For close on three decades, young people in the North and East were denied a proper or continuous education as schools were closed, damaged or destroyed during the war.
In the East, education is slowly recovering. Of the 69 schools closed during the conflict, 45 have reopened in the past three years – six in Trincomalee, 18 in Mutur, one in Kantalai, two in Batticaloa, 17 in Kalkudah, and one in Ampara.
Rural education in the East has had a further boost with the opening of 26 new schools, according to the Ministry of Education. A total of 33 schools offer classes up to Grade 9, while another 51 schools offer a curriculum extending to Year 11.
The teacher shortage problem is also easing. Over the past four years, 2,408 Tamil teachers and 1,057 Sinhala teachers have been recruited to schools in the East. They include 1,223 science teachers, 393 volunteer teachers, and 29 part-time teachers, as well as 85 cadet teachers and 1,835 graduates.
But shortages remain. There are vacancies for 1,327 teachers, 1,078 in the Tamil medium and the balance in the Sinhala medium. Funding for school development has come from various sources, including the Asian Development Bank and UNICEF. The funds are being used for putting up 28 school buildings, stocking 86 schools with computers, and setting up 11 science laboratories and 13 libraries. Thirty-two schools are getting new toilet facilities.
A total of 3,399 teachers are being deployed to teach 70,820 children in 1,548 pre-schools; 140 of the pre-school teachers started their training in 2008, and 80 have undergone training in the past two years.
Eastern Province Education Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayake told the Sunday Times that it was a challenging time for education in the area, but every effort was being made to provide education facilities and teaching staff.