Innovative Classroom

Naomi Booth :: Saturday 16th October 2021 :: This Story

Innovative Learning: Establishing a Smart Classroom in an impoverished school community.

In recent years, Ocean Stars Trust has been focusing on interventions that can support quality education provision in Sri Lanka.

This blog tells a remarkable story of how a remote secondary school in Mandoor, Eastern Sri Lanka came to have a state-of-the-art smart classroom to enable quality learning through accessing to modern interactive technology.

Project Origins

In January 2021 the OST Head of Operations received a message from the Head Teacher of Royal Hospital School (RHS), Suffolk. The Head Teacher Mr Simon Lockyer had seen the OST website and wished for the charity to establish a link with a school in Sri Lanka, for the benefit of both his own students and students of a similar age in the area in which OST operates.

The RHS, a school that cherishes links with other countries, had previously formed links with a Sri Lankan community and now sought to establish a new partnership. In a later Zoom call with the Head Teacher and two teaching colleagues Kelly Wilcock and Janine Routledge, we discussed ways in which a link with a secondary school could be established, and later developed.

Once a school in Sri Lanka had been found for this link, we asked the school Principal what his dream wish for his school would be and he said he wanted a smart classroom. A smart classroom is a digitally equipped classroom with access to a variety of teaching and learning methods through the provision of technology.

It is always fantastic when our charity finds a donor who wishes to engage with such an exciting and innovative project. A smart classroom not only revolutionises teaching in that particular school community, but also enables real school to school links between the students in the UK and Sri Lanka.

Building a Smart Classroom

Picture: /files/blog/436/w288/img-20210908-114150.jpgThe smart classroom concept was delivered during challenging circumstances. COVID-19 lockdowns caused school closures in both countries, meaning our teams had to be flexible and patient in the building process. Despite these obstacles, our thoroughly efficient Ocean Stars Lanka (OSL) team in Batticaloa, identified an appropriate school community to establish the project, procured builders and IT technicians, ensuring progress on the build was slowly made.

Shalini, OSL's Finance Manager, in consultation with the zonal education office in Batticaloa settled on a school in Mandoor called Vigneswaran Maha Vidyalayam where there was a classroom building which the school thought could be renovated, secured, and equipped with the necessary items to establish the Smart Classroom. Equally she could report on an ambitious Principal Mr Thurairasa Sabesan there who was keen to develop his teaching staff in using the new skills required. There were a few technical discussions between the technicians and us in the UK, to ensure we were purchasing the most effective equipment, and clearly, in such a country with bright sunshine, good blackout curtains were essential!

Once building work was started in July we progressed quite quickly, especially as the school was effectively closed to students because of COVID-19. The room was completed by the end of July and formally opened with local dignitaries on the 8th of September 2021.

A training session has been held for staff and a few selected students whilst schools have been closed. IT is currently being used by staff and will be used by students once school recommences mid-October.

Plans for the Smart Classroom

As OST Treasurer, I can inform you that this was a major financial investment from the RHS for an OST project, to complete the building, to purchase the ICT equipment and furniture, to provide training for the teachers to use the technology. And let us not underestimate the fact that the resulting Smart Classroom is one of very few in Eastern Sri Lanka, the poorer part of the island where OST bases most of its operations.

When fully up and running we would expect the classroom to be accessible beyond the school community for improved levels of teaching and learning for many students and facilitate direct contact between the two school communities. This will ensure the intervention is sustainable, long-term and led by the community.

OST looks forward to facilitating a fruitful ongoing link school partnership between Royal Hospital School and Vigneswaran Maha Vidyalayam.

Our Thanks

Huge thanks go to the Headteacher and staff of the Royal Hospital School, who enabled Ocean Stars Trust to complete this project, which will bring innovative teaching and learning to one particularly impoverished school community, and hopefully enrich international understanding amongst the students of RHS.

 

John Bunter

Ocean Stars Trust Treasurer

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Our second blog focuses on our wonderful Ocean Stars Lanka (OSL) team based in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

Naomi Booth :: Friday 1st October 2021 :: This Story

 

While life may be getting back to normal in the UK, COVID-19 lockdowns are continuing to affect daily life in Sri Lanka. This blog gives insights into some of the challenges the team are facing in their day-to-day lives. We are so grateful for OSL's continued hard work despite all the obstacles currently in place!

 

Living in Sri Lanka During COVID: Perspectives from the OSL Team

ShaliniHi I am Shalini

After the rapid spread of COVID 19, the Sri Lanka government announced a general lockdown all over the country which has been in place since March 2020. All the shops are closed. Only essential services can be open. Everyone has had to stay at home since March 2020. Home delivery and mobile services are only available. We are not allowed to go out during the lockdown period.  Anyhow NGO services were included under the essential service to serve the vulnerable people. THE OSL office opened and worked with minimum number of staff. We received travel passes from the Government authority to open our OSL office. And we served the OSL communities during the lockdown period with the support of OST UK without limitation. We delivered 2000 food parcels to our poorest communities without incomes and food to feed their children.

The economy of the country has been affected after the lockdown. The Import and Export businesses have been badly impacted. We faced difficulties in buying essential goods. This was due to high prices for goods, insufficient supply and import restrictions.

The Lockdown period has been difficult days not only for us but also the other people. We continue to be under lockdown. We are that praying that we will soon be able to come out of this difficult situation. And I would like to say a huge thank you to the UK trustee for all their support to the people of Sri Lanka.  

 


 

DishanthiniHi I am Dishanthini

During lockdown time I have not been out of the house. I could not go outside as my village was on 24/7 curfew for a long time. I could not go to the shops. When the curfew was lifted as OSL staff I was able to get a special travel pass so I was able to go to the office.  My job has been very difficult because I am the preschool manager and all our preschools have been closed for most of 2021. I have been responsible for making sure that all our 1000 preschool children have had access to Home Learning through our WhatsApp groups. Visiting sponsor children has also been hard with all the travel restrictions. There have been and are lots of food shortages and the price of food is going up every day. I was happy we were able to deliver about 2000 food parcels to our poorest Ocean Stars families due to the kindness of our UK OST supporters. I have been feeling very sad in my heart for a long time,

Thank you

 


 

JeganiHi it's me Jegani

Because of the ongoing Covid situation, Sri Lanka is now in lockdown and it means we can't go outside we need to stay at our home. We can't purchase food items, clothes and grocery items. My family has really struggled with the covid lockdown. But I have worked with the OSL team though I have had to work from home. As Sponsor Manager it has been sad for me as I can't visit the sponsor children. But I am happy that through WhatsApp call, I contact them and talk to them and support them and check up on their studies. We have had to stay at home for such a long time it makes us unhappy and sad. We cannot travel outside our area. However, I am so thankful that I have been able to work continuously with the OSL team and do good things for our families. Thank you, Ocean Starts trustees and supporters.

 


 

 

DilukshiHi this is Dilukshi

The current situation in Sri Lanka is, we are in Lockdown because the Covid virus spreading very fast and everywhere on our island.  It means we can't go anywhere and all the shops, banks, are closed. The police and the army are surrounding every area in our country. We can go out for emergency purposes only otherwise we can't go out during the lockdown period.  Most of the time I do my job at my home (work from home). Because I have struggled to get my pass for coming to the office as my district has had lots of Covid cases. During this lockdown period, my uncle is passed away due to Covid, and my family had to be in quarantine for fourteen days. We were not allowed to have a proper funeral for my uncle. In these days I am not able to do my job properly, because I cannot connect to my team directly and the main thing is Data, network problems. Sometimes I am unable to finish my work on time.  In the beginning, we had enough food for our family, but as the lockdown period has continued, we are struggling to get food. At first, I enjoyed this lockdown, Because I have lots of time to spend with my father and enjoyed spending time with my family. Now I feel very sad and depressed as Covid continues and we continue being in lockdown not able to do anything.

 


 

ChithraHi I am Chithra

 

Lockdown has made me feel very depressed and sad. There is not enough of food and the prices have gone up. I can't go outside to purchase the food, but I am so happy to have my job with OSL. I have been looking after our OSL garden and making sure the office is clean. We have grown lots of vegetables which has helped us during these difficult times. Giving food parcels to poor families has made me feel good in my heart. I pray that soon we will be able to live without Covid. Thank you, OST UK, for helping us.

 

 

 

Introducing the Ocean Stars Blog Series

Naomi Booth :: Friday 17th September 2021 :: This Story

Introducing the Ocean Stars Blog Series...

 

Ocean Stars Trust (OST) is excited to announce a new bi-monthly blog series, featuring insights into our ongoing projects, our staff in Sri Lanka and the UK, as well as content pieces about culture and life in Sri Lanka.

Our blogs will be shared on our social media channels twice per month on Fridays. Visit our website www.oceanstars.org.uk for more information about our mission and our work.

About OST

OST was founded in 2005 following the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. Founded by Dilanee Bunter, a former teacher who was born in Sri Lanka, OST has gone onto rebuild communities devastated by the Tsunami and the Sri Lankan civil war through provision of quality early years education, community empowerment projects and child educational sponsorship.

OST's projects are primarily based in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, but also has a presence in the Northern province and Colombo. Currently, OST supports 26 preschools with teacher salaries and educational resources, 3 community empowerment programmes and 150 children supported with education sponsorship.

Our two offices are based in Fleet, UK and Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, where the charity employs 5 full-time staff to manage operations in Sri Lanka. In the UK, OST has a small volunteer team who support the work through organising fundraising activities, managing social media and communications with supporters. OST has a Board of Trustees who oversee the financial management, strategy and governance of the charity.

OST and the Pandemic

Like many organisations, the last 18-months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have been incredibly tough. With flip-flopping lockdown policies in Sri Lanka causing major disruptions to the early years education programmes, the halt of our international volunteer programme and the ability of our staff to work together at an office, times have been difficult. However, as a result of long-term investments in staffing and technology we are certainly a stronger, more resilient and more adaptable organisation than before the pandemic.

Whether it be through communicating with our teacher network through WhatsApp groups, creating online fundraisers and having remote teacher training sessions, we are still able to deliver high-impact and high-quality programmes and continue to serve the needs of our communities.  

Our Plans

Now in its 17th year as an organisation, OST is always looking at new ways to connect with our supporters as well as engaging new people into our work and the magic of Sri Lanka. We hope this blog series provides interesting and thought-provoking insights and encourages you to learn more about us as an organisation and maybe inspire you to  get involved!

OST is at an exciting stage of growth as a charity. Over the last few years, significant investment into the capabilities of Sri Lankan staff has enabled the charity to establish a strong, highly functioning Sri Lankan team who have created a strong supportive network of early years education teachers. Our teachers are highly motivated to bring high-quality education to some of the poorest and most remote areas of the country.

So, watch this space and we look forward to sharing content with you.

OST TEAM

The beginning Boxing Day Tsunami 2004

 

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