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Book donation puts Sri Lankan kids right on track

Students at a Sri Lankan school are benefitting from a donation of books from Armidale War Memorial Library.

Around 70 books were provided by the library as part of a larger package from Australian donors to the Ilukpitiya Primary School, in the Matara region of southern Sri Lanka.

Former Armidale region resident Stephen Gapes, who now operates a resort in Sri Lanka, transported around 200 books to the school, which has about 160 children but only 20 or so books in its modest library.

Mr Gapes said students and teachers at the school were keen to improve their English and would be greatly assisted by the books supplied by Armidale Library and various charity organisations.

“Not only will the books help improve their English reading and writing skills, their content will also be valuable with the students’ curriculum,” he said.

Armidale Library Manager Ian Greenhalgh said the books - covering science, maths, literature, biology and general reading - were surplus to the library’s junior collection.

“They’re books that were no longer required as part of our service and it’s fantastic they are now getting a new lease of life and benefitting another group of children,” Mr Greenhalgh said.

Mr Gapes said Ilukpitiya school, located in the Kotapola mountain area near the world heritage Sinharaja Rainforest, received Sri Lankan government assistance by supplying the students’ set textbooks and teacher salaries.

However, additional needs such as uniforms, books, other materials and excursions were funded by the students’ parents, who could not afford to fully support the school financially.

“This donation of books will mean Ilukpitiya School now has the best collection of English school books in the country,” he said.

The school put on a welcoming ceremony when the books were delivered recently and provided a tour of the school library for Mr Gapes and a former pupil who had suggested the book donation.

Mr Gapes and the former pupil, Thushara Gamage, now plan to create a trust fund to facilitate other desperately needed improvements and repairs at the school.


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