Extra Cover is most at home, and perhaps closest to its original mission, when it helps smaller schools. To the under-educated eye, it appears that these schools, of about 50 or fewer pupils, can be overlooked as the shifting political scene delivers (or does not deliver) educational aid. And Kumburuhena is a case in point
This is something of a Cinderella school, unloved compared with its two nearby sisters.
Kumburuhena has competition from two schools on either side – both are larger, better resourced (which is not hard) and with a stronger academic focus. As such, only the poorest families keep their children in the local school. Unable to afford the transport costs, they leave them in the care of Mrs. Chandra and her indomitable colleagues.
It is a school of nine children. When I visited in mid-July there were two additional children who were not in uniform. These were two “informal educational” pupils (i.e. children who have not been to school as their parents have allowed them to work on the plantations) who had been assigned the least attractive educational establishment where they could start their studies in reading, writing and arithmetic.
The water supply is in good shape, and the government food programme is in place (the elderly baker was keen to tell me how she provided daily meals as regularly as clockwork), but the one toilet was a disgrace and several of the pupils had no shoes, and stick thin legs, suggesting a lack of nutrition and nourishment. The principal gave me a wish-list, amongst which was a recognition of the need for more hygienic facilities and clothing for the pupils. I have asked for a quote for the repair of the existing toilet and for the provision of a second toilet – one for pupils, one for staff.
I have also asked for quotes for the entire school body to be furnished with shoes, a new uniform and a second daily meal. With these changes, more local parents will perhaps be be happy to send their children here.
An elemental requirement for Extra Cover to have an NGO in Sri Lanka is that assists two educational regions, in our case the Galle and Matara educational districts. We only have three schools in the latter, and with Garaduwa on our books, our case can only be strengthened. Garaduwa is a well run outfit of some 59 children.
On our visit in late July, a small band welcomed us and then a Grade 3 girl danced beautifully as a sign of welcome. Tidy, well-resourced and well-disciplined, the school badly needs repairs to its playground equipment (the rusted and broken edges of the slide were a horrific health hazard and the “whirligig” was severed in two) we have asked for a quote.
Extra Cover does not want to stretch itself too far, leading to a lack of control over any programme. These two schools are comparatively simple projects, however, and the Extra Cover board may consider that the benefits to the seven dozen or so children outweigh any demands on our time or resources.