Project Stories:

Learning for Life

How extra tutoring can build a future

by LKO,  2017/04/18

In the extreme North of Sri Lanka the consequences of the civil war, which went on for decades, and of the tsunami, which took place in December 2004, are still felt till date. Here humedica runs three learning centres, which support needy pupils. The dedicated tutoring ameliorates their chances for a good degree and either a job in the local labour market or even one of the rare places at university. humedica employee Lina Koch visited the supported schools and saw first hand, what sustainable help can achieve in this poorest part of the country.

„The humedica ambulance boat usually transports patients from the small island Delft, which counts about four thousand inhabitants, to the mainland, which is approximately three quarters of an hour away. Today the captain and his two crew members make an exception and bring my colleague Johannes and me over the green-blue water to the flat island. There are two of the three schools, where humedica has been running learning centres for some weeks now. In the afternoon more than 50 pupils attending the classes 8 to 10 get there daily extra tutoring.

For my taste, already at seven o´clock in the morning it is oppressively hot and even the warm airstream has hardly a cooling effect. While we are eating a typical local breakfast of small roasted rice balls called Aggala during the passage, the crew makes use of their time on the water to throw out a fishing line.

The ambulance boat of humedica regularly transports patients from the isle of Delft to the mainland. Photo: humedica

Since the end of the civil war nobody has to starve any more, but malnutrition and short supply are still a problem. I can therefore imagine that fish right from the sea is a welcome alternative to rice and curry. But today the fish are not eager to bite and so the two men pull in the fishing line again with practised hands shortly before our arrival.

When we finally reach the shore, a driver in an old off-road-vehicle is waiting to bring our Sri Lankan colleague Thillaiampalam and us to the schools supported by humedica. During the short drive to the first school we see small Hindu temples and churches as well as buildings, which obviously are relics from the British colonial period. Even so the island and its lush nature present themselves in bright colours, its poverty is evident in the run-down accommodations everywhere.

We then reach the first school, the Delft Maha Vidyalayam high school, where several hundreds of boys and girls, who are in the train of completing their intermediate tests, are focusing intensely on their tasks before them in the open classrooms. Good results are crucial, because less than 20 per cent of the high school graduates get the chance to attend university.

The results count – the pupils on the isle of Delft work hard for a good graduation. Photo: humedica

The principal welcomes us graciously and presents us to the responsible teachers at the learning centre. Each afternoon they assist the weaker pupils to work again through the English and scientific contents. Thus they give tangible added value to the morning lessons, whose learning efficiency is quite questionable in classes of more than 80 children at least to my opinion.

The teachers are highly motivated and show us their lists, where they mark the daily presence of the attending children. The many ticks illustrate that the support measure developed and financed by humedica bears fruit and the majority of the pupils attends the learning centre every day. Satisfied by the evident effect we hit again the bumpy roads, which I got quite used to since my arrival in Sri Lanka, to visit the next supported school. The headmaster of the Delft R.C. Ladies College is a short resolute sister, who provides us not only with juice and cookies, but also with the books, which document the course of the learning centres.

Despite the evident poverty and the simple working conditions, under which the teachers meet the challenges of the mammoth project “school”, the documentation of our support is flawless and would even please the heart of any German accountant. While we are scanning the lists, I feel countless curious eyes from the adjacent classroom on my back. So we present ourselves to the pupils and explain, why we are here, before leaving the school again.

We continue our journey before midday and cross the quiet sea to visit also the third of the humedica learning centres in the North of the peninsula of Jaffna. When we reach the spacious terrain of the small town of Manipay, where also the local office and a kindergarten of humedica are situated, we meet high-spirited young people, who play badminton during their study break. Here in Manipay up to 80 boys and girls from underprivileged families benefit from the support, correspondingly the noise level is quite high.

Time to learn and time to play – humedica cares for 80 children in Manipay every day. Photo: humedica

In order not to interrupt their play, my colleague Johannes and me mingle with the children and start a round of rope skipping, which is immediately joined by a lot of kids. The mood is cheerful and the teachers tell us, how committed the children are to participating in the afternoon tutoring in order to improve their school results.

When we board the train to Colombo in the evening, I have a good feeling. Our aim to provide children with better prospects for the future by establishing learning centres is promising. I allow myself the hope that we may even make a small but effective contribution to fight the high youth unemployment in Sri Lanka.“

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