Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back to school! Never the same

The June sun was beating down hard, rain had not yet started this year which is very strange for this part of the tropical world. Looking at the ruins of what once stood out majestically in the city center, I was thinking who is to be blamed. The memories of the school just before the summer break came to my mind in a flash. The promises made, the good bye waved, the smiles, the sound of the children shouting, the ever notorious Vincent of 5th ‘A’ playing pranks, children sharing their lunch with each other ,all were missing. Instead what stood was ruins, ruins after a severe battle, battle fought with guns and bombs at a place where the only noise used to be the children shouting amidst the birds chirping in the beautiful setting the school was in. Now silence ruled at the Siddhartha Primary School in North Sri Lanka.

While leaving the school on the evening of April 24, 2009, I had the happiness of meeting with my family on the other side of the country. I could see the smiles on the faces of all the children, who were all going on the much awaited summer vacation. With new hopes of returning to a new class, a higher class when they come back from vacation, the students, like me left the school for the day, not knowing that they will never be back to the same school.

It was during May when intense fight broke out in the country between the warring group and the Govt. The Govt. which got information about terrorists being hidden in this very school and scared of the guerilla warfare used by the warring group decided to do air strikes. May 7th, 2009 was the ill fated date for this school and today June 21st 2009, the usual re-opening date for the school, there is a deafening silence.

But there is no such silence inside my brain. There are umpteen number of question. When children of two different groups can study sitting side by side, why that is the grownups fight over the language? When Vincent from the warring group can be the school topper in Sinhalese, the Govt.’s official language why is there so much noise on which language to be used? Why did the warring group not think even once before taking shelter in a school which was used by their children to build their future and why the Govt. force did not think even for a second before demolishing the only school in the 20 km radius completely? In a land where Buddha and his teachings is a household thing, why is that the grownups have chosen comfortably to ignore the teachings of the great preacher?

Being a Sinhalese teacher in the primary school in an area dominated by the warring group I had this proud feeling of teaching a new language to the children and learning a new culture altogether.

I am thinking what does “Back to school” mean to the students who were studying in this school, will it mean walking through dense forests for 20 kms! Or will they also leave this area forever! Back to school for me is in a different school in a different area teaching the same thing to a different set of students. But “back to school” will never be the same for me, ever!


  1. Very well written, I can sense the pain and in your writing. Can you think of a solution to the on going problem?

  2. Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions


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