Gilkanda and Ravi Kumar

Gilkanda School

On the suggestion of the Elpitiya Zonal Director, Robert visited Gilkanda School over the Easter holidays. The school Is located in an oil-palm plantation and none of the 21 pupils has ever left company land.  The principal told Robert that most of the children are malnourished and live in “line-houses” – holdovers form the oppressive colonial era, in which families occupy a single room in a building that has no electricity or running water. As well as a morning meal, the principal has asked us to consider repairing the boys’ toilet which is not functioning, and perhaps provide the school with some much-needed classroom resources. Robert did the maths and the whole project should cost in the region of £500 a year. The Zonal Director said that there are several similar small but desperately needy schools in the area. Certainly Gilkanda seems to a project that is right up Extra Cover’s alley – a small, but viable school with poor, marginalised children.

Ravi Kumar

Although Sri Lanka’s a Buddhist country, the government offices were all closed on Good Friday, or Black Friday as they call it, and so on that day Robert made several private visits with Thishantha to people’s homes. On one visit, he met Ravi Kumar and his family. Ravi Kumar was an estate work who has become paralysed from the waist down following a fall while working on a plantation. He and his family all live in a wattle and daub – basically clay and stick – two-room house. To keep the family afloat while her husband remains at home, his wife Sandumali works two jobs – tea plucking from 7.30 to 2.30 and then in a tea factory from 7.30 pm until after midnight.

Before his accident, Ravi Kumar had started on building a larger house on another plot of land across the road – still wattle and daub, but this time with an outdoor loo, a kitchen, and a separate bedroom for the kids, Hiruni and Rashan. Robert spent some time with Ravi Kumar and his family, chatting about school and medical concerns, and he learned that to build this wheelchair-accessible house from its current state will cost around 100,000 rupees, or £400.


Until a few months ago Yatalamatha Junior School had a problem with pupils not having immediate access to fresh water, as a pipeline from the senior school a quarter of a mile up the road was proving unreliable. It was a privilege for Extra Cover to arrange for the necessary engineering work and see fresh flowing water, literally on tap, for the 150 pupils.

The school has kindly agreed to play host to Brighton College pupils in July. The principal, Mrs Pushpumala, has approved a two-day English “camp” at which College students will use drama, music and more traditional classroom methods to encourage Yatalamatha girls and boys to deepen their knowledge of, and love for, the language.


Matthew and Robert visited Malamura School for the first time in February 2012. With the strategic principal Mr Weerasinghe at the helm, it is definitely a school in the ascendancy – there are currently 40 pupils in grades 1-3, rolling up to grade 5 over the next couple of years – and the parents actively support the staff in their determination to ensure their children have the best education possible. Their most pressing need at the moment is access to clean water. Extra Cover has agreed to consider a quotation for the building of a concrete lined well, with pump and connection to a water tank.


With some 175 children on the school roll, Gonadeniya is by far the largest school with which Extra Cover is engaged. The principal Mr Arachi recognises the value of pupils learning both outside, as well as inside, the classroom, and we were recently delighted to help in the building of an open-air theatre in the heart of the school grounds.
Extra Cover is assisting with the daily food programme for approximately half the pupil body, now each child receives a meal every school day of the year.


A thirty minutes’ drive (in truth a gentle jungle safari) from Polwattha School, Nakanda was the first school to which Extra Cover had food delivered daily. Since then, shoes, stationery and games equipment have all been supplied when needed, and over the years Extra Cover has repaired a disused well, installed a water storage tank and covered the costs of fixing doors, window mesh (to prevent unwanted night-time intruders) and fluorescent lights.
News has reached us that the school may well be closed as part of the educational re-zoning programme. We shall report on any developments and of the destination of the pupils


Situated only a few miles from the town of Weligama, there is a more sophisticated, “urban” feel to the Polwattha School than others with whom we work. The pupils are certainly more used to seeing foreigners in their midst, and there is greater emphasis on sport here than at some of the more remote schools.
In the early days after the tsunami, Extra Cover helped with the supply of vitamins, stationery, shoes and socks, and later on it sponsored an educational tour for the more senior pupils, enabling them to see some of their country’s cultural heritage sites.
The recent educational re-zoning has altered the composition of the pupil body somewhat; there are now 49 children on the school roll, with 22 in Grade 1, and one clear emphasis of the principal Mrs Kanthi and her dedicated teachers is the encouragement of all the pupils to have an excellent grasp of the English language.
Some of the children receive packs of dry rations; all have recently received new shoes. This year Extra Cover has agreed to cover the costs of repair to the school’s much-used and much-enjoyed playground equipment.


Of all the schools with whom we work, Kottegoda (situated about 30 minutes’ drive east of Matara) has undergone the greatest transformation since 2005. From sharing one large room, pupils now study in separate classrooms in a building atop the steep hillside that makes up the school’s grounds. It is here that the 28 children (13 in grade 1, hinting at rapid expansion) spend most of their time, and in the past month Extra Cover has agreed to fund the creation of a playground at the top of the school. Parent volunteers are clearing the scrubland, and we hope to have the play area in use by July.
Kottegaoda is a friendly, charming school and, since the educational re-zoning at the beginning of the year, has shown itself to be forward-looking and ambitious. We are committed to helping the principal Mr Sampath in preparing children for examinations and have recently bought scholarship papers for the Grade 5 class, to help them in their revision. Over the years we have helped the school with similar educational resources, as well as furniture, shoes and a new toilet. The children receive dry ration packs.


Nawala bristles with energy. The staff at this school of 100 children, high up in the hills an hour northeast of Galle, is exuberant and supremely dedicated in equal measure. Mr Chandarasiri, the principal, and his colleagues have collaborated with Extra Cover on a number of projects – the most significant of which has been the building of a Montessori (“Pre-Prep”) school, together with a separate, fully furnished playground. There are now 15 Montessori pupils, taught by two specialist teachers.

Nawala is a “community” school – the whole village is engaged with the education of the girls and boys – and Extra Cover is privileged to be part of their dream. In July the school will host a cricket match with Brighton college pupils. The last two years have seen similar contests – both times the English side has been utterly humiliated.


Set in idyllic surroundings (water buffalo nonchalantly chew the cud in the paddy fields to one side while to the other playful monkeys shake the treetops) the hillside school of Bemboda currently has 25 pupils, from Grades 1-5. There is a wonderful, “family” feel about the place: under the watchful eye of their principal Mr Upali, the teachers care for all aspects of the welfare of their charges, educational and beyond.
When we first came across this lovely little school, their two most pressing problems were food and water, and Extra Cover saw to the provision of food packs for the children, and also paid for an electrical connection to the school’s well, pumping up fresh water into the main buildings. We have provided whiteboards and painted much of the furniture), covered the cost of repairing playground equipment, and most recently have paid for a fence to be installed around the front and side of the buildings. This is to prevent wild animals – not least wild boar – entering the classrooms and making an awful mess.
Bemboda warms the heart of anyone who visits. Far from the big cities, the school exudes amagnificent “joi de vivre” and communal spirit.


A few miles from Patawelivitiya is the small community of Mahalapitiya. Until 2010 a Buddhist monk ran the small school there and Extra Cover helped him provide the children with food, fresh water from a re-built well, stationery and shoes and socks. The school has since closed.