Fourth school project at Mihiripenna completed Work has been completed on our fourth state school in Galle District. Mihiripenna School was used as a camp for Tsunami survivors and many children lost family and their homes. It has since taken in many children from other schools which were destroyed. The classes were cramped and the buildings damaged. We built new classrooms, refurbishing old buildings, and improving the playing fields that quickly become waterlogged when the rains came.
Mihiripenna Maha Vidyalaya is a small rural school about 10 km from Galle. The school will have a student body of over 480 with class sizes of over 40. They have taken on children from coastal schools badly damaged by the Tsunami, including Abeydana, Sariputha and Martin Wikremasinhe schools. There are 20 teachers and three trainee teachers. The school has students from 6-16 years (Grade 1-12). More than 125 children at the school were badly affected by the Tsunami – twelve lost their parents and most lost their homes. The school has an effective and enterprising Head Teacher who will ensure that he gets the most from any help he receives. He runs the school well but suffers from buildings and playing fields that have been neglected due to lack of funds. The academic results are promising. This is a school that is worth supporting. Mihiripenna Maha Vidyalaya initially took on 60 children from coastal schools destroyed by the Tsunami and had 326 students. In 2007 the school has taken on further students with the student body rising to over 480 with class sizes of 40 plus. There are still children in the area, without school places, and some coastal schools are operating in temporary wooden huts.
The building projects Senahasa Trust has built a two-storey block with an assembly hall and four classrooms, and has also partitioning an old teaching hall to provide more dedicated classrooms. These will help in the increase in demand for places at the school. Other projects include:
- Repair some of the old buildings which were in a poor state, made worse by the use of the premises as a crammed Tsunami shelter in the first three months following the Tsunami. The roof leaked and the students got wet during the rains. This particularly affected the primary children.
- Refurbishing the old buildings -Rubbish fell through the roof into the classrooms. The rooms need to have proper ceilings. Seven classrooms did not have electricity including the primary and the English room. The wiring was unsafe throughout the school and needed to be replaced.
The grounds also needed work. The drainage was ineffective and during the unusually heavy rains throughout 2006 and after, the playing fields were unusable. Physical exercise is an essential part of children’s education and development – both formally during class time and also informally during breaks and after school. The ground level was raised and new drainage installed. Now that the work has been done the playground is suitable for a range of sports. The school also had an erratic water supply and the children would benefit from a new water system. At times the school had little or no water. It made a real difference to install a new water tank, sump and pump. This provides a regular supply of water for drinking. Finally, with the increase in the number of students to over 480 another set of toilets would help health and hygiene at the school. New facilities for boys and girls was built near the new two-story building. In summary, improving the school’s facilities has given the Mihiripenna children:
- Less crowded classrooms
- Brighter and safer places to learn with minimal distraction
- A sense of pride and a positive attitude towards their school
- Year-round playing fields to encourage physical activity and teamwork
- A better learning environment.