Aug 7, 2009, Pussellawa
I asked about family incomes. Averagely a working labour in tea fields earns 300 Rupees (rs) a day, working 20 days, they earn 6000rs ($52) a month. When there’s plenty of rain (wet season is from May to November, to my knowledge), they might get more but not exceeding 8000rs ($70). If there are two working labours in the house (father and mother), they can expect 12000rs income per month. The problem is the increasing living cost in this country. Food expense is 200rs per head per day, and in mountain areas, unlike costal areas, they have 4-6 children in a family; some have retired parents to look after. 600rs income per day (both labours) to feed 6 or more people – this leads to very low quality of life. One-labour family is even more difficult.
Photo 28: A Grade 5 girl looking out of the window.
Photo 29: Paintings on the wall. The "Longing for rain" theme indicates an agricultural society.
The school is not in bad condition, among all schools I’ve paid visit to. However, a lot of help are expected to generate, you can imagine. No lights in classrooms, old desks and chairs, lack of lab facilities, just to name a few. I met the principle Mr. Rajendiran. He showed great concern to the school and the students. As the teacher mentioned, the principle has insisted in developing their school and keep claiming their needs to the government (who distributes resources to all schools), and this is why the school is being maintained so well.
Photos 30&31: The school off the road of the mountain. Spectacular views surrounded. You can see this classroom building, it's very dark inside - very dark.
One day only, and I could not forget this “surprise” of the trip. During the weekend, I always saw students walking in the mountain paths, and recalled me of this small school off road of the huge mountain. They said there are 15 schools in Pussellawa area, and almost the same size in other towns. All these schools are serving very poor children – the large population from tea farmer families.
From friends I met in Colombo, I also learned about poverty among tea peasant families. A gentleman working in the NGO Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has organized volunteer groups to help these children complete school, even go to universities (it’s very rare), and its Outreach Unit in CPA now is organizing exchange programs cross country. My friend Chandrika from Outreach is now initiating a scholarship plan. With Outreach’s engagement at the grassroots, I wish the plan every best – as we see, a lot of good wills are generated. They can do it, so can we.
Photo 32: A classroom filled with students. There are not enough teachers in the school.
Photo 33: Big boys.
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