Education is a vital key to empowerment, in breaking the cycle of poverty. Educated children can change society, improving social, economic and health outcomes. Operation Hope chooses to invest in programs and projects that promote learning and aid school attendance.
In November two Operation Hope board members went to Sri Lanka on a monitoring and evaluation trip to assess some of our education projects and make a plan for 2018 onwards. It was great to connect with our in country partner, LEADS. The meetings in the Colombo office as well as the district office were really beneficial, in that we were able to discuss what we were currently funding but also talk about a way forward that will be more sustainable for all concerned.
In January 2017 we started the first phase of the ‘Access to Education’ project, by providing school stationary, bags, shoes and socks for 150 children in Kilinochichi (northern Sri Lanka). It was great to visit the school in the Malayalapuram community and see the benefits.
In May, incessant heavy rainfall brought by the southwest monsoon triggered flooding and landslides in 15 of the 25 districts of Sri Lanka. Major rivers in the areas were full to the brim and overflowing across the banks. Among the four worst-hit districts was Kalutara where 15,000 families in Bulathsinhala District and 6000 families in Baduraliya District were reported to be affected. Here the water had reached 28 feet in some areas, completely covering buildings to the roof level. People had to be rescued and transfered to safe shelters using boats.
Through a generous donor Operation Hope was able to help with flood relief by donating $2000 to join the effort alongside a few other NGOs. This funding provided school supplies and a useful hygiene pack to 800 children who had lost their books and clothing. This encouraged them to return to school and resume their education.
“For these children living in the interior of Kalutara going to village school education means everything. Education is means of getting out of the rut; means of having fun and entertainment. However this May the flowing waves not only damaged their houses but dampened their school books and also their spirits. ‘What is the point in going to school without my books?’ asks one child. I have lost everything I have worked up this year she added.
At a time when parents too are down economically to restore what was lost LEADS has come forth with gifts for every child who was affected by floods and landslides. Distributions were done in six areas. Cheerful kids arrived to receive their bags – wide smiles spread across their faces. Some children were seen carrying their bags to the nearest corner and with irresistible urgency unzip the school bag to see the content. We had provided with all their school needs. A second bag they carried was a hygiene pack containing suitable under wear, a comb, soap, towel, bed sheet and nourishing cereal for breakfast. Even though one child received a relief pack there was enough to share with the siblings. The children went away beaming with happiness.”
This last school term we provided educational resource materials in the form of past exam papers, activity cards and study help to over 800 Kili students attempting their OL exams this December. In addition, we provided school stationary and bags for 50 children identified by the District Child development Committee as at risk of dropping out or had already dropped out of school. The reason for dropping out were often that the children had no school supplies. The government provides the material for a school uniform and text books but nothing else.
A lot of the parents in this region are agriculturalist but have had to take on labour work which sometimes takes them out of their area, leaving the children very vulnerable.
Operation Hope is also currently funding catch-up classes in two Malampuram primary schools, Annai Saratha school and Thiruvalluvar School. These classes are delivered to 87 children who have got really behind in their studies, missing critical learning in the earlier years. Fiona was able to witness maths and Tamil classes and ask the children some questions to gauge learning (obviously not in Tamil!). The exciting part is that the teachers can really see the benefit of this extra attention and plan to continue the classes next year.