The little students of Thambirasa Preschool in Ulavanoor, Kilinochchi, hail from a war-affected community. Their parents are farmers and labourers who struggle to sustain their families despite the harsh circumstances with which they are faced. The children are stunted and have many health problems such as attention deficiencies and anaemia. Without a nourishing breakfast, the little ones find it difficult to pay attention to their lessons and take part in the games and other educational activities. Also, due to the parents’ lack of education, the little ones are kept back at home as their inactivity is misunderstood to be a lack of interest in attending preschool. As a result, many children under 05 years of age do not receive any form of education. This is a great loss as these first years are vital in laying a solid foundation before children begin their formal education at school.
Intending to reach out to such students from backward communities in the North, the ADT conducts nutritional programmes for selected preschools. The Thambirasa Preschool was one of three preschools in Kilinochchi selected for this 08-month nutrition project which daily provides a total of 100 children with a nutritious meal. The meal includes legumes such as chickpeas, green gram and cowpea and are complete with a tumbler of milk. The parents help in preparing these meals for the children, which also serves as an opportunity to educate the parents on the importance of nutrition. Two of these preschools were also gifted audio-visual educational material, including a television, DVD player and educational CDs, which further help the children in their learning.
Sasikala has been a preschool teacher at Thambirasa Preschool since 2014. She is very happy that the ADT is providing a nutritious meal for the 20 students in her preschool as she believes that this project is addressing a vital need of these little ones. She has noticed an increase in attendance and physical growth in the children since the nutrition programme began in May 2017. “The attendance has increased, and the children who were formally inactive are now energetic”, explained Sasikala. “Their knowledge has also improved because of their active participation in educational activities.” Sasikala went on to explain that the parents too are happy to send their children to preschool. “As most of the children eat something small like biscuits for breakfast, the parents are very happy that they receive a nutritious meal at preschool”, said Sasikala. “The ADT is a good organisation that has helped this village a lot!”