Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Same But Different.

Posted on behalf of Steve & Gav

It’s been four years since we were last in Sri Lanka.  It seemed like a long time ago as we reminisced on the flight about what to expect.

Immediately on arrival, that intense heat which hits you as you step from the aircraft was familiar.  But things seemed much more efficient than we remembered and we were at the hotel within 90 minutes of touching down.  Admittedly, it was a Sunday, but Sri Lanka seemed far more geared up for the huge increase in tourists who now visit.

On our first full day, we visited three projects.  First up was the Village Nursery where we have spent many hours making strange noises and faces much to the delight of the children.  This experience was very much the same, and reassuringly, the same teachers showed the same amount of dedication to the adorable 3-4 year olds.
Next up was our visit to the village school.  This was our first visit since the school became a primary school catering for grades 1 to 5.  

At the school

The first thing to strike us was the almost eerie silence.  How different it was to when around 140 children were running around and playing games and, sounded like a school.  We went in and visited each of the classrooms. Now, all the children were being taught with little to distract them.  In one Grade, the ratio of teacher to pupils was 1:5.  This seemed far more conducive to education and the teachers themselves seemed more comfortable in the quieter environment.  From our first visit in 2008, and the 10 visits since, the school had been our primary focus and we had literally shed blood sweat and tears over the years.  Yes, the hustle and bustle had gone which made me a bit sad but I reflected later that the kids were now receiving a much better education as a result of the change.
Next it was time to visit the School on the Beach.  This was the first time we would see it since it was established in 2015 and we were both really excited.  There were two rooms, both probably smaller than our hotel bedroom.  But there was a sense of order and discipline as the old school desks were lined up neatly in rows. And then it happened… from 2pm children wielding exercise books started to arrive.  They had already finished school for the day and we counted 20 children.  The first subject was Health and Science and one of our paid teachers gave a lesson complete with PowerPoint presentation which was projected on to the wall.  The kids were attentive and active, and despite all the things they could be doing, had decided to turn up to learn, which they do every day. Surreal and amazing, in equal measure.

Teaching at he School on the Beach

So our first impressions?  Some things are the same such as the amazing landscapes, stunning sunsets and amazingly warm people. Other things have changed but definitely for the better: smaller class sizes is a good thing for more focused teaching and the establishment of our own school on the beach is meeting a demand we never thought would be there and has undoubtedly helped improve the village kids’ education. 
If you are lucky enough to come and visit please take time to speak to the children in both schools as conversational English skills will be so important in their future lives.
On Tuesday  whilst Della, Don and their guests Sarah and Nick visited the Jungle nursery, we went along to the beach school and taught for an hour using improvised scenarios.  And despite it being a national holiday, we were pleasantly surprised to see the classroom full again.

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