Sri Lankan children make a dangerous climb for online school
Teachers and schoolchildren trek for miles and climb a rock to access the only internet signal available in their remote village.
Sri Lankan children sit on tree branches as they access their online lessons from a forest reserve in their village in Bibila, Sri Lanka. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
13 Jul 2021
Getting online school lessons for this remote Sri Lankan village requires a trek of more than three kilometres (about two miles) in dense bushes, sometimes visited by leopards and elephants.
The teachers and some 45 schoolchildren in Bohitiwaya then climb a rock to access the only internet signal available.
Information technology teacher Nimali Anuruddhika uses the signal to upload lessons for her students who have not been able to go to school because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students who also live in the village make the same journey to download online lessons sent to them by their teachers.
Not all have mobiles or laptops, with four or five children sharing one device.
Their parents, most of whom are farmers, often accompany their children. HM Pathmini Kumari, who accompanies his sixth-grade son, says the children climb the rock twice a day and their safety is a big concern for parents.
The village in the central-eastern part of the island country lacks basic amenities, and its children had been studying in a government school, now closed, that is some 16km (10 miles) away.
In the village of Lunugala, some 60km (37 miles) away, adults escort schoolchildren to a mountaintop treehouse in a forest reserve. It is about 30 feet high and has internet access. They take turns to upload their homework and download lesson plans.
Schools in Sri Lanka have been closed for the most part since March 2020.
Authorities say they make every effort to provide all children with access to education, but Joseph Stalin, who heads the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, says at most 40 percent of Sri Lanka’s 4.3 million students can participate in online classes. The majority lack access to devices or connectivity.
Sri Lanka’s government on Monday began a campaign to vaccinate all teachers with a view to reopen schools soon.
A Sri Lankan woman holds a smartphone for her daughter to take online classes from a signal reception point on a mountain in a reserve forest in Lunugala. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
Sri Lankan students walk down from a nearby mountain after attending their online classes in Bohitiyawa village in Meegahakiwula. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
The digital divide fuelled by uneven internet access and high data costs has forced many students out of the formal education system in Sri Lanka. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
A Sri Lankan student attends her online classes from a tree house. Schools on the island have been closed for the most part since March 2020. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
Sri Lankan parents rest lying on rock boulders as their children follow online lessons at a mobile signal reception point on a mountain top in Bohitiyawa village. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
Children share a smartphone to receive their online lessons on a mountain top in Bohitiyawa village. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
Sri Lankan children sit on tree branches as they access their online lessons. Authorities say they make every effort to provide children with access to education. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
A Sri Lankan man helps his son put his bag on his back as they prepare to climb a mountain with others to access online lessons. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]
Sri Lankan children walk down a mountain after attending their online lessons in a forest reserve in Bohitiyawa village in Meegahakiwula. [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]