Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: USAID rehabilitates 39 tsunami damaged schools

HAMBANTOTA, March 15, 2007: The tsunami had a particularly devastating effect on residents of Hambantota District. In addition to loss of life, countless buildings, including the district schools, were damaged. Schools were further damaged later after temporarily housing displaced people.

USAID has renovated 18 and re-equipped 21 of these schools in Hambantota District, 10 of which were inaugurated on March 9. Renovations included a new library at Al Akbar School, permanent teacher's quarters at Bundala School, and a new roof for the science lab at St. Mary's College where, nearly 80 students and the principal lost their lives.

The projects, supported by the USAID Transition Initiatives Program, brought together zonal educational officials, teachers, parents and students from the ethnically diverse communities to collaborate and jointly identify priorities and work together.

"One of the great joys in life is shared labor," said John Rigby, a special advisor from Washington D.C. for the Transition Initiatives program, who dedicated the facilities at the Al Akbar, Bundala and St. Mary's College schools. "This project has brought diverse people together to improve the quality of their education, which is important for all, regardless of ethnic backgrounds."

Among the major renovations was the restoration of the science lab at St. Mary's a longtime fixture in the heart of Hambantota that serves 1,500 Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim students. The buildings at Al Akbar were renovated and its damaged library restored. The staff quarters at Bundala were reconstructed to help ensure that skilled, qualified teachers remain at the school. Bundala also benefited from the USAID-supported renovation of nearby Kirinda Harbor, which restored access to the sea for the fishing community.

"We are grateful to USAID for this work," said Y.K. Piyasena, the Zonal Director of Education for the district. "Many agencies would fix the school and leave. This project involves and unites the community, and expands their cooperative activities. It's not just about a building - it creates something that endures."

At the dedication ceremony, Mr. Rigby quoted an old adage that only a well planted tree can resist the wind. "A well planted tree has strong roots," he said. "The children are the roots of these communities. Their living and learning together in harmony is their hope for the future."