History

With the students at Saliyamala Public School

Mr Nandasiri Wanninayaka was appointed as an English Teacher to Saliya Mala Public School in Mahavilachchiya in January 1997. When he came to the school, the students had missed a proper English teacher for several years. To fill the vacuum faster, Mr Wanni started some new methods of teaching which the school authorities didn’t like. However, new methods paid off well as students started passing Ordinary Level exams with flying colors and winning provincial awards.

Mr. Wanni asked the students to maintain diaries or journals in their exercise books and write essays everyday. Then students were encouraged to start a wallpaper in the school named “Wild Flowers.” Later, Mr Wanni directed children to post the good essays to National English weekend newspapers. But none of the essays appeared in the press as students from a rural village like Mahavilachchiya could not compete with the students from elite schools in Colombo. They dominated the junior sections of English newspapers.
Mr Wanni never takes “NO” for an answer. He asked the students to publish their own English newspaper!!!!!! How could they do that? They didn’t have even an English typewriter in the school. But Mr Wanni had already taught the children to write neat handwriting which enabled them to win provincial awards. Why not handwrite a full newspaper? Ideas looked crazy for many but the students and Mr Wanni stayed after school for few evenings and the result was a neatly handwritten newspaper. The name of the newspaper was “Horizon.” Its theme was “the wider the horizons, the greater the understanding.”

Students were encouraged to send copies of the journal to educational authorities but the students didn’t get any positive answers. Instead, Mr Wanni was warned “not to publish the newspaper anymore” by the then Provincial Educational Director. He didn’t know that the newspaper carried simple articles about the children themselves, school, teachers, village, etc. Few senior students wrote articles about international affairs. One such article was then disgraced US President Mr Bill Clinton.

Having had the negative feedback from educational authorities, Mr Wanni asked the senior students to send photocopies of the article to few embassies in Colombo. All were surprised to hear that then US Ambassador, Mr Shaun O’Donelly himself had responded by promising to donate a used 486-model PC (which ran Windows 95), a dot matrix printer and an electronic typewriter.

With all these new technology coming in Horizon English newspaper became a nicely formatted newspaper with MS Word. Mr Wanni learnt computers at night and taught the students in the morning. Students were very keen to learn computers and English with by using the new equipment.

Unfortunately, other English teacher and the principal did not like the publicity Mr Wanni got and they started creating troubles at the school. Mr Wanni had great patience but when the above two started punishing the students physically, he thought of saying good-bye to the job. He had already met the Zonal Education Director twice before to solve the problem amicably but having had negative responses, third time he tendered resignation from the teaching job.

Students and parents got together and asked Mr Wanni to keep teaching at his home and thus began the Horizon School, named after English newspaper children published, and later became the Horizon Lanka Foundation. Mr Wanni had to teach computers and English under a huge mango tree in his garden without a computer since the equipment donated by the US Embassy had to be abandoned in the Saliya Mala public school.
Luckily, due to an article written by Gamini Akmeemana about this miserable story to IPS website, which was later produced in LAcNet newswire, Mr and Mrs Gaminitillake who then lived in Japan had read the article and donated a Pentium I PC and a brand new dot matrix printer. With their arrival to Mahavilachchiya most of the other donors and well-wishers also started visiting Mahavilachchiya and chipped in helping Horizon.
Thus, Horizon was established in 1998 because of the determination of a group of children from the rural village of Mahavilachchiya. Their thirst for knowledge and educational advancement led them to the door of Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka (now CEO of HL Foundation), their former English teacher in the public school.

Thus began an after school club providing children further education in English and computers. It has become a popular place for many children of the village. Since 1998, the Horizon Lanka Foundation has branched out. As well as providing an all round education to the village children at Horizon Lanka Academy, they have expanded into the Information Age and now service the entire community with their computer lab, which has 24h Internet access. In 2001, the website www.horizonlanka.org was launched by the children of Horizon Lanka Academy, opening a window to the world.

Horizon Lanka Foundation is also responsible for beginning a project, which is bringing PCs to the homes of the villagers of Mahavilachchiya. So far more than 30 homes have been furnished with a computer and this is increasing monthly. MicroScholarships is a project of the Horizon Lanka Foundation that aims to help deserving students in their education. Many capable students in rural Sri Lanka are forced to interrupt their schooling because of financial difficulties. MicroScholarships ensure that every child covered under the scheme gets a quality education and a happy childhood. Under it, volunteers offer financial assistance that gives the child a small amount of money every month.

Horizon Lanka have fought against all odds to bring the Information Age to the small rural village of Mahavilachchiya in Sri Lanka. Our efforts, funded purely by kind donations and sponsorships, are now providing around 100 students of the village with computing skills, access to the Internet, PCs in their homes, an Academy to improve their education specializing in ICT and English and most importantly we are giving the children and community fresh hope for their futures.

Responses

  1. Well done Mr Wanninayaka and team. Keep up the good work.Remember the old saying Ask and you shall receive.. The one above has his own plan and will support and help good work at times you least expect it. In the event you need support pls send a mail and I will be there to help the little butterflies as they are the future of Sri Lanka. I feel and hope that I good an opportunity to write about you’ll earlier. But as the old saying better late than never. All good wishes from Surekha Galagoda


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