Colombo: Online school, an opportunity to live Christian values
by Melanie Manel Perera

In Sri Lanka school lessons have moved online, but many children have no access to have tablets or internet. The teachers speak of the challenges they face: "As Christians it is our responsibility to continue with the educational process".



Colombo (AsiaNews) - "It is an unexpected and difficult period for everyone, but we also have the opportunity to deepen our experience of Christian values," says Chamudi Fernando, a Catholic teacher at St. Joseph's College in Nugegoda in the archdiocese of Colombo.

As in the rest of the world, lessons in Sri Lanka have been held online for a year. But for teachers like Chamudi, continuing their work has been a challenge: "It is difficult to make the younger children understand how to keep their distance. They often ask why they can't go back to school to see their friends. And with the lessons, we had to find ways to keep them interested in learning.

Chamudi offered the families home gardening activities in which the children had to tend small gardens in bottles, pots, glasses or sacks. "I received some beautiful photos which I shared with the whole class. A way of sticking together in times of pandemic, even if the technology gap risks excluding the most disadvantaged children.

"The government has promoted online education, but has ignored the real problems of families. Most of my students do not have a tablet or a good internet connection," said Nisansala Udeshika, also a Catholic teacher at the Uthurawala Dharmaraja Vidyalaya Buddhist school in rural Kurunegala. Since many of her students don't even have smartphones, Nisansala prepared hard copies of their homework and then some parents took it upon themselves to distribute it to the entire village. "Even as a Christian, it is my responsibility to continue the educational process and worry about my students. With God's blessing we will manage to overcome this complicated moment". 

Most of the children in the school in Nisansala come from poor or broken families. Some live with their grandparents because their parents work piecework in the coconut plantations. "The first thing I did was to understand how the families were coping. And after so much effort, the joy of the parents is the greatest gift for the teachers: "They thanked us for being there for their children, their happiness is a precious gift for us".