December: Ikkapalama Computer Repairs

Deputy Mahasenpura Community Training Centre (MCTC) Manager Nuwan was back at Ikkapalama School in mid-December to check over its computers and make any necessary repairs.

He was also able to install MS Office for the school, alongside some games for the children to play in their spare time

He tries to visit once a quarter.

October: Asangala IT Lab Donation

We were delighted to set up a new computer lab at Asanagala Shri Abhinawaramaya Temple in Ranminithenna village.

This was thanks to a donation from HSBC and Save Yala, a local organization, which promotes conservation at the nearby national park.

HSBC recycled five used computers from its Colombo HQ, while Save Yala provided the furniture.

Our deputy IT manager, Nuwan, rewired one of the temple’s classrooms.

This is a very rural area with little access to IT resources so setting up an IT lab under the auspices of the temple’s community teaching programmes will really help the local community.

There was a slight delay getting classes up-and-running after Covid cases started to spread from Colombo.

But we were able to launch classes in a socially distanced way in late November.

Running the IT lab is a community effort too. One of the two volunteer teachers, Prasad Janaka, works at Hambantota General Hospital.

The other, Prasad Jeewantha (pictured left), is a local farmer.

He was one of the first school students to learn computing at SRI’s regional training centre after the NGO was established following the 2004 tsunami while he was at nearby Osuwinna School.

October: Safari Drivers and Tour Guides Class

We started running special bi-monthly classes at the MCTC for local safari drivers and tour guides who haven’t been able to work because of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the tourism industry.

The classes were set up help from the Safari Drivers Association.

The aim is to use this fallow period to deepen the drivers’ knowledge about the animals, flora and fauna that live in the neighborouring national parks (Yala, Bundala and Uda Walawe).

We also hope that the classes will increase environmental awareness.

September: Kawantissapura Science Equipment

The science lab at Kawantissapura School continues to go from strength to strength thanks to the ongoing generosity of Mary Sweeney and her family in Ireland.

The lab was originally renovated and re-opened in December 2018 thanks to a bequest in Mary’s will.

She had been a scientist researching Huntington’s disease at University College London’s neurogenetics unit and wanted to encourage other young students to develop a love for the sciences.

Her sister Catherine donated some money to provide some additional equipment.

At the teacher’s request, we purchased some magnifying glasses, plus 60 slides - 30 botany and 30 zoology to help the pupils with their studies.

Catherine’s sister-in-law, Mairead, also produced a series of posters covering each part of the body and these are now up in the lab too.

Having a proper lab and decent equipment is already making a huge difference.

In 2018, only 7.14% of students secured a pass in their O-level science exam.

One year later, the figure had shot up to 30.7%.

Pictured (above), is the vice principal examining a slide and the lab’s two science teachers.

September: Diploma 5 Class Finishes

Deputy MCTC Manager Nuwan (far left) with some of the students from the Diploma 5 class.

This is our in-depth one-year course that covers advanced Word, graphics design, programming and hardware.

Top marks to Chathuma Nethmi pictured second left, who scored 81.52% across the four modules. She is currently studying remotely for an arts degree from the University of Ruhuna.

August: Helping Students To Find Jobs

One of our most important tasks at the MCTC is helping students to find jobs after they finish their course.

We were very happy to help Sanduni Nirodika from our Community 54 class.

This August, she started working at a local fruit and vegetable distributor called LHG Marketing. The company supplies fruit and vegetables for shops and hotels in the area. Her job involves data entry.

July: Community 63 Class Finishes

Community class 63 finished at the end of July. This course was disrupted by the MCTC's closure during the curfew, but students came back to sit the final exam when we re-opened again at the beginning of the month.

Congratulations to Shashini Nimesha (pictured front third from right) who came top and scored 86%.

Shashini will use the course to help with her administrative work at an ayurvedic clinic in Wellawaya.

July: The MCTC Re-Opens

We were incredibly pleased that we were able to re-start classes at the centre in July after Sri Lanka came out of curfew.

We've introduced social distancing measures, cut class sizes in half and taken a lot of extra hygiene precautions to keep everyone safe.

This includes wiping down every computer between classes, keeping the doors open and asking everyone to wash their hands with soap and water from the outside pump before they enter the classroom.

March: Hardware 6 Class Finishes

The MCTC's deputy manager, Nuwan (centre) with students from Hardware 6 who graduated just before the pandemic hit.

These are A-level leavers who sat the three-month course while waiting to go onto further education.

Lasitha Maduwantha (3rd from left) recorded the highest marks. He'd come to the class thanks to his father who had previously completed one of our courses himself.

March: HSBC Computer Donation

We owe a big thanks to HSBC, which donated 15 used computers that it no longer needed at its offices in Colombo following IT upgrades.

The donation created a win-win situation for all involved.

It helped the bank to improve its environmental footprint by making sure that the computer hardware did not go to waste.

And it is hugely beneficial to the schools as they receive much-needed equipment enjoying a second lease of life.

We kept some of the computers at the MCTC for parts replacement and donated the rest.

Two computers went to Vidyartha School, which has a newly-decorated IT lab.

However, only two computers were working out of a total of 13.

The rest are, unfortunately, not fixable despite Nuwan's (MCTC deputy manager) best efforts.

Another two went to Beralihella School.

The small rural school has an IT teacher, but no computers so these were a very welcome addition.

Tharindu and the MCTC team also conducted an awareness session for grade 10 and 11 students, plus their parents to explain the benefits of studying ICT.

A further two computers went to Ikkapalama School.

This school had five already in operation and a very dedicated IT teacher who has participated in many MCTC programmes.

Finally, we donated one computer and one monitor to Ranminithenna School.

This very rural school recently gained a dynamic new principal who has worked hard to create an IT lab.

It had four working computers prior to the donation.

February: IT Class for MT Kawya

We started a special weekly IT revision class under deputy manager, Nuwan’s guidance.

Kawya is one of the charity’s sponsorship students and wants to work hard, but frequently has to miss school because she has to stay in hospital with her mother who has a number of serious illnesses.

There are only two of them left because her father was killed by the Tamil Tigers during the civil war while he was watching his crops.

January: Dehigahalanda Special Needs Assistant

A big thanks to Sri Lanka’s CIMA Students’ Society for renewing its sponsorship of a special needs assistant at Dehigahalanda School for another year.

She is Rangeena Chamodi Warnasooriya, pictured top left alongside some of her pupils.

The society previously worked with us alongside another Sri Lankan NGO - the Foundation of Goodness - to raise funds and renovate a classroom for special needs children at the school.

This was part of its Education Beyond Ability programme, which was established three years ago.

The Dehigahalanda classroom now supports nearly 30 children.

They all have very different and complex needs so the additional teaching capacity is a huge help on a day-to-day basis.

The CIMA student society’s members are all young but active fundraisers.

We are very grateful that successive annual committees remain keen to continue with their predecessor’s project.

Sustainability is key to any project's long-term success and this one is going from strength-to-strength.

January: Student Sponsorship

SRI would like to extend a big thank you to Alex Hayes-Griffin and Michaela Frickleton for their annual sponsorship of 10 students in the Hambantota educational zone.

All the students that Alex and Michaela are supporting come from low income families and have to face additional challenges ranging from educational to medical.

January: IT Awareness Seminars

We conducted a series of awareness programmes at village schools during February to explain the importance of IT.

We held separate sessions for parents and grade 10 and 11 students.

In this photo, deputy computer centre manager, Nuwan, is speaking to a group of parents at Beralihela School.

January: Community Class Certificate Ceremony

This January we held a combined ceremony for students who had completed community classes 58,59 and 60.

These three month courses covered the Microsoft Office package, teaching the students Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Access.

All the students were A-level leavers from last August who were waiting for their results, which takes three months in Sri Lanka.