Saturday, 26 February 2011

Jungle Book

Drive for an hour due south and then another 45 minutes inland, and the landscape changes dramatically. Amongst the rubber plantations and paddy fields are a number of small remote villages hidden by thick vegetation. In the middle of this is the home for a new project which we’ve begun to support – the Jungle Nursery. During this trip visited the school twice: the first time to hand out new uniforms and the second to donate new shoes, socks, paper, craft materials and exercise books – hence the rather tenuous title of this post.

On the first visit, some of the children were rather frightened of us as it was the first time they had seen light-skinned people; the school is well off the tourist trail. But on both occasions it was obvious that the teachers and parents were appreciative yet curious. The Jungle Nursery serves 5 surrounding villages and offers free pre-school learning for children regardless of class or religion. It is overseen by the same Monk who looks after the Village Montessori school back in Rathmalana – this one is in his home village.

We toured the school and were amazed at the artwork and crafts of the 3 and 4 year olds and even the rudimentary smattering of English. Here, there are 4 teachers and as usual, we were staggered by the distance some of the teachers have to travel each day – in one case 40km each way. Ok, back at home that’s not much but by three-wheeler or dusty bus, that’s dedication.
44 pairs of shoes & socks

On the second trip where we handed out shoes, I was asked to say a few words to the parents and teachers; after the initial panic, I was able to contrast the two Nursery schools: one is very small and the new one much more remote. But the things they both have in common are dedicated teachers prepared to give children the very best start in life. And it’s great to know that it only takes a little to change a lot.

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