When we first came to Sri Lanka, only two schools we knew of had a computer lab and it was rare to find a child who had ever used one.
Since the end of the civil war, this has been changing and we have tried to play our part by turning disused classrooms into computer labs and building a stand-alone centre at Mahasenpura School (MCCC).
The centre acts as a regional hub and its teachers provide training and IT support for the smaller satellite labs.
Aside from the cost of the equipment, the main challenge is securing a reliable electricity source and protecting the labs from the weather - heat, humidity and dust being significant issues.
We have addressed the first by giving each computer a UPS to guard against power surges.
We have tried to combat the latter by making sure classrooms are completely sealed from the elements.
Our Mahasenpura lab also has AC to keep the computers cool, while the other labs all have fans – again a rarity outside the Principals’ offices.
We are now starting to explore solar power as a potential long-term solution to bring the electricity bill down.
Our new challenge is connecting children to the web.
In Colombo, the internet is ubiquitous.
In rural areas like Tissa, it is expensive and unreliable.
None of the schools have a budget for the monthly rental.
In 2010, we finally secured a connection for the MCCC and technology has now improved enough to let us buy “3G Dongles” for other schools.
This at least gets one computer online.
The cost of establishing computer lab with six computers depends on the amount of renovation work that needs to take place to make the classroom fit for purpose.
Costs can range from US$2,000 to US$4,000, with furniture averaging a further US$550, then electricity and wiring adding about US$100 and the equipment up to US$3,000
Gamunupura School, Debarawewa Presidents Primary College, Gangeyaya School, Kawantissapura School, Mulana School, Nadigamwila School, Osuwinna School, Tissapura School, Uduwila School, Welligattha School, Karambagalmulla Primary School, Mahasenpura School