School News

In pursuit of quality education: The struggles of a less-privileged primary school in Kurunegala

Monday, 7th of January 2019

Located within close proximity of the Kurunegala-Alawwa highway and Polgahawela railway station, Sapumal Kumara Vidyalaya is tucked away amidst lush greenery in Galbadagama. Established in 1926 on a piece of land donated by local philanthropist Mr Sirimal Rajapaksa, Sapumal Kumara Vidyalaya was initially known as Galbadagama Buddhist Mixed School. Following the 1962 handover to the government, the school was renamed Galbadagama Junior School which subsequently gained momentum as an excellent centre for education. However, during the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of the school weakened; mainly due to the emergence of other popular government schools in the vicinity. From 2009 to 2012, the Acting Principals who headed Galbadagama Junior School strove to ensure its sustenance against all odds.

In 2012, a qualified Principal of the Sri Lanka Principals’ Service was appointed to the school as part of a wider measure to uplift the less-privileged schools around the country. “When I first came to this school, there were only 17 students and 3 teachers,” the Principal recalled. She noted that the Zonal Education Office and the Provincial Education Office extend their support to develop the school. Intent on making a fresh start, the school was renamed Sapumal Kumara Vidyalaya, alongside a change in the school flag, song and uniform. Utilising funds allocated, the boundary fence was repaired. All classrooms were provided with electricity, while sanitation facilities were provided for both staff and students. The Principal gratefully acknowledged the support rendered by the Past Pupils’ Association to repair the school building.

At present, Sapumal Kumara Vidyalaya is a primary school which has a total student population of 43, and 6 teachers. After a lengthy hiatus, one student passed the 2018 Grade 5 Scholarship Examination while 9 out of ten students scored above 100 marks. The school has adopted an activity-based approach to impart new knowledge and skills to students, most of whom who have no means to attend tuition classes. Numerous colourful posters adorn each classroom wall that speak volumes about the vibrant teaching-learning environment. Likewise, the students’ artwork and handicrafts which are on display act as an excellent way to facilitate learning among primary learners. “I believe that teaching English skills and ICT skills should commence at Grade 1,” the principal reiterated. At the time of the writer’s visit to the school, the students were rehearsing for the Annual Concert to showcase their English skills.

Sapumal Kumara Vidyalaya has gone a long way to foster a positive classroom environment thanks to the collective efforts made by the Principal, teachers, zonal and provincial education offices, parents, students and well-wishers. “One of the biggest problems that we face is that most students come from financially- challenged backgrounds. We have to ensure that they don’t drop out of school,” the Principal emphasised. Generous benefactors could help students reach their full potential. For instance, the outdoor play area has to be renovated, while the steps at the entrance of the school need to be repaired as well. Even though the school has a collection of approximately 1,050 books, children’s books are scarce. Apart from that, Sapumal Kumara Vidyalaya does not have a computer. The students of Sapumal Kumara Vidyalaya eagerly await your support to make their big dreams come true. The Principal can be reached at S apumal Kumara Vidyalaya, Galbadagama, Kurunegala.

Dishani Senaratne (The writer is a 2018/2019 MediaCorp Fellow of the Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF). Her visit to the school was financially supported by this fellowship programme)

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