What you are going to read in this page is just my view and observations from the couple of visits I had to Jaffna.
 
Most of the computer labs were very well equipped. The equipment in the labs consisted of PIII and PIV PCs with CD-ROM drives and Laser / Dot-Matrix printers. A majority of the schools also had multi-media projectors. These facilities were available at the National schools and private schools which held a high reputation and thus had backing from their old boys/old girl associations. However I cannot comment on any other schools , since in the 3 days we visited Jaffna we didn't have enough time to visit the other areas. The good news is that the Education Department is going to give each school 7 computers as it plans to introduce General Information Technology (GIT) as a subject for the Advanced Level. Before long this initiative should guarantee that all the schools in the region will have access to at least some sort of computer facility.

Unfortunately none of the labs had networked their PCs, and none seem to have a library facility which held relevant computer books. This is one area where the help of the past pupils will be much appreciated and welcome. Help is sought in building a CD library, networking the computers, and eventually Internet-enable the school. As far as the latter issue is concerned since ASDL is still being tested only in isolated parts of Colombo, Leased Lines seem to be the only available option.

 

There are a few Computer Training Centers now operating in Jaffna. Most of them offer basic courses in MS Office ,Computer Languages such as Visual Basic and Internet related areas. To learn simple skills such as sending e-mail or browsing the web, students are expected to fork out sums in the range of (2500Rs-3500Rs),which is beyond the reach of many. Although courses on Graphic Designing and web designing seem to be offered, I am certain these will cover only the very basics.

It is evident that the current facilities available at Jaffna schools are sorely lacking as there are no proper Library facilities for the keen students of Jaffna. One incident which highlights this situation happened when we conducted a session on 'Professional Web Design' for the Jaffna Technical college, and later as the students approached us they wanted such tools as 'Photoshop' and 'DreamWeaver' as they had already used 'MS FrontPage' !!!. When we inquired as to how they might learn to use them, they said they would use the Help files found in those applications and learn how to use the software. If this incident alone does not illustrate the hidden plight of the Jaffna student I do not know what will !!!

 
The communication infrastructure is being established in Jaffna right now. SLT (Sri Lanka Telecom) has started its work and the current priority seems to be in laying the infrastructure down. The Jaffna town itself is almost fully covered. SLT is offering leased lines too. There are a few cyber cafes operating in Jaffna, charging between 70Rs to 80Rs per surfing hour. The links are pretty slow as you can imagine.

Some places charge Rs 50 to send an e-mail. These are not Cyber Cafes but outlets where you can make phone calls and faxes and make photocopies, (popularly known as Communications Centers, here Sri Lanka). The innocent public are therefore forced to use these expensive places to send mails to their loved ones.

It will take some time for households to be equipped with internet and e-mail since, first they have to buy a computer for themselves and second they have to get a Telephone line. Moreover the masses have to realize the advantages of having Internet and e-mail at home. Until that happens the only way for students to have access to the Internet is through thee computer labs at school.

 

Almost all the boys schools we visited had new buildings and excellent computer facilities. Most of them have been built with the backing of the old boys. What I am expressing here is my own personal opinion. All the girls schools I visited with the exception of Vembadi lacked adequate computer facilities. The situation needs urgent attention. This appeal goes out to all old girls' associations out there.

Recently another team of colleagues visited Jaffna for the second time. I learnt from them that the highly reputed Chundikuli Girls' School is not utilizing the computers they have, which I heard were lying around in the school and only used by the administration. We realized that every other school which I have visited in my previous visit and also which the second team visited, had an established Computer Lab which was fully operational and accessible to the students. If there are any concerned old girls out there please put the pressure on the Chundikuli Administration to open the lab because they seen have the resource but are not utilizing them for the students benefits. When more and more people from home and abroad start prodding the administration, they may realize the importance.

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