In eastern Sri Lanka in a small two-room house with no front door and part of its roof missing, 10-year-old Meena rises at 4am to study. She dreams of being a teacher.

Meena’s mother Savrithi never went to school and her older sister Kamalini struggles at school.

People here in Batticaloa have had to survive without the most basic education due to war and disasters like the Boxing Day Tsunami. Many parents struggle to see the value of education in a place where basic survival comes first. But not Meena’s parents, they want her to do well. They are proud of their daughter who gets up so early just to study.

Savithri’s commitment to her girls’ education comes from what she and her husband Raja have suffered during their lifetime.

When Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war came to their village, they had to flee through the crossfire to a refugee camp. When it was finally safe to return, their house had been damaged by elephants and demolished to the ground.

The family have worked very hard to slowly rebuild the house but it’s still missing its front door and part of the roof.

The only work Raja can find is as a guard at a farm house two kilometres from home. He is unable to do any hard manual labour due to an injury to his right hand.

Meanwhile, Savithri after her 3.30am start to the day does the household chores, then walks through the midday heat to take Raja his lunch. Then she must go to the village tube well to collect water for the family’s needs.

Savithri and Raja want a different life for their two girls, free of poverty, and know education is the key.

“What will happen to them one day when we are no longer there? They must study so that they are able to get a job and earn a living. They must not have to struggle the way we have had to and for that they need to study and reach a reasonably good level in society, unlike us.”

Meena’s favourite subject is religion, and she also likes playing cricket with her friends, especially her best friend Kalpana.

Meena hasn’t let anything stop her from studying or going to school.

But schooling is a major challenge for her and other children in Batticaloa, with up to 90 per cent of children failing core subjects.

Her sister Kamalina, who is now in Grade 8, finds school challenging and is still struggling with reading and writing, but she knows:

“It is important to finish school, so we are able to find a job. We can become what we dream, only if we study.”

Well-trained teachers can help make Meena and Kamalina’s dreams a reality and lift pass rates as they have done in Zambia and pilot schools in Batticaloa with New Zealand teaching methods. Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools (ATLAS) is a teacher training programme spearheaded by New Zealander Sally Angelson and developed by ChildFund and the International Literacy Association.

The ATLAS teacher training programme will provide Meena and Kamalina’s teachers with the skills to help these girls and children in Batticaloa to achieve their dreams and break free from poverty.

Sally knows that New Zealanders will help these children as they helped children in Zambia where Sally first piloted the ATLAS project.

“Kiwis can give children in Batticaloa this much needed boost through a small donation of $23 to ChildFund New Zealand. This reflects the vital teacher training costs per child.”

Batticaloa is a dedicated programme area for ChildFund New Zealand, supported entirely by Kiwi donations and aid funding, and donations to the ATLAS project will further amplify the great work Kiwis are already doing for this community.

Give Meena the education she deserves and donate today.

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