Sri Lanka

New Palathuduwa Preschool Support Program

July 27, 2010

Jonathan White

Our Tangalle Children Relay Preschool has been operating successfully at its old location from 2006 until the end of 2009. During this time, teachers’ salaries were covered, the children were provided with uniforms, stationary, music instruments, toys, school materials, cultural and educational tours, a daily meal, and medical treatments – all free of charge.

Over the past few years the community we have been serving has been able to slowly recover from the December 2004 Tsunami and return to their previous lifestyle. This also means the community is now in a position to be able to afford to send their children to a paying preschool and support their family’s needs.

For 2010, the management of the school has decided to move the project to a new location further inland to provide the same services to a community where they are much needed. Our group is very well known in the area for its charitable activities, and one of the preschools in a village nearby had requested for possible support to help fund and manage their preschool. This school had been operating successfully for many years, but had recently run into financial difficulties and was in danger of closing down without further help.

Background of the new location

The village where this new school is located is called Palathuduwa and is about 2 km further inland from our previous location in Tangalle. There are around 200 families in the area, most of them with low incomes, making their living with rice farming, animal husbandry, brick making and other labor work.

The temple and school are in the middle of the village. Palathuduwa temple has become the community centre for all the village activities, and the chief monk is the leader of the village and guides the villagers.

Background of the existing preschool at Palathuduwa temple

The first preschool activity at the temple location started in the year 1989, with some very basic facilities and untrained teachers. The following year, the teachers had received training and with the support of the chief monk, the villagers were able to set up a good system for a better environment for a preschool. A separate classroom area was set up next to the temple by the villagers with their first class having 15 students. During this time each child had to pay 25.00 LKR for school fees which supported maintenance and teachers’ salaries.

The December 2004 Tsunami didn’t do much damage to the temple and school buildings, but the impact on the village community was considerable. After the Tsunami, aid agencies and relief projects were set up in the area. During this time, the attendance at the preschool was very high, as many of the area’s parents did not want to send their children to the preschools closer to town and the coast, because of continued fears of another tsunami. In 2006, with the support of the locally established “Janasuwaya Foundation” and donation of foreign funds the community was able to build a larger and more suitable school building. The supporting organizations agreed to pay for teachers’ salary as well for a two year period with the hope that the community could cover the costs at the end of this time.

Starting in 2008, they decided to start charging parents 300.00 LKR monthly per child. This has meant that the class size had dropped down to 9 students with not many parents being able to afford the fees. By 2010, the financial situation of the school and lack of funding to pay the teachers had come to a crisis point, and the school put out an appeal for help to the few NGOs and aid agencies that are still in the area. Our group at the Tangalle Preschool was presented with the appeal and due to the fortunate timing of the closure of our other project, this was received positively.

Right after our staff took over the administration of the preschool in February 2010 with the support of RMF, the situation returned to normal. The teachers are very happy again, the chief monk is very proud to see the preschool back to normal operations and the children are running happily and freely here and there again. The poor villagers are also happy that they again could send their children to the preschool without any additional cost.

Presently there are 15 children attending the preschool, with 3 preschool teachers. A freshly prepared mid day meal is provided each day. The stationary and working materials are provided free of charge to each child and to the teachers. The children’s health is also regularly checked.

Our Goals for next the 5 years

The goal is for the new location to become a competitive preschool among other popular preschools in the area and to reduce the rush to urban preschools by raising the quality and service to the standards of our previous preschool. This will enable even poor families to obtain quality preschool education for their children.

• We expect the teachers’ families to be cared for financially and to be happy by providing a continued salary for them
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• We also expect to promote other village schools that are in danger of closing because of low attendance and care. Our experience is that when we promote preschools in villages, the children will also remain in the village schools afterwards
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• The low income families in those villages will have a chance to save some money and time that can invest for their income generation activities
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• We ensure the health and hygiene of the children.

• We provide children with nutritious meals daily.

• We prepare the children to be environmentally sensitive and educated citizens.
• We educate about natural disasters and environmental pollution.

• We educate about how to live in peace and harmony among different ethnic groups.
• We will make the children aware of modern communication technology and its benefits.

• We will give the children basic knowledge in the English language.

Country Page: Sri Lanka Initiative Page: Palathuduwa Preschool Support