**This article was taken from the Access Engineering Newsletter 1st quater 2018**
Madusha; Nine year old small girl in grade four attends Hangili Ella Vidyalaya – Puhulpola, Welimada; A rural mud school that was found after a grueling 15km drive on a rutted and steeply road, substantially far apart from the Welimada urbanity. She shares a small broken chair and a desk with another girl as there are not enough seats to accommodate the school’s 70 students. Most of the chairs available have no backrests and the desks are crude and have no proper writing surfaces.
“The Chairs were not plenty for us, so two of us sit on a seat, and this gives us hard time to write” says Madusha.
Madusha is one of the lucky ones. Some of her classmates must stand or sit on the cement blocks to engage with the classroom exercises. Students of different grades often cram together to fit in to lessons or carry furniture from classroom to the other. Most of the students from upper grades use desks that are made for primary students. The wrong posture with constant leaning on the desks with troubles accommodating their legs under the small desks, results in unfair coordination of handwriting skills, lack of concentration and many more health hazards in the long run.
This situation is not exclusive to Hangili Ella Maha Vidyalaya, it is recurrently established in many more rurally located schools across Sri Lanka. A conducive learning atmosphere with sufficient provisions is still a far away dream for many. Access Engineering PLC; as a recognized business conglomerate, turned up to earmark a comprehensive CSR initiative to create a better learning environment for the future generation through improving the quality of education among underprivileged schools.
Another Happy Class (P2)
The Project Management Division II, of Access Engineering PLC identified and undertook the project, with direct supervision of the CSR committee, in October 2016. The Project is geared under three phases;
Make a better use of the scrap / waste materials disposed from construction sites.
Industry advancement through facilitation of monetary and other support to the trainees at Homagama Technical College.
Facilitate Rural Education through provision of required class room infrastructure.
As a company that takes sustainability into account in all its projects and business activities covering the Triple Bottom Line –Economic, Environmental and Social Performance, Access Engineering nurtures a culture for responsible and value added disposal of residue materials. Thus, scrap materials collected at site levels were sorted and a total of 28 tons of sustainable materials such as scrap metal were traded to an external party for alternative economic use and approximately Rs. 1,000,000 were directly transferred to a CSR Fund.
The school furniture was built in collaboration with Homagama Technical College (P3)
Integrating Industry Training
Simultaneously a meaningful Vocational Training program was developed in collaboration with Homagama Technical College for the purpose of Industry Advancement through facilitation of training and development to rural youth. Both the programs were linked and benefited each other as total material and equipment worth of Rs. 7.5M (Upto 31st March 2017) was provided for the training program and the trainees at Homagama Training Collage were motivated and empowered during the program with clear direction, realistic monthly targets and guidance. A special incentive scheme was also arranged to encourage participation and to sustain the Carpentry and welding Industry. Trainees in return fabricated the desks and chairs of commercial value Rs.12M so far adhering to the strict specification issued by the Ministry of Education.
The project is ongoing and there are many more classrooms that are due improvements (P4)
Through constant consultation of local authorities, deserving schools with critical requirements are continuously being recognized and more than 50 requests have been received by the corporate office of Access Engineering PLC from many underserved schools through word of mouth alone. Thus far, a total of 36 No of schools across the country have benefited from the project with a distribution of 1260 pairs of Desks and Chairs. (Upto 30th of September 2017). The initiative is to serve further 36 no of deserving schools with a selection of at least one school from each district or province in the country.
While the project has not yet come to an end, let's together congratulate the team for the excellent initiative and the commendable effort in association of vocational training programs for the betterment of rural education & construction industry in particular and the future generation in general.