Just the Facts...
Status: Complete

School: St. Lawrance Roman Catholic Tamil Mixed School

Country: Sri Lanka

Province: Mannar

Village: Thalaimannar West

Matching Donor: Anonymous Match

Partner: Room to Read

Year: 2011

Grades: 1- 11

Students: 305 Students

St. Lawrance School Established August 2, 2011


The New School


A New Classroom

St. Lawrance Community Profile

The Community: The school is located in the village of Thalaimannar West, Mannar District. This district, one of five administrative districts in the Northern Province, is located in northwestern Sri Lanka. It covers 2,002 square kilometers, approximately 3% of the total land area of Sri Lanka. Geographically, the bulk of Mannar lies on the mainland within the arid and dry zone. High temperatures and low rainfall characterize the climate. The monthly temperatures range between 26.5°C and 30.0°C, with highs normally recorded between May and August. Mannar receives nearly 60% of its rainfall during the northeast monsoon, which lasts from October through December. The land area is relatively flat and sits at low elevations. Across the region's gently undulating terrain, rainwater is stored in tanks and used for irrigation of arable land. Crop cultivation (primarily paddy), fisheries and animal husbandry support most people in Mannar. Employment opportunities in the district are highly seasonal, and there are no institutional facilities for tertiary education. The district is inhabited by members of various communities, though the Tamil-speaking community is the most prevalent. The last thirty years of conflict in the region have compelled the displacement and destruction of large segments of the area's population. War has destroyed the region's infrastructure, displacement has left communities without homes, and the jungle has swallowed formerly populated areas.
The residents of Thalaimannar West are very poor due to the decades-long war. The villagers depend on fishing as their main source of income. Though these people were not displaced by the war, they have suffered due to government restrictions on fishing. Drinking water is obtained from dug wells, and the government is actively involved in rebuilding the local infrastructure.
Room to Read is a nonsectarian organization that does not espouse or support specific religions or causes. We conduct our work in partnership with governments, working within their systems to reach the most children in need. Based on the historical evolution of the educational system in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Education adopted a school naming convention that incorporated names from the past, which sometimes create confusion regarding the affiliation and management of the schools.

Prior to Sri Lankan independence in 1948, many schools were run by missionaries, churches and mosques in addition to a small but growing government system developed by the British. Since then, successive governments have continued to democratize education in support of the goal of universal education for all. As the government system expanded and the Ministry of Education (MOE) took over management of the majority of all primary and secondary schools, the MOE chose to adopt the longstanding names of the schools that had been operating in communities for decades.

Many of these names include reference to a church or mosque because they were originally founded by these groups. In recognition of this longstanding identity, the names were never changed and this naming convention became common practice.

In Mannar Province in particular, 90% of all schools are identified in this way. Since being transferred into the government system, all schools receive funding from the government, follow state curriculum and use mandated text books. Any religious affiliation is in name only as a vestige of the country’s past.

The Need for a school in St. Lawrance

The school teaches students up to the eleventh grade and currently consists of two buildings. One building is permanent and the other is a temporary shed that is unsafe for children. Because the classrooms are overcrowded, and the shed is poorly ventilated and not well lit, many parents do not send their children to school. Since the development of infrastructure is necessary to encourage resettlement in the village, officials from the Department of Education have enlisted Room to Read to provide a suitable building for the students.

An Old Classroom

School Old

Temporary Shelters as former Classrooms

The St. Lawrance School Project

The new primary school classroom block is approximately 2500 square feet. It is a spacious building with plenty of light and good ventilation and is an attractive addition to the community. The exterior of the building is painted to match the existing school buildings. The single-story building has five classrooms as well as storage facilities. Teachers use built-in wall cupboards to display various educational materials donated by Room to Read. Room to Read has provided 200 student tables, 200 student chairs and 5 sets of tables and chairs for the teachers. The new building was constructed with cement block walls, a cement floor, and a clay tile roof mounted on a timber frame.

- Land donated by the Department of Education
- Site clearing and excavation of foundation
- Unskilled labor for construction work
- Construction of roof covering
- Digging of toilet pit
- Construction management and maintenance by community

- School design
- Project management, and technical support and supervision
- Funds for school construction and skilled laborers
- Interior furnishings such as desks, chairs, chalkboards, cupboards, etc.
- Construction and maintenance training for the community
The primary students were accommodated in temporary shelter for three years. Now the children have received a wonderful new building with the support of Room to Read. We are very grateful to Room to Read and the donor who helped us fulfill a long-standing need. We hope Room to Read will continue their educational support to this community.
- Mr. A.S.M. Peris, the school principal and the president of the School Construction Committee