Sri Gunarathne Maha Vidyalaya (SGV)
New school project at Sri Gunarathne Maha Vidyalaya (SGV)
The Sri Gunarathana Maha Vidyalaya School is situated inland a little behind Ahangama. It has 800 pupils and was used as a centre for Tsunami victims in the immediate aftermath. The school was over-crowded as it has taken in children from schools destroyed by the Tsunami and has a long waiting list of others.
SGV – new building now complete
New class rooms in use
Carmen discussing plans for the new building with Rev Kathaluwe Sugathasiri, Vice Principal of SGV
Children’s paintings on the walls of SGV
New School building at SGV opened in October 2005
Report from Oliver Ratnatunga, aged 14
The Ratnatunga family was greeted at Sri Gunarathne Maha Vidyalaya (SGV), a school situated in lush green woodland not far from Galle, with an extremely warm and joyful welcome from the staff and pupils.
The occasion was the opening of a new building that would accommodate the new students who were forced to move to the school after theirs was destroyed by the Tsunami of 2004.
As we stepped out of the vans we were presented with baskets and garlands of flowers. The school band greeted us, resplendent in tartan costumes and playing traditional instruments such as drums and conch-shell horns. They led the procession through the school, with children assembled on either side.
We proceeded in this fashion until we reached a small Buddhist shrine in which we placed baskets of sweet-smelling jasmine flowers as an offering. From here we moved on to the building itself, two-storeys housing seven classrooms and the ‘Mini Library’, where we met five monks for the ceremonial part of the visit. As the monks chanted, a small wood fire was made on the floor where some milk was boiled in an earthenware pot until it bubbled over, a Buddhist tradition used to celebrate the beginning of something new.
When this was over, we washed our faces in water blessed during the ceremony, and pirith string was tied around our wrists. Then came a series of openings of each new classroom by cutting a ribbon across the threshold. These included speeches from a member from each class made in Sinhala and English. Each room accommodates about 30 children and is equipped with a blackboard, ceiling fans and lights. Unlike our classrooms at home there is no glass in the windows since any breeze is a welcome relief from the heat.
After refreshments of traditional Sri Lankan dishes including Kiribath (milk rice) and Kaong, small juggery cakes served with strong black tea, we went to the hall which was full to the brim with small children, parents and teachers. Here we heard speeches in Sinhala and English from various staff including the headmaster, his deputy and the priest. These were interspersed with traditional dances and performances by the school choir.
Throughout, the staff and pupils thanked Senahasa Trust and World Jewish Aid for its work and help in the school, and the ceremony was capped off with a presentation of small engraved silver trays in the shape of the island.
As we drove away we were left with the memory of happy, waving children and a warm and friendly place that we would hope to return to one day soon.