The more we visit Rose’s programs, the more we realize how far-reaching Rose Charities Sri Lanka really is. Since 2006, Rose Sri Lanka has directly supported isolated and marginalized Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim communities. In 2011, Rose is addressing educational needs in 9 different districts, covering a large part of not just Kalmunai but the Eastern Province.
On Thursday morning P. Latha, the sports coordinator and P. Kanalakannan, the health and nutrition coordinator took us to Chalambaikrany, a dominantly Muslim area. We visited three preschools, Zahira Preschool, Iemam Hasal Preschool and Mega Preschool where we were welcomed by teachers, parents and children. At Zahira Preschool we met a teacher that had won the ‘Best Preschool Teacher’ award from Rose in 2009. She seemed to take pride in not only her award but her children’s progress. The children were lined up in a semi circle around the teacher, some of the most well behaved 3 year olds we’ve ever seen.
At Iemam Hasali Preschool, we walked in to find children playing with red paint and crayons. There was red paint on their hands, faces and uniforms just as much as their papers. It was exciting to see the children given so much creative freedom and thoroughly enjoy their extra-curricular activities. Rose provides the preschools with art supplies and encourages teachers to balance behavioral development with fun, stimulating activities like art and singing. While in Kalmunai, Sonia has been spending time with preschool teachers to share teaching methods and improve English skills. Singing songs like “Eyes, ears, mouth and nose” and “The Hokey Pokey” has not only been fun but is an effective way to teach 3 year olds about anatomy.
We got to Mega Preschool at around 11:00 am, just as students were getting ready to go home. While the children were gathered together with their Rose backpacks, mothers and fathers came to collect them. The teacher at Mega Preschool shared that parents are increasingly supportive of early childhood development and extremely helpful to the teachers inside and outside the classroom. A mother was practicing the English words that her child had learned in class until he worked up the confidence to come up to us and introduce himself in English. I’ve never been more pleased to be asked “Hello, how are you? What is your name?”
We also learned that the Sri Lankan government has recently agreed to contribute milk packets to each preschool child as a snack. This contribution is the start of a cooperative relationship between Rose Charities and the Sri Lankan government to improve early childhood education in the Ampara District.
Early childhood education is one of Rose Charities’ central programs, with 14 preschools running across the Ampara District. However the program does not only improve access to early education, Rose is constantly working to improve the quality of education in each preschool. Now with government support, perhaps Rose’s model in Ampara can be applied throughout Sri Lanka in future years.