Reimagining School Through Collective Impact

School resonates differently with different people. For some, school is a place to look forward to, a place where they meet up and gossip with friends on the latest cartoons. For others it’s a place they despise with strict teachers and a lot of homework. However, those who fall into either one of these categories have been blessed in life, because for some children, school is a place of refuge or a safe haven from poverty and neglect at home.

The Neglected Resettlements of Mannar

Ten years ago, the district of Mannar was an abandoned war-torn area with very little infrastructure, with whatever left standing being claimed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Fast forward to the present, Mannar is no longer the scarcely populated area it used to be, thanks to the resettlement programmes done by the Government. Regardless of these new settlements however, the area’s infrastructure still remains in primitive conditions.

Rising from the ashes

No one in Sri Lanka is new to the brutal three decade-long civil war that ravaged the country. Whilst the lucky few get to move on and bury these memories, most of those affected are still picking up the pieces. The war left over 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) which the Government has promised to resettle. However 10 years later some of these IDP’s are still left without homes. Fathima Rispana is one such IDP who resides in Mannar with her daughter in a borrowed house. Fate has spelled misfortune for her family from the very beginning, as Rispana and her siblings were born to poverty in Badulla.

The faces of Slave Island

Nestled between towering skyscrapers and sophisticated shopping malls, lies the multicultural suburb of Slave Island. The antithesis of the heart of Colombo; Slave Island has always been famous for its exotic street food and close knit neighborhoods. Yet, if one were to now venture into this suburban ethnic blend, they would also notice another remarkable oddity; faces both young and old, painted onto walls with varying hues of orange, blue and yellow.

The People’s Process: Reshaping an inclusive Colombo

Building a house has always been a community effort in Sri Lanka. Its construction would often take years and usually involves potential home owners, their extended family and the community at large; all arriving at a compromise to build the best possible home which will one day grow with its family. Unfortunately, this level of freedom in building and planning one’s own home can only be enjoyed outside of city limits, as cities have become unaffordable for most citizens to live in. Today, most of Colombo’s vulnerable communities face eviction to make room for ‘development’.
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