Sri Lanka • Hitting the streets of a country in mourning

Posted on 28-05-2019

The past few weeks, Sri Lanka was all over the international news. The horrible terror attacks that struck the island nation on Easter Sunday left the entire world shocked and speechless. Despite schools being shut in the aftermath of the attack, Mobile School decided in close collaboration with our potential partner Child Action Lanka (CAL) to stick to our plan and to conduct a one-week exploration with the organization in Kelaniya, a suburb of the capital Colombo.

It was in 2016 that Mobile School got in contact with Debbie Edirisinghe – founding manager of the organization Child Action Lanka (CAL) – for the first time. Three years later and after setting up a partnership with the UC Leuven-Limburg, CAL made the decision to explore a potential partnership in order to check if the mobile school could add value to their projects.

In Kelaniya, a suburb just outside of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, the organization is running one of their educational centres. CAL runs several educational centres for disadvantaged youth in 8 districts across the island. In these centres, CAL offers day care and creative pre -and after school activities to children of different age groups. Moreover, families of the children are supported with vocational training, microloans and housing assistance. In general, CAL build an holistic approach with the objective to educate, care for and provide life opportunities for children who – due to various circumstances – have suffered neglect, abuse and lack of access to adequate education.

Child Action Lanka

Since the centres were still empty because of the security situation, all centre managers of CAL were able to travel to Kelaniya to participate in the mobile school prospective visit. Besides some basic workshops on the mobile school methodology and street work, the team visited several locations near the famous buddhist temple in Kelaniya where they aim to set up mobile school activities in the future. Since the capacity of the CAL-centres is limited and not all the kids living in the communities can come there, the organization would like to reinforce their programmes with a mobile school. This way, children who can’t go to the centre are still able to participate in non-formal and creative activities in their own environment. 

Kelaniya temple

The impact of the Easter attacks on the Sri Lankan tourism industry became clear on the final day of the prospective visit. In Galle, a city that usually attracts large crowds of tourists, CAL is also working with children permanently living and working on the streets. These kids make money by selling all kinds of small objects and souvenirs to the tourists who come to the city to enjoy the beach, the atmospheric Old Town and the old Dutch Fort. While heavily armed soldiers were guarding the Fort and the nearby mosque during Friday prayers, only a handful of people were strolling through the empty streets on the Friday afternoon. For a lot of kids and adults relying on the tourism industry to make a living, the sudden drop in the number of tourists is an economical disaster

Galle

Although some places visited during the prospective visit were less bustling as usual, it’s crystal clear that CAL could be a great potential mobile school partner if all logistical needs can be put in place. In the coming months, both parties will sit together to define a long-term strategy in order to make a final decision regarding the implementation of the very first mobile school in Sri Lanka. To be continued!