Special Needs Centres

Government funding constraints mean that special needs children are often at the bottom of the heap in Sri Lanka. 

Many receive no schooling at all.

Some schools have space to set one classroom aside.

But a lack of facilities and teachers often means that a deaf child and Down's child will end up being "taught" together. 

This was the case at Debarawewa President's Primary College before we built a Learning & Development Centre in July 2008. 

The Principal had been extremely accommodating and it had led a large number of parents to put their children in the school. 

But this meant that one poorly equipped teacher was trying to handle more than 30 children with a wide range of disabilities.  

One of the parents alerted us to their plight and thanks to a donation from Credit Suisse, we were able to construct a purpose built centre.

This houses one classroom for deaf children, two special needs classrooms, a specially equipped playground and a music room used by the entire school. 

There is also a special toilet for the children, which is attached to their main classroom.

Once the centre was in place, the Department of Education provided two teachers and the centre has gone from strength to strength.

  • Hasan with his old hearing aid
  • Group hearing set being used for the first time

Pictured below left, the children in the deaf classroom test their group hearing set for the first time. 

This machine was bought over from the UK and enables the teacher to simultaneously speak directly into all the children's hearing aids. 

This helps them to hear more clearly. 

We paid for every child to have a new hearing test and replaced their previous Sony Walkman style aids replaced with digital signal processing aids. 

These are fitted behind their ears.

Key to making the class a success was to soundproof the room from outside noise so the children could focus on the sounds coming from the group hearing set. 

Given how hot the country is, this meant installing air conditioning - an unheard of luxury. 

We also installed a long mirror down one of the walls so the children could see themselves to try to articulate sounds. 

The deaf classroom has been a great success and one of our greatest pleasures has been seeing how the children have learnt to communicate through non-verbal means. 

Many are also gifted artists and their handiwork now lines the walls of the classroom. It has also been used in some of our Christmas calendars. 

Thanks to an individual donation, we have been able to refurbish and equip a special needs classroom at Uduwila School. 

This opened in October 2011 with about half a dozen pupils, most of whom have Down's syndrome.

The classroom has been painted with bright colours and stocked with lots of arts materials.