Arugam Bay, Education and Kingfishers

Posted Thursday March 26, 2015 by Hazel Durbridge

I enjoyed my week-end. Arugam Bay had big crashing surfing waves so you could lie in bed and hear the waves which I loved. My room also had a gigantic douche shower head which was a total delight as all the shower heads I have come across make power showers seem like the Niagara Falls. My one in the house isn’t too bad but it’s still pathetic by western standards.

I failed hopelessly in talking to English speaking people. The lady who ran the guest house was English and I spoke to her, but otherwise I am too shy and will only join groups when overtly asked. Maybe my destiny here is to learn Tamil.

I have never seen quality surfing so that also was awesome – all that leaping and spinning and the speed.

I also fine-tuned my experience of bus hopping. This is a total lottery. The direct buses that are supposed to exist seem illusory. I can’t read the bus signs and even though I think I am pronouncing the destination name exactly the same as the bus drivers/ticket collectors, they obviously don’t think so, so have to take on faith I am heading in the right direction and bus journeys are in stages. They are very cheap though – about 75p in total for over 100kms.

Today was tiring and a bit sad. Thaya has come back from his training in mega assertive male throttle mode, relegated Kritina, who speaks better English than him, back behind the graduate trainee desk and gave me a long discourse on how he thought we should be doing things. It was his 33rd birthday. I am beginning to see how the hierarchy and male supremacy functions. I want to help Kritina, but I don’t think I am in a position to.

The journey out in to the sticks was gut churning on pot holed tracks, even though we had one of the better drivers, and what I heard depressing. 60% drop-out, many schools without water, electricity, furniture. The students all get a free breakfast because for many it will be their only meal of the day. 97% of families do seasonal labour so they may work 180 days out of 365, alcoholism, child abuse, suicide are rife. It’s hard for me to imagine being in a situation where I don’t have hope.

Speaking of hope, when you see a kingfisher you are supposed to make a wish. I don’t see that many, maybe one or two a week, even though there are many more out here than in England.

 

Batticaloa West Zone has 64 schools, 30 described in the ‘difficult’ category and 34 in the ‘very difficult’.

They cite their main problem as being access. Although they are only 10 kms outside of Batticaloa their situation is a world apart. The roads are rutted, sandy tracks and this is difficult for the staff who come in from the towns each day. Some are travelling 30kms each way on very poor tracks and spending between 2-400Rs a day on petrol alone. The main track that needs resurfacing is the 12km stretch between Varunatheevu and Manatpitty Junction.

The second problem is water. Out of 64 schools 57 have no drinking water. The children have to bring in a bottle to drink. They have sanitation and no water to make it functioning. Only 27 out of the 64 schools have electricity.

97% of the parents are below the poverty line. The children are given a government funded free morning meal as this is the only meal they may get in a day. The teachers have to support the parents as well as the children.

The survival rate between grade 1-11 is 40.2%. In Batticaloa town it is over 80%.

There is substantial INGO support from Child Fund, Save the Children, Plan Sri Lanka, World Bank and UNICEF, but they all do little bits – donate water bottles, sort out the water in one school, furniture in another, provide training for the teachers, extra tuition in science, maths and English in 9 schools.

Nobody is addressing the infrastructure which is what is crippling them.

Batticaloa District Development Plan DRAFT 2013

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