Conflicts & War

Sri Lankan children missing school days amid economic crisis

Colombo, Sep 14 (EFE).- Sri Lanka’s months-long economic crisis has had a major impact on the education of schoolchildren, as parents are forced to choose between sending them to school or going without sufficient food, with their wages proving insufficient to meet daily needs amid surging inflation.

The fuel crisis, along with rising prices of food – with inflation touching 66.7 percent in August according to the statistics department – has led to many families being unable to properly feed their children.

“Parents have to choose between sending their children to school or keeping their families fed. That is the situation we are in now. It is heartbreaking,” Renuka Karunaratne, a villager from the northern Mulativu district, told EFE.

Karunaratne has launched a program to feed local families during the weekend in a village where most residents are rice farmers.

“This year’s cultivation was affected badly because of the fertilizer ban. Now we are trying to grow vegetables but that too is not successful,” she said.

Last year, the government of former resident Gotabaya Rajapaksa had banned the use of chemical fertilizers to reduce the import bill, and even though the measure was lifted seven months later, it severely impacted small farmers, who were unable to deal with the elevated input costs and shortages during the economic crisis.

The crisis – which has led to Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserves drying up and mounting debt – has resulted in around 60 percent of Sri Lankan children dropping out of school in search of work to keep the household economy afloat, according to Jeremy De Zilwa, the director of nonprofit Teach for Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile the South Asia director of UNICEF, George Laryea-Adjei, said in a statement that 4.8 million or around half of all Sri Lankan children needed urgent assistance of some type due to the ongoing crisis and two years of pandemic-induced lockdowns.

“Children’s education is being hindered by the current crisis in many ways – children no longer get the warm and nutritious school meal that they used to have before the crisis, they lack basic stationery, and their teachers struggle with transportation” due to the lack of fuel, the statement added.

Many children, such as the elder daughter of Ruwangika Nadeeshani, have to miss some of their school hours to look after their younger siblings as the parents try to sustain their livelihood.

“She understands that we are strapped for money. She herself suggests staying home and studying because going to school on some days is a waste of money,” Ruwangika told EFE.

Some teachers and school administrators have decided to sleep in the school to reduce transport costs and ensure that the children continue to receive education, while others have been forced to skip work.

Many families are desperately trying to find employment overseas to so that their children can receive better education.

“There is no way we can earn in Sri Lanka and support our children. Both my husband and I are planning to find work abroad. We want our children to have a good education and not suffer like this,” Ruwangika said. EFE


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