I came back yesterday exhausted as the trip really takes its toll on one. As I said by American standards the trip would be just a walk in the park as it were but here it took us a good ten hours just to get to the Mulankavil school where we were scheduled to meet the Principal and the teachers and the children whom we help.
The trip was very discouraging. The North is in the midst of a severe drought, everything was parched and desolate. Add to that bombed out houses or rather miles and miles of bombed out properties, coconut trees and palmyrah palms all bombed out so that the fronds are not there but just the stark trunks and then miles of this without a bird or a monkey or any sign of life. Miles of rough road pitted with holes and bumps that would kill an ordinary car and when you see this for mile upon
mile it hits you that this is what faces people everyday of their life.
What really hurt was that entire townships have gone. The resettlement of people in these areas is happening but albeit very very slowly. The areas I speak of were never densely populated ones in the first place but they were very progressive agricultural communities and one feature of the Northern part of Sri Lanka is the huge emphasis put on education. Despite hardships the Northern man was always determined to educate his children and that is why the Principal and teachers are so keen to see that the children of this school do something with their lives specially now that the war is over. Thousands of families have sent their children abroad through mainly irregular channels and the place is splattered with families who have grown up children in Norway, France, Germany and the UK. The parents have stayed behind and of course there are families whose children were too young to send anywhere and it is these children that needed help.
Facilities for the teachers are non existent. From paper, to text books, to extra reading material. The logistical difficulty of even getting something across to these children is mind boggling. We have ordered 50 sets of the Grade 5 scholarship exam past papers, work sheets but to get this from Jaffna to Mulankavil involved a series of kind lorry drivers who whilst taking other stuff would see that this lot of books would be handed over. The dedication of these teachers who have seen personal hardships of the children and who can do very little for them is hard to imagine. All the children who we found sponsors for had lost a parent. Several of them had lost both parents. Quite a few lost a mother along with the youngest sibling who was with the mother at the time of the aerial bombardment. I do know in times of war victims are not specifically chosen but to see rows of children mechanically saying "My father was killed in an aerial shelling incident" My mother died in a cross fire is heartbreaking.
It took me several months to get to this point that I actually visited the school and saw for myself the ground scene. Hopefully we can help more and move forward. My heartfelt thanks to the Principal and teachers of this little school in the middle of nowhere.
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