January 22 2009

School destroyed by tsunami is rebuilt by SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka

21/01/2009 - On 5 January, a dedication ceremony was organised for the Al-Misbah School in eastern Sri Lanka that had been destroyed by the tsunami in late 2004. SOS Children's Villages has rebuilt the school from scratch; it is currently being attended by 1,500 students.

Photo: SOS Archives
Colourful performances by students at the opening ceremony - Photo: SOS Archives

"We are overjoyed to see this school functioning again! After the tsunami destroyed it, we almost lost hope. Ever since 2004, educating our children in this region was nearly impossible. This troubled part of Sri Lanka owes a lot to SOS Children's Villages for taking on the mammoth task of investing in the region's future," said a prominent community leader on the occasion of the dedication ceremony of Al-Misbah School on 5 January in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

This school is situated in Kalmunai, 300 kilometres east of Colombo and 45 kilometres south of Batticaloa - right on the conflict-ridden east coast. The tsunami catastrophe made the situation even worse for the development of this region, already badly affected by the long civil war. The coastal Ampara district, where Kalmunai is located, reported more than 10,000 tsunami casualties - about a third of Sri Lanka's total death toll.

Photo: SOS Archives
President Kutin is awarding a prize to a student from Al-Misbah SchoolPhoto: SOS Archives

The Minister of Child Development and Women's Empowerment, Mrs. Sumedha G Jayasena, inaugurated the school in presence of SOS Children's Villages President Helmut Kutin and many other representatives of SOS Children's Villages. Over 2,000 people, mostly students' parents, witnessed the ceremony. SOS Children's Villages of Sri Lanka rebuilt the almost completely destroyed school building and handed it over to the community in November 2008.

The minister applauded SOS Children's Villages for taking action in ensuring the future of Sri Lanka's children by ensuring their education.

SOS Children's Villages didn't hold back in furnishing the school: a total of 58 classrooms was constructed, along with an administrative room, a staff room, a science laboratory, a library, a multimedia room, an aesthetics room, a counseling room, a toy room, an agriculture room, a computer lab and an activity room.

Photo: SOS Archives
Classes were held in temporary shelters - Photo: SOS Archives
While the new school was still under construction, classes were being held in temporary shelters. "Sitting in the temporary shelter was tough. It got so hot in the afternoons we couldn't even have proper lessons; arts and crafts classes didn't take place at all during this period. Now, everything is set up and ready," said a student.

The Al-Misbah School came into being in 1954 with 57 students attending. Today it can accommodate up to 1,500 students. For the locals, it has a great emotional value. Many students currently attending the school are the children of former students.

When the 2004 tsunami's waves slammed into the shore, the school was open and classes were in session. Most of the structure was wiped out immediately, 106 students died. NGOs who took up activities in the region after the disaster shied away from reconstructing the school due to its massive infrastructure and financial implications. The government of Sri Lanka asked SOS Children's Villages to take on the reconstruction of the school, which started in 2006. The foundation stone was laid in January 2007.