“How do the students find so much time and interest in doing these activities,” I asked Theja Ariyarthane, Assistant
Education Department. The government has recognised agriculture as the mainstay of the Sri Lankan society and economy and hence, is making the efforts to teach children about it. Specialised ‘Agriculture teachers’ are a part of every school’s faculty and the Division is run by the hierarchy of the Ministry of Education. How I wish the Indian decision makers would tread the same path.
I visited eight schools from three Provinces – Taxila Central College, Horana, in Western Province; Hekadua Sreshmangala National School, Boosh Mahavidyalaya, Richmond College, Sridhamma College and Labudua in Southern Province; and Khadugamawa National School, Pushpadana Girls College and K Nuguwela Central College in Central Province. My journey began with Mallika Walgamage, Deputy Director of Education, who told me that 100 schools from the nine Sri Lankan provinces have been chosen to participate in the pilot phase of the Green Schools Programme.
I noticed how the infrastructure of the schools is not very different from Indian schools in evergreen areas. But a few things really stood out like the clay tile roof with gutters to divert rainwater, the well wellplanned drainage system that does not harvest the abundant rain and the naturally ventilated and well lit class rooms. The richness in biodiversity matched the tropical climate of the country.
And now the most impressive feature which ran as a common thread through all the schools I visited: the well-maintained kitchen gardens and green houses. While most schools practise soil conservation methods like contour bunding, Richmond College and Taxila National College stand out for their efforts. Richmond College has built an original mud hut, featuring ancient domestic wood and stone, much like the huts in which native Sri Lankans lived. They also have a bio-gas plant and poultry farm. Sanuja Jayawickrama, a teacher from the school told me how the kitchen gardens, green houses and nurseries have plants that are raised from seeds collected by students from nearby gardens and farms.
Sometimes, they even get the seeds from their homes! Boosh Mahavidyalaya's Suranji Weragoda showed me around the school’s effective rainwater harvesting storage system. I also got to see Sridhamma College’s incredible waste water reuse mechanisms which came as a surprise to even Ms Mallika! Waste collection and disposal, however, was of concern in many schools where solid waste is burnt, including plastic. I more I mull over my trip, the more clear I am about what the Green Schools Programme Manual of Sri Lanka should highlight. Any ideas coming from you?