Village with a mesh network, but not a single telephone


Posted on November 6, 2006  /  183 Comments

Sri Lanka‘s first outdoor wireless computer network is now up and running.

 

Surprisingly, it is not in Colombo. It is not even in any of the other key places. It was installed in Mahavilachchiya, a little known village, 40 km from the nearest town Anuradhapura, and surrounded three sides by the Vilpattu jungle.

 

Most of the villagers are either farmers or labourers with a monthly income of about Rs. 5,000 –  10,000 (US$ 50 – 100). Though there is electricity, it is not yet covered by any of the terrestrial or mobile phone networks. This means there is not a single telephone in this village.

 

On the other hand, Mahavilachchiya has more than 50 PCs and a sophisticated multimedia lab. Majority of the computers are at the houses of the children, who in addition to use them for their studies, design web sites of some of the foreign companies. These PCs are now connected by using the “Mesh Wireless technology” which gives them direct Internet and E-mail facilities.

 

Wireless was the only approach that could be used, as there were no telephone lines the distribution of the houses makes a wired network set up too expensive.

-as reported by Chanuka Wattegama

183 Comments


  1. http://www.horizonlanka.org/news/moe_visit/index.html

    FACT-FINDING MISSION FROM MINISTRY OF EDUCATION OF SRI LANKA

    The Secretary to the Ministry of Education visits Mahavilachchiya

    Ranjith Gunarathne ranjith@mahavilachchiya.net (Updated: March 05, 2007)

    Horizon Lanka Foundation has been doing a great service to the education of the children and the youth in Mahavilachchiya area for the past eight odd years. Many individuals and organizations from other countries have noticed this service and have come forward to assist Horizon Lanka Foundation in numerous ways. They have donated learning and teaching materials such as books, CDs and DVDs and equipment like computers and electronic multimedia projectors etc and one of the donors, Mrs Lovina Charles from United Kingdom bought a 2 ½ acre land and built a two storey building for the Horizon Lanka Academy.

    Notwithstanding all this assistance from private organizations Horizon Lanka Foundation has been having a very hard time coping up with the problems of not having enough teachers and enough funding to cover the salaries of the teachers and other expenses. In spite of these obstacles, Horizon children have been obtaining very high grades for English at school tests and public exams. Unfortunately, for some reason, the fame of these remarkable achievements shown by our students has not reached the authorities that matter. However, the advent of the mesh internet technology has changed this scenario dramatically. Mesh has become a real head turner. These last two or three months we have had a lot of visitors who are interested in mesh internet technology; the installation and implementation of the mesh network and its potential in the role of e-learning, e-commerce and e-governance.

    Today we had the pleasure of welcoming a very important visitor to Mahavilachchiya and Horizon Lanka Foundation. This distinguished visitor is none other than the Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Mr. Ariyaratne Hewage. In fact, there were two VIPs from the Ministry. The other one is Mr. Anura Dissanayake, the Project Director of the Secondary Education Modernization Project, who is doing a lot to uplift ICT education in the public schools in the country.
    Mr W M Samarasinghe, the newly appointed Provincial Educational Director of Anuradhapura and the Zonal Director of Anuradhapura also joined the team to visit Horizon Lanka. Mr M. B. Illangasinghe, one of the teachers who taught English to Mr Wanni also joined the tour. He is to take up a teaching assignment at the HL Academy soon.

    They came with a team of Provincial Project Managers and School Computer Learning Center Managers of SchoolNet program to see how Horizon Lanka Academy works and how it improves the education of children and youth of Mahavilachchiya. Mr. Dissanayake, who is a genuine admirer of Horizon Lanka, said that his team wanted to learn from the experiences of Horizon Lanka Foundation about introducing ICT culture at the village level. He said “My team is ready to run an extra mile to help the surrounding community to improve their life standards. Those five are representing remote village settings in Uva, Southern, Central, Northwestern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.”

    Students of the Horizon Lanka Academy, clad in yellow T-shirts with Horizon logo, welcomed the visitors with a traditional sheaf of betel at the main gate. They watched enthusiastically while the Headmaster of Horizon Lanka Academy Mr. Ranjith Pushpakumara conducted the morning assembly. Then an officer from Sri Lanka Army took over and led the students to the nearby playground for PT.

    Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation introduced the staff of Horizon Lanka Foundation and other guests to the visitors and an informal meeting with the parents followed. The parents talked with the Secretary about their burning problems – mainly the shortage of teachers in public schools in the area. The principals of the schools in Mahavilachchiya area also talked about these issues. This is the first time a Secretary to the Ministry of Education visited Mahavilachchiya and Mr Hewage goes down in the annals of the history of Mahavilachchiya.

    Here, Mr Wanni introduced Mr R Dharmadasa, a former Principal of Thakshila School to Mr Hewage. Mr Dharmadasa, a retired Principal is the man who should get the credit of making Wanni a productive man since the latter’s childhood at Thakshila Public School till today as Wanni still seeks advice from his beloved head master when it matters most. Mr Dharmadasa is the Chief Advisor of the HL Academy’s Parents’ Association as well.

    The Secretary listened very patiently, most of the time nodding in agreement, to the villagers and the school principals. He said that he is not unaware of these issues; not limited to Mahavilachchiya area, and he is doing whatever is possible in his capacity to solve all these problems. Mr. Hewage further stated that the government is taking steps to recruit teachers from the same area to teach in local schools and they have to select a school from a list. Then they have no reason to ask for transfers to other areas as they work in the schools of their own choice. This idea was first discussed when Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Presidential Secretary, came to visit Mahavilachchiya and now it is being implemented. We are very fortunate to have officials who are true to their words and who take the responsibilities vested upon them seriously.

    Introducing Mr Dharmadasa

    Mr Hewage listening to the parents

    Mr. Hewage said he has a plan to build Teachers Quarters for the schools in a given area at a central location facilitating the teachers to live close to each other, which would help to overcome isolation and loneliness. This will place the teachers in a setting where they can work as a team, which will be very helpful in increasing the quality of their services. Mr. Wanni assured the parents and students who were present that he had full faith in officials like Mr. Hewage, who have a good vision, right attitudes and a genuine, keen interest in improving the level of education in Sri Lanka. He said it is due to the age-old laws, rules and regulations, which are not relevant in the present setup and the negative attitudes of certain officers in the middle management that the education is suffering. But Mr Hewage pointed out that creative officials and principals are shrewd enough to go between the lines when it comes to being practical in work to produce good results with the existing rules and regulations. It is not the circulars that slow down or disturb work but the people who are in those positions of making decisions.

    Mr. Hewage promised the parents that Mahavilachchiya will be given priority over all other areas because of the Model eVillage Project and fill all the teacher vacancies without any delay. He instructed the North Central Provincial Director of Education to take every step necessary to fulfill these needs. Mahavilachchiya also will be considered in selecting one of its schools as a prestigious “Isuru School” in time to come and will be provided all the necessary resources to the selected school.

    Then the team proceeded to the Computer Laboratory to watch some presentations. The first of these was the presentation on Horizon Lanka Foundation by the Founder/CEO Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka. He showed the visitors, through a very colorful multimedia presentation, the gigantic progress achieved by the Horizon Lanka Foundation starting from the events that led him to leave his job as an English Teacher at a government school. He impressed the audience with his diplomatic but forceful speech talking about the obstacles he had to overcome on his e-journey which took him to various parts of the world on a quest to learn the uses of ICT for rural community development, the result of which is the making of the first eVillage in Sri Lanka. He revealed his uncanny futuristic vision by telling the audience about his future plans, which include introducing Wi-Max technology to Mahavilachchiya and setting up of a satellite TV relay station to broadcast edutainment content through VHF/UHF channels to village households and public schools if he gets the official barriers cleared. (No one believed that mesh network would be possible when he first talked about it but it did become a reality and there is no reason why his other dreams should fail.)

    Next came the presentation by the senior students of Horizon Lanka Academy. They described the audience Horizon Lanka’s ICT plan.

    Mr. Ranjith Pushpakumara, the Headmaster of Horizon Lanka Academy, came forward to give a very informative presentation on how he managed to achieve these tremendous academic results, working in the Horizon Lanka Academy in Mahavilachchiya only on Saturdays and during school vacations as he is a teacher at a government school. He pointed out that he has allowed a lot of freedom for his young learners in the planning of his curriculum and his syllabi – especially the ICT syllabus – is more practical and activity oriented. He said he always strives to motivate the learners to self-learn using the hi-tech equipment available at the Horizon Lanka Academy. He went on to explain the importance of using this computer and multimedia equipment in a classroom environment where you teach a second language. He said that the assistance he got from foreign volunteers in teaching English at HL Academy was invaluable. He explained the importance of activity based teaching methods using sports, western music, and outdoor activities. These activities help to give the learners a sound English education and to motivate them towards active participation in the learning process. The group outdoor activities like Shramadana Campaigns help to inculcate positive attitudes in them. Then he talked about the present barriers that block his progress like the shortage of funds for the teachers’ salaries and the lack of trained teachers for ICT and coaches for sports.

    While the presentations were going on the villagers brought fresh young coconuts, which the visitors enjoyed drinking straight out of the nut. This is symbolic of the way Horizon Lanka Foundation has been operating since its inception. Embracing new technologies and making use of them to develop the village but keeping the traditional cultural values intact.

    The final presentation was done by Mr S. K. Nandana, the Principal of Thakshila Public School on how much the public schools in the area have achieved despite all odds. He convinced the audience that a lot can be achieved by utilizing what is available rather than waiting for manna from heaven. One can see this if one visits the school he has developed with the minimum resources he had. This was the same school where Mr Wanninayaka had his primary and secondary education. As a goodwill gesture, Horizon Lanka Foundation donated a totally free 24/7 internet connection to this school and another free mesh internet connection to Saliyamala Public School where Mr Wanninayaka did his first teaching job.

    After the presentations the visitors were invited to a sumptuous lunch comprising of red and white rice, curries of fresh vegetables straight from the village gardens and fresh water fish from the Mahavilachchiya reservoir followed by a dessert of fresh fruit. They enjoyed and admired the hospitality for which our villagers are world famous.

    The visitors were next taken to see the banana plantation using the new drip irrigation system. This banana plantation is a result of the hard labor of Mr. Shantha, a Home Guard attached to the Mahavilachchiya police post. He has worked in his spare time developing this piece of land owned by Mr. Harin de S Wijerathne, a long time donor of Horizon who has sacrificed a great deal of his time and money to assist Horizon Lanka Foundation to realize its dreams. Mr Harin’s idea is that to show the villagers the proper way of cultivating with the right technology and timely planning so that the other farmers in the village can learn from the pilot and become successful farmers. Mr. Hewage surprised all of us by showing his knowledge and interest in agricultural matters when he instructed as to how the weeding etc. should be done. He also promised to look into opportunities how Shantha, the farmer can be given further training with the Agricultural institutes in Bibile where a hybrid type of oranges and other fruits are grown.

    After that, the team was taken to see the mesh technology at work. This was undoubtedly the most important item in the agenda of the visiting team. They were very enthusiastic to learn how mesh works and the way it is being used in Mahavilachchiya. They were more than surprised by the technical awareness and the familiarity with the computers and internet these village students showed. Mr. Wanni explained to them how mesh was installed, how it works and what benefits a network like this can offer a rural village in the development process. All the Provincial Directors and Computer Learning Center Managers were very excited about this comparatively low cost solution for the connectivity at the village level. They were very impressed with the Business Process Outsourcing work the students are being trained to do. This BPO work enables them to earn a considerable amount of money working for companies in Sri Lanka, USA and Europe in their spare time, working from home using internet through mesh network. Ranuka Udayanga, a Grade 12 student showed the educational content site called Horizon Lanka Virtual Academy he has been developing for OpenWorld Learning, USA and the visitors were flabbergasted. These lessons are accessed by students worldwide, especially those who have less access to teachers physically. This idea of virtual academies are best suited to postwar countries such as Afghanistan, etc. and may be Sri Lanka’s North and East too in near future. Having lessons in a central server and enabling students island wide through WiMax technology wouldn’t be a dream within next few years to come. Dialog Telekom has already done a survey in Mahavilachchiya on feasibility of using WiMax.

    After seeing the marvelous achievements that Horizon Lanka Foundation had made possible in the village of Mahavilachchiya through ICT education and the introduction of mesh technology, the visitors returned to their vehicles visibly shaking their heads in disbelief. Then they returned to the Horizon Lanka premises and watched the boys playing a cricket match while girls were playing a soccer match. Mr. Ranjith Pushpakumara and some students were running a commentary in English over the PA system and it proved to be very interesting to the visiting team. Mr Ranjith was practicing what he preached in his presentation, using sports to improve English language skills. Mr. Hewage and Mr. Dissanayake spent some time talking with the students and they really enjoyed this experience. One student told the writer later that she felt scared at first when Mr. Hewage came and talked to her but that fear vanished soon. ‘How nice if all the big officials are so pleasant and approachable like Mr. Hewage’, she added.

    As the day was coming to an end, the visitors bid farewell to the members of Mahavilachchiya eVillage and Horizon Lanka Foundation. They reluctantly got into their vehicles to begin the long journey back home. These pioneers in ICT education from all over Sri Lanka had seen a lot, learned a lot and they definitely took with them the memory of an unforgettable experience, an inspiration that would help them spread the ICT culture they came into contact in Mahavilachchiya – the eVillage in the jungle.

  2. Horizon Kids on Intel Stage

    Watch the video clip of the presentation Horizon Lanka students and I did with Intel’s Chairman Dr. Craig Barret on December 2005 in Colombo. The video clip is uploaded to YouTube. Visit the website http://www.horizonlanka.org to access the video clip.

  3. Education and Failed States

    I don’t know how much this story is related to Mahavilachchiya thread. Still since MoE had visited the place, I hope there is some relevance. At least they can learn from Mahavilachchiya.

    Read the fllowing article which was on Daily Island today.

    Education and Failed States – An Addendum
    by Savimon Urugodawatta
    Executive Committee member,
    Central Colleges Past Pupils Association of Sri Lanka

    Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara

    The Editor of The Island has once again commented on a very important subject, namely Education, which is a vital aspect in the development of any country, for it is the corner stone of economic, cultural and spiritual development of a nation. In this instance, the Minister in charge of Education himself has openly and bravely come out with the actual situation when he says, “There is a break down of education management at all levels from Isurupaya downwards and that has taken its toll on the school system”.

    The Island in its editorial of March 5, has elaborated several points which have led to the decline in education, one among which is that “Examinations have undergone unwarranted changes and vital subjects have been dropped and reintroduced from time to time according to the whims and fancies of politicians”.

    As an addendum to the editorial comments of The island, I would like to touch upon some salient aspects, which have contributed to the present mess in education and also to the national problems that we are now struggling to solve today.

    It was a visionary like Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara , whom we call the ‘Father of Free Education’, who foresaw the problems the country would face after independence and prepared the groundwork to place the country on a sound footing. A few of the important reforms he carried out can be categorised as follows :

    1. Free Education for all, irrespective of caste, creed and wealth (and also age) so that children of all classes could gain knowledge in the school and develop their brotherhood to become useful citizens of the country.

    2. His education system evolved from the rural schools he experimented from Handessa in the 1930s and which were considered as a useful experiment in education in the whole of Asia.

    3. He established 54 Central Schools covering all the electorates of the time and equipped them with good and efficient Principals and teachers, hostels for scholars, laboratories, workshops, playgrounds, etc., which were then confined only to the Christian Missionary Schools and a few Buddhist denominational schools..

    4. He handpicked efficient and straightforward teachers to man these schools and gave them every encouragement to develop them, keeping a close eye on them. It was unfortunate that subsequently, such good Principals were promoted to be Directors of Education without grooming successors to take over. Such good and efficient Principals should have been kept in the schools, giving them the necessary perks in the school itself. We, representing the Central Colleges Past Pupils’ Association of Sri Lanka, brought this matter up with the National Education Commission in 1992. We brought to the notice of the Commission the dearth of good and efficient Principals to man the schools and requested the Commission to take suitable measures to train a cadre of Principals to take over from those who retire but so far nothing tangible has happened. .

    5. Kannangara brought the estate schools to the main stream of education and looked after the estate children as well, which fact won him the votes of the estate workers at Mathugama in 1947, whereas, in other electorates they voted against the UNP.

    6. He introduced science, agriculture, woodwork, pottery, leatherwork, music and dancing, book binding, etc., into the school curricula so that children, after leaving school, could be gainfully engaged in lucrative vocations.

    7. He established Resident Training Colleges to train the required teachers for the various subjects up to Senior level. These are non existent today.

    8. He streamlined the assisted schools belonging to different denominations by paying the teachers’ salaries direct to the teachers, thereby doing away with mishandling of government funds by school managers.

    9. He planned to establish Practical Schools for those who failed to go for higher studies and 8th standard selective test was planned for this purpose. The succeeding Ministers did not pay any heed to this matter.

    10. He introduced the medium of the mother tongue so that children could easily develop their thinking faculties, at the same time paying due attention to the teaching of English and Sinahla /Tamil.

    11. Thus, he laid the foundation for a classless and creedless society which was the aspiration of the progressives of the time.

    However, the elite class headed by Mr. D.S. Senanayake conspired to defeat him in 1947 election, and thereafter, did everything they could to obstruct and retard the Education Reforms that CWWK had very thoughtfully introduced in 1945. Dr. H.W. Howes was brought down from Gibraltar to be the Director of Education with the ultimate aim of strangling the Free Education system. This was done successfully and now we reap the benefits in the form of communal and economic problems that we are facing today.

    What ails the education

    system today

    Education administrators, guided by politicians without vision, carried out a number of operations in the body of education from time to time, thereby bringing forth the predicament that education has come to today. Some of the ill conceived reforms carried out can be enumerated as follows :

    a) In the early 1950s, there were 3 compulsory subjects for the Senior Level Examination, namely, First Language (mother tongue), Second Language (English/ Pali/ Sanskrit/ Tamil etc.) and Arithmetic or Mathematics. Subsequently, these were reduced to 2 subjects, namely, the First Language and Arithmetic/,Mathematics. Sinhalese Language and Literature (also Tamil Language and Literature) which were treated as 2 subjects were made in to one, making the students neither proficient in language nor in literature. This has resulted in the decline of the SInhala/ Tamil language even among the University Professors and Lecturers, leave alone teachers.

    b) With the coming into being of the Provincial Councils (which had only ruined the country and not even solved the problem for which they were established), the education became a devolved subject coming within the purview of the Provincial Councils. However, successive governments established another set of schools called National Schools administered by the line Ministry, without establishing adequate machinery to administer them. Due to this remote control system, most of the National Schools (including most Central Schools) are being neglected and today some of them had become more and more uncontrollable just as the Universities.

    c) There is no transfer system for Principals and teachers in both National schools and Provincial schools. Even if a Principal is found to be inefficient and corrupt, he cannot be replaced or transferred due to stringent procedures. If a Provincial school teacher wants a transfer to a national school, he has to go through 14 steps.

    d) In the days gone by, there were Boards of Survey carried out annually in every school and Administration, Finance, Inventories, methods of teaching, results at Public Exams, Sports, Environment etc. were all checked by a competent team from the Education Department. As far as I am aware, this vital aspect of education administration has been neglected. I am aware of a school where the Principal of the school has changed 4 times during a period of nearly 30 years, without Boards of Survey being held.

    e) The Navodaya Scholarship system which replaced the 5th Standard Scholarship Examination introduced by C W W K, has created a system of so-called Popular Schools, thereby uprooting the village children from their cultural environment and exposing them to a cosmopolitan culture. This was running counter to the Kannangara system which brought up children in their traditional environment. His vision was to develop decentralised centres of higher learning spread through out the country. It is a well known fact that most parents are only interested in their children only up to Grade 5 and thereafter, their destiny is left in the hands of the school teachers and tuition masters.

    Education in a

    f) The Tuition system, which has now become the canker in the whole education system, has come into being from the time the school curriculum and syllabuses were revised, leaving a gap between the O/ L syllabus and A/ L syllabus, bringing forth a set of Tuition Masters, who came in to fill in the gap, without which children could not follow A/ L classes. In our days, there was a continuity in the syllabuses from 6th Standard up to University level.

    g) International Schools – Education, which was considered a sacred subject from time immemorial, has now become a profitable venture as a result of the neglect of English language in the normal Govt. schools. (Closing down of the English Training colleges has led to this situation in a large way. The Vidhya Peethas, I feel, have not been able to fill that gap.) The overemphasis placed on the English medium by Politicians and Administrators, who had their children educated abroad, also had led to the mushrooming of these International schools. The elite class (including drug barons, uneducated Mudalalis and underworld kingpins) send their children to International schools, spending several millions of illicitly earned money, with the aim of making their children achieve what they themselves could not. These schools, registered under the Company Ordinance or as B O I Projects, bring up children in an atmosphere of an alien culture, imparting knowledge in subjects relevant to British Education system, much against the vision of Dr. C.W.W. Kannagara and against the existing Law of the Island pertaining to education.

    h) The underlying vision of these International schools was well manifested when reading a news item that appeared in the Daily News of Feb. 8th, under the heading ” 53 Lankan teens for 2007 Future Leaders Summit. ” According to this news release, of the 53 students selected to represent Sri Lanka at this Future Leaders summit to be held in Washington D.C., 50 are from International schools and only 3 from National schools ( 1 from Nalanda and 2 from Royal). It is pertinent to question the basis and criteria on which these students were selected. The release further says that these students are sponsored by their parents. This means that only those who can afford to bear the expenses can send their children to the Future Leaders Summit. This also means that students attending national schools have no chance of attending Future Leaders Summit. ( Poor folks have no chance of becoming Future Leaders in the country of their birth ! )

    Since Independence, Sri Lanka has undergone 3 Youth uprisings, namely, J V P uprisings of 1971 and 1989 and the Tamil Youth uprising in the 1980s. If the Kannangara Education system had been implemented in its entirety and in its true form, I feel that such situations would never have arisen. If Kannangara’s vision had been followed, the language problem, which was a precursor to the ethnic problem, would not have arisen.

    The Youth Commission appointed in 1990s to study the background to the youth uprisings and make suitable recommendations to avoid such things in future, had recommended the appointment of a National Education Commission to draft a National Education Policy , which may not be changed with the change of Governments, change of Ministers and change of Secretaries. This Commission, I feel, has miserably failed to address the real issues and advise the Governments on a prudent Education Policy, may be due to their failure to take independent decisions, without been dictated by the powers that be. Some times, the Commission has become dumping ground for political rejects at elections.

    I am of the opinion that the Government should pay their urgent attention to this problem of Education, as much as the current national problem, before the stage will be set for a further youth uprising.

  4. All lengthy pieces that deal with education in Sri Lanka essentially talk about the good old days, criticize new private initiatives and end with the admonition that government should pay its urgent attention to problems of education.

    Do these people live in the real world?

    Have these people had to deal with government lately in matters related to the education of their children, or any other issue for that matter? Do they have young children who need schooling? If their children have already had their schooling, where were they educated? How did they get those children into those schools? If they were lucky enough find a good school without pulling strings, lying or paying bribes, are those children able to do the same for the education of their own children? There should be a disclosure statement on the ‘education of one’s own progeny’ disclosure statement at the end of every education rant.

    Secondly, we only have anecdotes about international schools. It is time to get some representative statistics and opinion surveys from parents who send their children to those schools. I would not surprised if it turns out that there is a substantial number of parents who send their children to those schools because their social standing did not allow them entry to elite schools.

  5. Simon Urugodawatte belongs to the generation of leftists, who dominated in the Sri Lanka scene in the pre 1977. This generation died everywhere in the aftermath of the fall of Soviet system in early 1990s but unfortunately not in Sri Lanka, where we have one or two remaining relics preached us ‘bana’ from time to time.

    We should not take them seriously. These people still live in 1970s.

    .

  6. Over to you Mr Secretary of Education.

    From The Island, today http://www.island.lk/2007/03/14/features1.html

    Poor Standards of English – Whose fault?
    by Peter Melvyn

    Everyone wants to learn English and this has become a bonanza for hundreds of teachers to cash in by offering private classes. There’s a lot of money to be made and English language teachers and others have been quick to exploit the demand. At 200 rupees for a two hour session, it’s easy to rake in four to six thousand rupees, or as much as 25% or more of a teacher’s monthly salary for an easy morning’s work. Ironically, it is often the same teachers conducting these tuition classes as those teaching English in schools. If they are using the same failing methods, then the parents have been unwittingly deceived, and the students will make little or no progress. Parents do not question either the qualifications or competence of these teachers, and since most of the parents have few English language skills, how are they to judge?

    Why is it that after 11 years of daily English lessons at school so few exhibit any real knowledge in reading, writing and speaking the language? Surely there must be something wrong but few are willing to confront the situation or to apportion blame. It’s easy to blame the students for not studying and applying themselves to the lessons. Likewise, the teachers can be blamed for using poor teaching methods and lack of dedication. Principals, who all too often do not speak English, exhibit little influence over their teachers as long as they follow the prescribed syllabus. Divisional inspectors make very infrequent visits to schools, and when they do perform an inspection, it is little more than checking that the textbook units for the grade have been covered. These inspectors all too often have little insight into modern teaching methods and it is the “blind leading the blind”. Ultimately, it is the desk-bound officers at the Ministry of Education, and the N.I.E. who have the responsibility for syllabus, textbooks, and monitoring standards. How often they actually visit schools, especially in rural areas, to experience first-hand progress or lack of progress in English language, is questionable.

    In many aspects English should be easier to learn than many Asian and Oriental languages. First of all English writing is seen everywhere, and many words have become part of everyday language. In spoken and written English, a high percentage of basic words are single syllable.

    The boy, dog and cat are in the big house. When this sentence is translated to Sinhala or Tamil, it requires almost double the number of syllables. In fact very few words in Sinhala are single syllable. In English there are approximately 300 words that are CVC – consonant-vowel-consonant i.e. cat, dog, pot, tin, etc. using mainly 20 letters of the alphabet. In addition, many of the common verbs such as walk, hop, can, run, cook, read, look, etc. are also single syllable words. Contrast these with the words in Sinhala for boy, girl ,and other everyday words and it should be obvious that learning basic spoken English (and spelling), with far fewer syllables, must be relatively easier. Simple questions such as “what’s your name?” is far shorter than the Sinhala equivalent. With an alphabet of only 26 letters, there are many similarities: a, o, b, d, p, q, g and f, t, h, j, I, y. In urban and even rural areas, you don’t need to look far to see English words on shops, notices, and on the huge advertising boards polluting main roads.

    So why is it that so many students find it so difficult to become reasonably proficient in English? And why is it that the majority of teachers and civil servants have such a poor working knowledge of English? What has gone wrong and is still going wrong? With children the spoken language must precede reading and writing. This is fundamental educational theory and psychology. Yet most children begin their formal English in grade 3 with reading and writing. The very first page of the required government textbook contains 12 words for reading. The 256 pages teacher’s guide does not even suggest to practice asking students own names. Instead it focuses on stories with 4 children and 2 animals. Children are told to repeat the phrase “that’s my name”, – hardly useful or colloquial! In spite of the fact that the initial pages display lovely pictures of boys, girls, an elephant and a monkey, in the entire 132 pages only the word elephant appears and we have to wait until page 34 for this. The words for boy, girl, and monkey do not make an appearance! Yet the 15 joint authors, whom we assume are highly qualified English language teachers, did consider it necessary to include words such as rectangle, wound, stethoscope, saucer, syringe, handle, beautiful, and many other words that are more in keeping with “O” level standards. This initial textbook for grade 3 includes a vocabulary of almost 350 words.

    Is it any wonder that by grade 5 less than 10% of students have achieved the expected standard. The National Education Research and Evaluation Centre in a thorough research “Achievements after four years of schooling” was highly critical of the N.I.E. and concluded that “The low levels of mastery attainment (in English) call for comprehensive, systematic, and sustained strategies to accelerate attainment by quality improvement, in particular, by diagnostic and remedial interventions…serious attention should be focused on quality improvement in teaching and learning English”.

    Since the report was published in 2004 there have been numerous pronouncements by Ministers, Directors, and others both in the education departments and other institutions, yet the same system prevails. No one will take responsibility for this abysmal failing. They continue spending vast sums on new textbooks, seminars and ministerial expenses, either ignoring the situation they are fully aware of, or are totally unable to offer any practical solutions. If the Ministry of Education and the N.I.E. are unable to find quick and successful ways to remedy these failures, they must call upon the support of others with the necessary expertise. Meanwhile, the teachers and businessmen involved in private tuition, are happy with the present situation. International schools now educate over 200,000 students and the number of these schools are rapidly multiplying.

    It may be the expressed desired outcome that every child has equal access to quality education. However, some are more equal than others. Those parents who can afford a private education, or good tuition or can get their children into the top schools are confident that English standards will be high. Meanwhile, the majority will continue to spend 11 years of daily English lessons to little profit. At least that will ensure a healthy supply of plantation workers, housemaids, and labourers.

  7. I have a suggestion.

    Why not move the education related discussions to http://www.educationforum.lk?

    Sometime back we have had some good discussions there but now it looks like the site is deserted. (Some text even appear in Greek. I do not know why)

    Why not make that a dynamic space where we can discuss education related issues than cluttering the space here? (which is more towards ICTs)

    .

  8. That is a good idea. This space should be dedicated to sling mud at me.

  9. Life after Connectivity in Sri Lanka’s First e-Village

    http://www.dailymirror.lk/2007/03/14/ft/15.asp

    FINANCIAL TIMES

    Life after Connectivity in Sri Lanka’s First e-Village

    In the small jungle village of Mahavilachchiya, children rush home once school has ended for lunch and a rest. The scene is similar to that in villages across the country. However, the seemingly isolated, rural countryside can be misleading. The children in Mahavilachchiya, soon after arriving home, turn on their computers and check email, do research for their homework assignments, and read local news. Mahavilachchiya, a village 40 km from Anuradhapura, has the privilege of being Sri Lanka’s first e-village and boasts the highest computer density of any other village in the country. On November 4, 2006 Sri Lanka’s first outdoor mesh network was launched in the village bringing internet connectivity to 30 households and two schools.

    The Mahavilachchiya project was made possible through a partnership between a local NGO, the Horizon Lanka Foundation which has been educating the children of Mahavilachchiya in English and ICT for the past 10 years. The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) through a partnership with Enterprise Technology (Pvt) Ltd (ETPL) and a grant from the Pan Asia R&D Grants Program was responsible for the implementation of the project.

    According to ICTA “the primary objective of the project is to demonstrate the effective contribution of an IT infrastructure in accelerated socio-economic development.” The e-village project aims to increase opportunities for growth and provide a better quality of life for people in rural communities. In the three short months following its inception, the e-village in Mahavilachchiya has demonstrated that it is well on its way to achieving these goals and improving the lives of the people in the region.

    Comparing Mahavilachchiya with national ICT statistics demonstrates the uniqueness of the project. According to a report by the Dept. of Census and Statistics, the ICT literacy of Sri Lanka is only 10% of the population. In Mahavilachchiya the Horizon Lanka Academy has provided numerous students with access to ICT. The Foundation also features laptops, internet connectivity and an extensive computer lab; resources found in less than 10% of Sri Lankan schools and previously only available in affluent areas. The e-village project is not only setting a new standard for the nation but also for other countries seeking solutions to bridge the digital divide.

    A survey conducted by ICTA in January, 2007 found that students in Mahavilachchiya use the internet in various ways including communication, help with homework, and access to donors and businesses. Students surveyed had diverse career goals and the marketable skills to ensure their success. Thanks to the arrival of mesh technology the village has been working towards economic development and is currently working with a BPO to bring jobs to the region and training has already been provided for some in the village.

    While the e-village has been a huge achievement so far, the Mahavilachchiya success story is far from over. The next step involves the creation of future e villages and nurturing their progress. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has included funds for replicating the e-Village in the 2007 budget. Through studying the Mahavilachchiya pilot project it is hoped that e-villages can be successfully replicated throughout Sri Lanka.

  10. I think this article goes well with both Mahavilachchiya, eSri Lanka. Not to mention donald’s language problem too.

    `Duplicate and Unavailable’: How Internet Bypasses Ugandan Farmers
    PANOS (London)

    Jennifer Bakyawa
    Kampala

    When Uganda joined the internet bandwagon less than a decade ago it
    had hopes of delivering important information to farmers. It hasn’t
    worked out that way: much of the information bypasses farmers (many
    of them are too poor to access the internet) and there is a general
    lack of coherence in the way they are presented.

    It’s been less than a decade since Uganda – along with scores of
    other developing countries – began using the Internet as a means of
    delivering agricultural information to farmers. Now there is
    increasing evidence that the technology remains beyond the reach of
    many farmers.

    In the late 1990s, it seemed like a good idea – and a cheap one too –
    to extend the Internet to rural Uganda. Several donors
    enthusiastically jumped on the Internet bandwagon and funded websites
    and telecentres catering to farmers.

    Experts argued that improving farmers’ access to the latest
    agricultural information through modern technologies would increase
    agricultural production – without information on markets farmers were
    unable to decide what crops to grow, which in turn lowered their
    power to bargain for better prices.

    Across the country, telecentres were established – a typical one had
    one or two computers and telephone lines set up in a small room.
    Farmers had to subscribe to be members.

    Now a paper written by researchers at the International Institute for
    Communication and Development at The Hague says that although the
    Internet has “drastically changed” the information landscape in the
    field of agriculture and natural resources, the information is
    scattered across the Internet and not organised in a way most
    relevant to farmers.

    The targeted users, such as small farmers, often have problems
    finding and accessing relevant information in usable formats, the
    researchers say.

    Emily Arayo, media liaison officer at the International Institute of
    Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a nongovernmental organisation in
    Kampala agrees: “Most information exchange is between research
    scientists. It is information for researchers, policy makers and
    decision-makers. For farmers the information needs to be broken down
    to what is directly relevant to them.”

    The paper, Fertile Grounds: Opportunities For Greater Coherence In
    Agricultural Information Systems with case studies of Ghana, Tanzania
    and Uganda, says, “International services do not always link with
    national information networks, and therefore information is either
    duplicated, not available or cannot be found by the intended
    audience.”

    “We are not kidding ourselves that farmers are using the Internet –
    we know they are not!” says Emmet Murphy, deputy programme manager of
    ACDI-VOCA (Agricultural Cooperative Development International-
    Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance), an international non-
    profit development group that provides technical assistance, training
    and support in agriculture.

    Over 80 percent of Uganda’s population is engaged in agriculture.

    The paper notes that many current service providers maintain data
    collections which tend to exist in isolation from complementary
    services provided by others. The government’s National Agricultural
    Research Organisation, for instance, has an outreach initiative which
    aims at making direct contact with farmers’ groups, but it is not
    working with the IITA which is helping farmers set up such groups.

    This lack of collaboration in the agricultural sector, it says, has
    led to a large quantity of unlinked information systems. As a result,
    some projects have lost momentum and a number of websites and online
    databases have become empty, without up-to-date content.

    It is not as if the Internet is not serving rural Uganda. ACDI-VOCA
    sponsors a website called Foodnet – run by the IITA – which has post-
    harvest and market research information on 28 key commodities. The
    information itself comes from IITA workers, who collect data from the
    main district markets and sub-county markets.

    The IITA also prepares radio scripts and chat-shows for farmers which
    are broadcast on local radio stations. The IITA radio service and
    Foodnet currently cover 32 of Uganda’s 56 districts.

    The problem, says Kevin Semmanda, senior information scientist in the
    Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, is that most
    farmers do not have direct access to the Internet: “The telecentres
    have had little impact. Very few farmers have the means and knowledge
    of accessing the Internet.” If you are not a paid member, you have to
    pay for each visit.

    Arayo says farmers normally get the information they need from
    secondary sources such as extension workers and radio programmes.
    Given Uganda’s low literacy level (62 percent, according to the World
    Bank), it is very difficult for them to benefit directly from the
    Internet. Besides, the main language of the Internet is English,
    whereas there are some 20 indigenous local languages spoken in Uganda.

    Moses Were, 33, a peasant farmer in Mukona district in central
    Uganda, acknowledges that the Internet has uses – timely and
    accessible market information, he says, could help “eliminate many
    middlemen.” Were, who has been growing cocoa, vanilla and coffee for
    10 years, is literate but cannot afford to buy a computer – and in
    any case, there is no electricity in his house.

    Arayo says the National Agricultural Advisory Services, a government
    agency, regularly puts up farming information on notice boards at its
    sub-county offices, but admits there is no guarantee farmers will see
    it. It is far more useful for extension workers to collate
    information from Foodnet and deliver it to farmers.

    Experts agree that the lack of access to information is directly
    related to rural poverty. But although the Ugandan government’s Plan
    for Modernisation of Agriculture identifies providing farmers with
    market information as a priority it does not specify how this is to
    be done.

    Joseph Mukasa Mpaga, a 72-year-old farmer, says he does not rely on
    the Internet for market prices. There is only one Internet kiosk in
    his village of Kasawo, some 120 km from Kampala, and he cannot afford
    to pay for it. Rather he and his colleagues get the latest market
    prices from other farmers returning from the Kampala market.

    David Luwandagga, Kampala’s data collector for the IITA maintains
    that reaching information from the Internet is vital for all sorts of
    reasons – for instance, when farmers in a certain region learn that
    their counterparts elsewhere are receiving a better price because of
    the quality of their produce, they will try and achieve the same
    standards. It is also vital for building food security by sounding
    early warnings of drought.

    At the moment, a variety of media appear to be servicing farmers’
    needs in Uganda – farmers in Masindi district in western Uganda
    refuse to sell their products to traders until they have listened to
    the radio bulletin about prices. Semmanda says rather than focussing
    on the Internet alone, agricultural officers should also use video,
    music, drama and radio to strengthen the extension system.

    “Radio moves faster than the Internet,” agrees Arayo. “It also takes
    care of the language problem.”

  11. Mahavilachchiya got the central attraction even at this event.

    Intel launches World Ahead programme in Sri Lanka http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/5008
    Thu, 2007-03-22 02:40

    Sunil C. Perera – Reporting from Colombo

    Colombo, 22 March, (Asiantribune.com): World’s renowned blue-chip company –Intel Corporation has launched its newest worldwide concept “World Ahead Programme” in Sri Lanka.

    This programme covers 60 countries, including Sri Lanka , said Chris Thomas, its Strategic Manager at a media briefing held in Colombo on Tuesday .

    The Intel Corporation invests one billion US$ to launch this project and to speed access to un-compromised technology and education for people in the world’s developing communities.

    Sri Lanka is now one of the key countries to be covered by this programme , he said.

    This is a continent-wide project, which includes an eSchools initiative targeting schools across Sri Lanka . Its ultimate goal is to equip students with the IT skills and knowledge to compete in a global information society. As part of the initiative, a variety of consortia, each headed by a leading global technology company, are designing and delivering cutting-edge IT solutions to meet the needs of students.

    As part of an initial demonstration phase, few schools in rural areas have been equipped with broadband internet connected PC labs. Students use the PCs across all subjects. Some assignments must be completed electronically, using Microsoft Office* programs, developing skills, that will be of benefit in their working lives. Educational software for maths, physics and business studies, based on the Sri Lankan curriculum, is also used to support study. . Students are now empowered to drive their own learning, rather than relying solely on guidance from the teacher.

    The Intel World Ahead Program aims to enhance lives by accelerating access to uncompromised technology for everyone, anywhere in the world. Focused on people in the world’s developing communities, it integrates and extends Intel’s efforts to advance progress in three areas: accessibility, connectivity, and education. Intel’s goal is not only to extend affordable PC access but to develop the PCs tailored to local needs, drive critical connectivity, cultivate sustainable local capabilities, and provide the technology education needed to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

    The program’s 5-year objectives are to extend wireless broadband PC access to the world’s next billion users while training 10 million more teachers on the effective use of technology in education – with the possibility of reaching another 1 billion students. Investment: Intel will invest more than $1 billion over the next 5 years across the three focus areas of accessibility, connectivity, and education.

    Partnering with public and private organizations, Intel is driving WiMAX broadband deployments that will reach cities as well as suburban and rural communities that previously were either impossible or too costly for carriers to pursue. Intel World Ahead Program will connect another billion children and adults to the Internet and to the rest of the world.

    According to the Intel’s local Representative Indika de Soyza this project create opportunities for widespread ownership and use of Personal computers through affordability PCs tailored to regional needs. This programme prepares students for success in the global economy through education programmes and resources, including professional development for teachers worldwide.

    Under the project Dialog GSM will provides telephone connectivity through Wimax system and the Intel Corporation provides necessary infrastructure jointly with the government of Sri Lanka.

    The Ministry of Education, dialog GSM and Intel Corporation plan to support rural schools to follow educational programmes through this project. All these schools will connect through Wimax and the Dialog GSM assists to launch a Satellite Television channel to telecast educational programmes.

    – Asian Tribune –

  12. Putting in the right place.

    The following two comments from Harsha de Silva and Dr. Gaminitillake should go to this thread instead of software issues it seems

    # harsha de silva on Mar 28th, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    this friday 30th evening at 9:30 ‘biz1st in focus’ on mtv and shakthi tv will telecast a show on wifi issues. we have a segment on mahavilachchiya and a discussion with the father of wifi…

    harsha

    # 134 Donald Gaminitillake on Mar 30th, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Harsha

    I think you have to go to a school to learn what to speak.
    You used the word “POOR” many times
    Also “RURAL POOR”
    Not the people in Mahavilachchiya is poor neither the urban people are rich.
    You guys are the people who try to create the digital divide
    That is what you wanted. You had no guts to talk the language problem either.

    All you want to show off was “POOR” and “RURAL POOR”

    You have never understood the rich hearts of the people of Mahavilachchiya you are just a book smart individual.

    Donald Gaminitillake
    Colombo

  13. I am not yet a “Dr.”

    Donald Gaminitillake
    Colombo

  14. Mahavilachchiya on Sirasa

    There will be a program on Mahavilachchiya on Sirasa tonight. 10.00 PM.

  15. IT happens in Mahavilachchiya

    A very professional discussion is going on about Mahavilachchiya in the following thread of GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY FORUM. Sounds promising.

    http://globaltechforum.wordpress.com/2007/03/09/it-happens-in-mahavilachchiya/#comment-70

  16. # Iresha Dilhani Says:
    April 10th, 2007 at 3:39 am

    Our thanks should go to all the donors, who help us for succeeding our project. I thank on behalf of all the student at Horizon Lanka Foundation to the donors who where helping to up keep the HLF in providing us the prevailing facilities including PCs, other peripherals for studies, as well as my sincerely thank should go to the who help us for uploading our first website. It was the greatest help for our success. Then all the other donors also were keen to help us.

    And then we are going to thank who helped us providing internet to Horizon Lanka. In the past we had to travel 80 kms back and forth to log to the internet. And we missed important emails. It was a very difficult time. But after getting the Internet connection, it is easy to communicate. We thank all those helped us getting internet. (I will not list the names of individuals as the list is too long.)

    We also thank the generous donors who built our first computer lab and the second computer lab as well, those were huge turning points in our project.

    After that we got a chance to connect to the internet from our houses. It was a never expected dream. But it became true. Now we can do more work quickly with help of Mesh Internet Project. At the moment 28 houses and two schools can use internet from in the village. We can easily check our emails, visit web sits, communicate with our donors, and etc. Our village students can search their O/L examination results from their homes. It was a dream. We thank for UNDP, ICTA, and ETPL for helping to get Mesh technology to our village.

    And also we thank to Lirneasia Blog for dedicating a link to Mahavilachchiya. It is useful for our development. Unfortunately we did not contribute to this thread as we were busy with some other projects and will contribute from this vacation onwards. We do not want to see people fighting here. Please get together to help take the project forward.

    Iresha@horizonlanka.org

  17. What has happened to this 100 million rupee e-village project?

    e-Village http://icta.lk/Insidepages/programmes/e-Village.asp

    Upcoming e-Villages

    Objective
    The primary objective of the project is to demonstrate the effective contribution of an IT infrastructure in the accelerated socio-economic development. To provide increased opportunities for growth and a better quality of life for citizens in rural communities, particularly the youth, by using ICT as a tool and enabler for development.

    Description
    The e-Village concept initialized with a pilot project in a small village in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka – Mahavillachchiya. The village, with limited access to resources and few opportunities for its youth benefited greatly when ICT was introduced. Through dedicated teachers, individuals and organizations, the village youth were empowered with the knowledge and skills needed to access the means for a better quality life. An example of the impact the partners contribution and efforts have made on the village is secondary level students are now commissioned to design websites and are earning more than their parents who are mostly farmers.

    ICTA is now looking to replicate this successful model in other villages across the country. Villages with limited resources and opportunities for their youth will be identified, and provided with ICT facilities for e-learning, e-commerce, and other services. ICTA will work in collaboration with partners to bring in a greater resource pool of expertise and services, to develop the village and allow for innovative social mobility amongst the members of the community.

    Target Group
    Rural Communities

    Project Results
    Increased access to information and knowledge for children and adults
    Increased awareness on the benefits of ICT and increased participation of villagers in ICT based activities such as e-commerce, e- learning etc.
    Multi media library services to the community
    Gradual dispersion of ICTs to neighbouring villages
    Skilled trainers at village level

    Project Benefits
    Empowered rural communities through access to information

  18. # Iresha Dilhani Says:
    April 10th, 2007 at 3:39 am

    Our thanks should go to all the donors, who help us for succeeding our project. I thank on behalf of all the student at Horizon Lanka Foundation to the donors who where helping to up keep the HLF in providing us the prevailing facilities including PCs, other peripherals for studies, as well as my sincerely thank should go to the who help us for uploading our first website. It was the greatest help for our success. Then all the other donors also were keen to help us.

    And then we are going to thank who helped us providing internet to Horizon Lanka. In the past we had to travel 80 kms back and forth to log to the internet. And we missed important emails. It was a very difficult time. But after getting the Internet connection, it is easy to communicate. We thank all those helped us getting internet. (I will not list the names of individuals as the list is too long.)

    We also thank the generous donors who built our first computer lab and the second computer lab as well, those were huge turning points in our project.

    After that we got a chance to connect to the internet from our houses. It was a never expected dream. But it became true. Now we can do more work quickly with help of Mesh Internet Project. At the moment 28 houses and two schools can use internet from in the village. We can easily check our emails, visit web sits, communicate with our donors, and etc. Our village students can search their O/L examination results from their homes. It was a dream. We thank for UNDP, ICTA, and ETPL for helping to get Mesh technology to our village.

    And also we thank to Lirneasia Blog for dedicating a link to Mahavilachchiya. It is useful for our development. Unfortunately we did not contribute to this thread as we were busy with some other projects and will contribute from this vacation onwards. We do not want to see people fighting here. Please get together to help take the project forward.

    Iresha Dilhani,
    Iresha@horizonlanka.org

  19. Ruvini Senevirathna

    Getting Internet to Mahavilachchiya village is a great pleasure to us. Trough Internet connection we can do many kind of things. Horizon Lanka is formed to do new experiments. We do something new everytime we get a chance for it. For an example, we are doing e-learning using internet. Therefore we are using IM chatting software’s like Skype and Yahoo. Skype is good for voice communication.

    Not only for e-learning we use this software for communicate with online radio. Using this I could communicate with ahamu radio as an announcer from Horizon Lanka Foundation. Ahamu radio is doing by a Sri Lankan. So I got that opportunity to join Ahamu Radio http://www.ahamu.com live through Skype.

    The day which we opened mesh network of Horizon Lanka Foundation was a busy day for me with Ahamu Radio because I gave live news updates, live interviews to ahamu radio about the Opening Ceremony of the mesh network.

    I interviewed some of visitors. The most exciting moment was interviewing the Secretary to the President, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga who was the Chief Guest of the occasion. I was lucky to interview for the whole world, trough Ahamu Radio. It was a great opportunity for me. And I think I did my best. Most of my online friends, my sponsors and Horizon well-wishers said they listened to it and I felt proud of myself.

    I am doing the radio program from my home in Mahavilachchiya using Skype and I broadcast the news about HLF and the Mahavilachchiya village too on Saturdays with Ahamu. I try to get maximum benefits out of this opportunity. And hope to show that we can do a radio station from here in future. I think in the future we can have that chance also. Looks like that day is very close.

  20. Even this page takes long time to download. Please continue in a new page.

  21. Dear all
    I’m from Lakaruna computer club, Hingurukaduwa.
    As a student of the first batch of our club, we were not hearing about Horizon Lanka. We just do something for our IT and English knowledge and gradually we can come to this stage. Now our club is five years old. At the middle of our way we saw the legend of Horizon. It was a big encouragement for our hard journey.
    We just received 24 hours internet connectivity to our village please come toward us.
    Srimal Iresh
    srimal@lakaruna.org
    http://www.lakaruna.org

  22. Dear Administrator

    Dear Admin,

    Can you start a new page for this thread. It take a lot of time to download the page now.

  23. Even this page takes a long time to upload. Please do not let a page go more than 100 comments. We do not have the broadband facilities. We are managing with dial up connections.

  24. Wednesday April 25, 2007 Daily mirror
    Follow India: Take it to the village

    Telecommunication

    Information Technology (IT) is a new field that thrives today with the introduction of modern techniques in communication and assimilation of knowledge and skills, to suit the fast developing world. The government, with the programme of establishing three “Nenasala Centres” in each Divisional Secretariat area, is aiming to link the village with the outside world under the concept of modern globalization. The whole world will be a global village at the end of the century.
    The average villager cannot be isolated from the rest of the world today as new vistas have opened up. There are village lasses working mainly in Middle Eastern as well as other European countries who wish to communicate with their homes. So are the many parents, relations and friends who exchange pleasantries as well as views on matters that affect their day to day life. They would, for instance, wish to know the world price of oil when our prices of petrol and diesel rise sky high from time to time. They have a right to know the world trends in consumable items which have a direct impact on their living. These knowledge and information are no longer the prerogative of a few in power. Knowledge and information is universal.
    But have we been able to face this challenge? In the cosmopolitan areas, we can observe the younger generation patronizing the cyber cafes. They log on to websites to obtain the necessary information.
    A few make use of e-mail facilities too. But what about the 80% village population? Electricity is not available to most of the rural villages in Sri Lanka which makes them inaccessible to it and other modern electronic facilities.
    India has coal powered and diesel powered electricity in addition to hydropower and electricity is not a luxury to them. Remote villages are provided with this facility and India has embarked on a rapid rural development programme. Telephone facilities too are available in these remote areas. There are sign boards everywhere indicating the availability of IT facilities. And these are very cheap compared to our rates in Sri Lanka.
    A telephone call to Sri Lanka will cost around Indian rupees 15 to 20 for a conversation of over 10 minutes. The cost of a person to person call from Sri Lanka to India is Rs. 250 for the first three minutes and each additional minute costs Rs. 50.

    If telephone facilities are provided at affordable prices it would help create employment among the rural masses in Sri Lanka. The Tourist Resorts could have telephone booths as in India so that it would be a new venture for the livelihoods among the rural youth.
    The idea in separating the Telecommunication Department from the Postal Department with the establishment of Sri Lanka Telecom was to provide a better and faster service to the consumer. But in reality this objective has not been achieved.
    To cite one instance, when Teldeniya town was submerged by the Victoria reservoir, the auto exchange at Teldeniya too went under water. A new site for the exchange was offered in Teldeniya by the Mahaweli Project, But sad to say Sri Lanka Telecom is yet to start work on the exchange. This is the snail’s speed in which our IT field operates. Let us follow India. The Indian government has identified five sectors in its budget for 2007. The IT sector takes second place among textiles, tourism and biotechnology.
    S.B.Karaliyadde
    Kandy

  25. I take that back.

  26. Bombs sounds!!!

    Here we have high technology facilities more than other villages in Sri Lanka. And our students are getting maximum benifits out of them. That is not a secret. All the things are coming gooood in the village.

    BUT…..

    All are talking about peace. but i dont understand what is this peace. Becuase at all night we hear boomb sounds from some where. Can’t tell where are they from. But we hear them. Even its not a small sound it is such a huge sounds like Dombbbbbb!!!! It is a huge trouble for us. Specially for our studies. Because most of us do studies at night.

    I dont know where and for what, these bomb blast. We don’t hear any oficial news for these from televtions. However it has become a huge trouble for us. Oh!! again just heard a bomb balst sound!!!

    HOWEVER WILL HOPE THSE TROUBLES WILL BE FINISHED SOON.

  27. Read the article written by Isuru Senevirathna on OnTime Technologies BPO, Sri Lanka’s first BPO which started at Horizon Lanka, Mahavilachchiya. This article appeared in “i4d” magazine’s July Issue. You can read the PDF version at this link http://www.horizonlanka.org/media/i4d_july_2007/isuru_i4d.pdf

    Rural BPO, Sri Lanka

    What dreams may come true!

    “However, now I am 19 years old and I am confident that we can do something for our village from the knowledge we gained during a period of about nine years from Horizon Lanka.” An article written by Isuru Senevirathna, Horizon Lanka Foundation,
    Sri Lanka isuru@horizonlanka.org – July 2007 | Vol. V No. 7 | http://www.i4donline.net

    ———————————————————————————————————–

    ‘Horizon Lanka’, the model for taking ICT to the rural villages, is a famous word in Sri Lanka. It is also receiving international recognition. In fact, we never thought of creating a model to take ICT to the rural villages. First, we only wanted to develop our village. For this, we had a great hero to guide us. He is Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka, our English teacher since 1998. I was 11 years old then.

    Mr. Nandasiri was teaching us English in a public school of my village. His teaching method was able to attract us to the subject, although English was a subject hated by most children. Before Mr. Nandasiri it was difficult to learn, as we did not have a teacher who could teach us in a better way. But, Mr. Nandasiri managed to turn the tables. While we were continuing studies, our elder brothers and sisters started a journal called ‘The Horizon’. We wrote stories to that journal and Mr. Nandasiri photocopied them from the nearest town, which is 40 kilometers away from my village. By a stroke of good luck, the US embassy found out about the journal through an article which was written by Mr. Gamini Akmeemana for a public English newspaper in Sri Lanka. The US embassy helped us with a 486 model computer and a dot-matrix printer, along with some computer books.

    Mr. Nandasiri started teaching us about computers with the knowledge he gained from reading those books, as he himself did not have enough knowledge about computers. Each student got 5 minutes to operate the computer under Mr. Nandasiri’s guidance. This was a fantastic experience for us children of poor farmers.

    With Nandasiri sir’s leaving public school, we were really sad since nobody could do Nandasiri sir’s job there. We did not give up our way. We got together as a team and talked him to arrange an English class for us. He accepted our request and started the class under a huge mango tree in his garden. And we did not forget to continue the journal too. A family called Gaminitillake donated a used computer to our English class and we stared a website with their help and uploaded it from the town. Through the website, we got a big publicity throughout the world. It was a big revolution of us. Lot of donors came to us and helped to improve our English and computer knowledge. Eventually we could build a small computer room with the support of donors and the capacity of our parents. This was our journey……

    Today we have a modern computer Lab that was donated by Mr & Mrs. Charles. And we could build a tower to connect to the Internet from our village since we had to travel 80 kilometers up and down to access internet from the nearest city ‘Anuradhapura’.
    However, now I am 19 years old and I am confident that we can do something for our village from the knowledge we gained during a period of about nine years from Horizon Lanka.

    About ten months ago, I realised one of the dream, in my life. I could travel to two countries for a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) training. I never had been out from this small island. But I was lucky to travel to Laos and New Delhi in India with the sponsorship of ICT Agency of Sri Lanka. During that training, we could see practically their operations and the way a BPO company meets the clients’ demand, on time with good quality. Eventually we ended the training and returned to Sri Lanka with the mind of starting our BPO Company in Mahavilachchiya. After a training period of three months, we had an opportunity to start a BPO company in rural Mahavilachchiya village. A foundation called FARO (Foundation for Advancing Rural Opportunities) is helping us in the initial stage to run the company. Already we have started the company named OnTime Technologies (Pvt) Ltd. John Keells is a major client of us.

    We also are discussing with Dialog Telekom Ltd. and Singer Sri Lanka to get some more work for our youth. Around 50 youths are being trained to take up BPO jobs from Mahavilachchiya. Mahavilachchiya has very good infrastructure like a modern computer lab with 512 KBPS internet connection, 50 computers in the village households – 30 of them are connected to Internet through mesh technology – and 7 Wi-Fi zones in the village where you can use your laptops. Through our company, we are offering job opportunities for the youths in the village. This is a big revolution in the village and we are happy to say. This is what we wanted to do. However, we could do it. Now we are using same Horizon Lanka building and Horizon Lanka equipments. In the future, we hope to develop our company as the largest BPO company in Sri Lanka and build a huge building and develop as an our owned company. Nirosh Manjula, who trained with me in Laos and India and I am running this company.

    I take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped us to success this journey.

    Horizon Lanka Foundation

    The Horizon Lanka Foundation was established in 1998 because of the determination of a group of children from the rural village of Mahavilachchiya. Their thirst for knowledge and educational advancement led them to the door of Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka (now CEO of HL Foundation), their former English teacher in the public school. Thus began an after school club providing children further education in English and computers. It has become a popular place for many children of the village. Since 1998, the Horizon Lanka Foundation has branched out. As well as providing an all round education to the village children at Horizon Lanka Academy, they have expanded into the Information Age and now service the entire community with their computer lab, which has 24h Internet access. In 2001, the website http://www.horizonlanka.org was launched by the children of Horizon Lanka Academy, opening a window to the world.

    HLF is also responsible for beginning a project, which is bringing PCs to the homes of the villagers of Mahavilachchiya. So far more than 30 homes have been furnished with a computer and this is increasing monthly. MicroScholarships is a project of the Horizon Lanka foundation that aims to help deserving students in their education. Many capable students in rural Sri Lanka are forced to interrupt their schooling because of financial difficulties. MicroScholarships ensure that every child covered under the scheme gets a quality education and a happy childhood. Under it, volunteers offer financial assistance that gives the child a small amount of money every month. The efforts, funded purely by kind donations and sponsorship, are now providing over 160 students of the village with computing skills, access to the Internet, PCs in their homes, an Academy to improve their education specializing in ICT and English and most importantly, giving the children and community fresh hope for their futures.

    Source: http://www.horizonlanka.org

  28. Mahavilachchiya’s mesh Internet Project has been nominated for i4d Award 2007

    Mahavilachchiya’s mesh Internet Project has been nominated for i4d Award 2007. Visit http://www.i4donline.net/i4dAward2007/review_detail.asp?BRSNo=65 and vote.

  29. Visit http://hlacademy.wordpress.com/2007/10/07/buddhika-prasanna-one-of-the-youngest-bloggers-in-horizon-lanka-academy-gets-3000-hits-to-his-blog/

    Buddhika Prasanna Kumara, one of the youngest bloggers in Horizon Lanka Academy has reached 3000 hits to his blog by today. This is the most number of hits any of the Horizon Lanka student or a staff member has got so far. Buddhika joined blogsphere only on 6th May, 2007. Others had started blogs few months earlier to Buddhika. He was not one of those kids who wrote essays a lot earlier and it was due to blogging he is improving his writing. He was not the brightest in his class either. He was one of the slowest and laziest for academic activities. But blogging has made him keener in academic affairs.

    The first thing Buddhika does in a morning is checking the number of hits and moderating comments he has received. He keeps checking the number of hits and comments and writes more and more small essays. This clearly shows that blogging can improve language skills of the students in a dramatic way. We think other students in Sri Lanka also should start blogging and improve English. You can encourage these kids by visiting their blogs and sending comments. You can see more blogs from Mahavilachchiya under BLOGROLL at http://hlacademy.wordpress.com. Thanks to mesh Internet in village houses students are very active in blogging now.

  30. Visit http://www.sundaytimes.lk/071007/FinancialTimes/ft305.html

    Brand new laptop for village blogger

    Seventeen year old Tharanga Sampath is the proud owner of a brand new laptop for being the best blogger at Horizon Lanka Academy in Mahavilachchiya village in north-central Sri Lanka.

    The laptop was donated by Dr. Ing. E. Leuthold from Switzerland in coordination with the Lak Saviya Foundation after contacting the Horizon Lanka Foundation in April, Horizon said. Leuthod has already promised to send two more laptops for the next two best students.

    What began as an after school club providing children further education in English and computers, Horizon Lanka has branched out, providing an all round education to the village children.

    It has expanded into the information age and now services the entire community with computer labs with 24 hour Internet access. Staff at the Foundation describes Tharanga as ‘showing a keen interest in Horizon affairs for the past few months since he joined the Foundation.’

    He has recently been given the responsibility of handling lessons for juniors and ‘has the good quality of fulfilling whatever duty is assigned to him with a great deal of preparation and devotion.’ (NG)

  31. This thread is too long and has been closed. Please continue discussions in the new thread:

    http://www.lirneasia.net/2006/11/village-with-a-mesh-network-but-not-a-single-telephone/

  32. kumareswaran.janarththanan

    I have succcesful complect g.c.e(o/l). I have succesful complect in g.c.e(A/l).pendeing reselt.