This past week I was fortunate enough to be allowed exclusive access into the classrooms of Sri Lanka. Geethika (one of our Sinhala teachers) and Chandira (a fellow teacher I met on the train) were gracious enough to not only have me observe in their schools but also feed me meals and host me in their homes.

The outing was one in which I learned a whole lot about the Sri Lankan school system, international development and the culture in general. I find myself struggling to put my experience into words so I’ve attached an imovie instead along with the below description.

* The movie opens with pictures taken at Geethika’s school. This school was rebuilt after the tsunami and is a perfect example of how difficult international development can be. The school was designed, planned and built by foreigners with little local input. Even though only 150 students go to the school, it was made very large and stocked with computers, a photocopier and overhead projectors. Unfortunately, it is far too big to maintain and the technical equipment is all broken right now with no money for repairs. In addition, a hall was built with no consideration for the climate. It doesn’t allow ventilation and is about 1/2 the size of their old one so it simply isn’t used.
Geethika’s School Stats
– 150 students
– co-ed
– low social economic status
– small class sizes (7-15 pupils/ teacher)
– grades 1-12

* Next I’ve included some pics of the city of Matara in which I visited and stayed with my newly acquired teacher friend, Chandira. She teaches math and English at an all boys school. Her husband teaches music at the same school and he is featured in the video playing one of the traditional instruments called an esraj. Other highlights in Matara included meeting and playing handball with a class of 14 year old girls and their teacher as well as impromptu Sinhala lessons from Chandira’s two sons.

* The last day in Matara I was one of the guests of honour at a concert showcasing the learning that took place during English week. As a guest of honour, I had to give a speech (which was news to me). The 5 hour concert (yes you read that right!) featured singing, dancing and drama performances including a model UN and Hollywood who’s who in which some of the boys dressed as girls to fit the parts.

Chandira’s School Stats
– 3200 students
– 50 students / classroom
– establish in the 1800s and has a good reputation thus everyone sends their children their
– middle income demographic
– grades 1-12
– all boys