Reconstructing Sri Lanka’s education system with ‘Hanthana’
It’s no secret that computer literacy is fast becoming a basic necessary skill in almost all of today’s industries. Not only is it a means to enhance the productivity within organisations, the seemingly limitless amount of information on the internet has literally left us with the world at our fingertips.
Education itself is at a shift, now it’s not about how much you know, but rather how well you can find the answers. Information and access to information has become the focal point. Unfortunately many of the Sri Lankan youth do not have access to such sources. Due to financial constraints at their schools, young Sri Lankans are growing up in the shadow of such economic depravity – limited resources means limited opportunities when they grow older.
Requirements for a Hanthana School Lab
A Hanthana School Lab will consist of the following items:
2. Working network (100mbps unmanaged Ethernet switch + cables)
3. Electrical wiring
A multimedia projector will be donated only if the sponsor agrees. Hanthana prefers to donate the multimedia projector after an assessment.
The purpose of the Hanthana Schools project is simple. It aims to operate a fully functional computer laboratory at every school in Sri Lanka. It is ambitious, but the aspirations of the people behind this project hardly measure against the young school kids of today. If it is one thing that is embedded into Sri Lankan culture it is the desire to learn, there will never be a shortage of curiosity and enthusiasm in the children of today’s schools.
Hanthana is an open source software dedicated to bridging the gap between computers, affordability and local language and has been well received across many rural schools in Sri Lanka. The Hanthana team is driven and always will be driven by the community with the fundamental idea that information should always be shared. Hanthana Schools Labs project is a non-profit organisation and relies solely on the community who helped the organisation’s attempts to achieve its goals.
While the initiative to provide computer labs for schools project is going forward as planned, a project to bring PCs in the classroom for primary schools was held as a pilot project was held at the Malalgoda Siriseewali Primary School. Hanthana Linux was introduced to the school children of the Malalgoda Siriseewali Primary school which is located in the Habaraadoowa Educational zone of the Imadhoowa Provincial Council within the Galle District on the 30 January 2012.
This school had been closed down for around one year and was re opened on the 16 January 2012 under the 1,000 schools initiative. The school comprises of 15 students, a Grade 1 class teacher, an English teacher and the principal.
The opening was made possible entirely due to the work done by the locals and the parents, the majority of whom are estate workers and private sector employees. Another special point to highlight here is that a family, whose father is a labourer and the mother employed as a house keeper abroad, donated the PC which was worth about Rs. 12,000.
Upon inquiring from the mother, she said that had her child had to go to another school (due to this school being closed down), they will have to spend Rs. 1,200 a month on three wheeler charges which adds up to around Rs. 12,000 a year and rather than spending that amount just for travelling, she was happier to spend it on a PC for her child as well as other children for the their education.
Far thinking parents of these schools such as her were instrumental in getting Hanthana Linux installed and helping improve primary education. Another point that needs to highlighted is that other parents who labour during the day, spent sleepless nights dedicated to maintaining and repairing the school buildings and equipment. These villages personify ‘lead by example’ from the sacrifices they make to educate their children.
On the first day Hanthana was used for the primary education several noteworthy events took place. As there was only one PC, the multimedia projector of the Habaraaduwa Educational Zone Office was used in the class to illustrate the theories for the various subjects using the Educational Software Packages that comes with Hanthana Linux, especially during the ‘Identifying Colours’ lesson.
In contrast to other occasions, the children took part in the lesson most enthusiastically and constantly requested their teacher to allow them to use these software by themselves.
This bought many a happy tear to the eyes of the Director of Education of the Habaradoowa Educational Zone, who attended the occasion and greatly pleased the principal and the parents who were present.
“I’m hungry, I’m hungry…” the lunch time grumble that comes up every day was not be heard on this day as the kids were so engrossed with computer aided lessons.
The teachers agreed that teaching subject concepts and theory using the educational software were extremely easy as opposed to other methods. Even after the school ended, the children were still in class on this day.
As the students are the focal point in the educational system within the school, a single PC and multimedia projector is hardly sufficient. There should be at least a PC for every four students for this to properly work out. In areas such as these where the majority of the people are low income earners, the parents hardly has the capability to sponsor the required number of PCs and equipment. External sponsorship is highly important for cases like these.
A qualitative school education system helps the whole nation to grow. Therefore the Hanthana community is committed to the task of building the school IT education using Hanthana Linux through the Hanthana School Labs Project and they hope that more people would join them to support their cause.