian Government is very pleased to be able to make such a significant contribution to the lives of children and families in Kilinochchi. These buildings will help the community to continue to rebuild.’
The school’s principal, Mr Pangayatselvan, said ‘We are grateful to the people of Australia, the Government of Australia and UNICEF for providing these buildings. Our students are very happy and prepared to study.’
Teachers at the school will also be trained in ‘child-centred’ teaching to help children improve their learning outcomes. This approach emphasises quality education, promoting peace and social cohesion, and ensuring that vulnerable and out-of-school children have opportunities to learn. UNICEF piloted the Child Friendly Schools program [video, external website] at 1,500 schools in Sri Lanka, and the Government has now adopted this approach for all basic education.
Australia’s $10 million support for school reconstruction is part of Australia’s development cooperation with Sri Lanka, which will total $42.5 million in 2012–13. Australia’s support will contribute to rebuilding or repairing 23 schools in the Northern Province, serving 12,000 children.