Conflicts & War

Sri Lanka school closure leaves thousands of children in limbo

Colombo, July 4 (EFE).- Sri Lanka Monday extended the closure of schools for another week to deal with a severe fuel shortage.

Schools in the capital Colombo, its suburbs, and other major cities have remained shut from June 20 as the country struggles to find foreign currency to purchase petroleum products.

The government was forced to take a drastic measure to stop fuel supply to non-essential services till July 10.

For the economic crisis hit islands’ children, no fuel means no school.

Suramya Hemamali’s six-year-old daughter spends most of her time watching television since she has not gone to school all these days.

Suramya, 43, told Efe that despite her daughter going to a rural school, it was closed because teachers couldn’t find transportation.

“There is no fuel for anyone to go anywhere. We were told not to come to school because there won’t be any teachers,” she said.

She has been trying to connect to classes through Zoom app to no avail.

Most times internet connection drops in her area, and at other times teachers struggle to connect. Then there are the hours-long power cuts.

Sri Lanka has plunged into the worst economic crisis in over seven decades.

The country’s 4.2 million children are facing the worst impact of the crunch. Schools were closed for over a year and a half during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The government’s attempts to take classrooms to virtual settings failed, as state-paid teachers refused to provide their service till they were paid salary anomalies.

This year, schools were closed several times, and some institutes have started to do online classes. It left many children, like Suramya’s daughter, to fall behind their peers.

Inflation has reached a record 54.6 percent and food inflation reached 80.1 percent year-on-year in June, according to government statistics.

Families have resorted to cutting down consumption, and even meals to cope with the rising cost of living.

Non-profit organization Save the Children have found that children from two to five households were unable to join online classes due to families finding it hard to afford data.

Many children don’t have access to the internet.

In a recent statement, Ranjan Weththasinghe, Save the Children’s Director of Programs in Sri Lanka, warned that the impact the crisis has on children in Sri Lanka will last for years.

“We know that 50 percent of families are really struggling to support their children’s education and some children are already dropping out of school and going hungry daily,” he said.

“Parents should not have to choose between buying data for online classes or buying food. We’re at a risk of taking a huge step backwards on child nutrition and education in Sri Lanka.”

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