In local partnership with the Jesuit Refugee Service in South Asia, an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus that supports the redevelopment of war-torn communities in the area, Jesuit Worldwide Learning supports two learning centers located in Sri Lanka: Vavuniya and Mannar.
English language skills are needed by Sri Lankan youth who seek out educational opportunities, inland or abroad, and most employment opportunities require and value strong English skills. Children of low income families have even less access to tertiary education, facing additional financial hurdles of travel, food and accommodations costs. For female students, safety and security heighten the challenges to overcome. To create access to higher education, JWL partnered with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in 2014 and began work in Mannar, in the north. In late 2015, a second site was added in Vavuniya, with CSLT offerings in EFL as well as in computer applications. At the beginning of 2016, under the visionary and energetic leadership of Fr. Joe Victor, SJ, JWL is proud to be serving hundreds of “men and women for others”.
JWL Loyola Campus Vavuniya Welcomes New Students
Loyola Campus, Vavuniya, the latest JRS-JWL site was launched on 14 September in Sri Lanka. This is the second JRS-JWL site in the country providing tertiary education to war-affected youth and professionals in northern Sri Lanka. Currently two certificate courses are offered at Loyola Campus, Vavuniya: certificate course in English as Foreign Language and certificate course in Computer Applications. A total of 91 students attend different programmes at the centre. Loyola Campus has become a unique centre for learning and education for students in and around Vavuniya.
Students Gather to Celebrate Inauguration Day
With the launch of the Vavuniya site on 14 September, north Sri Lankan students have added reason to celebrate. At the inauguration, 30 students joined the JRS-JWL team to celebrate the start of this program, which offers them an opportunity to invest in a new beginning for a better future. The morning started with the lighting of an oil lamp and a silent prayer. Fr. Joe Victor SJ, the JRS-JWL Project Director, did the introductions and encouraged the students to make the most of this opportunity to further their education in English and Computer Applications, the first CSLTs to be offered at the Vavuniya centre. After a few ice-breakers to create a team spirit among the students, instructions about the course were given, followed by a sharing of expectations in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The students enjoyed meeting fellow classmates, were excited about the new training facilities, and eagerly look forward to beginning their courses.
English Classes Challenge Students of Different Levels and Abilities
Loyola Campus aims to improve and help discover different skillsets through a number of exercises. The pedagogy moves away from traditional techniques of memorizing and cogitation, which is often the case in mainstream education. Through a number of activities like speech practices, reading, writing, group work, online presentations, film reviews, peer discussion, community based teaching and community based projects etc the Centre expects to improve the level of confidence in students while helping them to approach education and learning as a joyful activity. While theoretical aspects receive important attention, students are encouraged to improve their skills in language and computer. A dedicated set of teachers keep the students active and engaged throughout the classes.
After Construction and Structural Changes, Vavuniya’s Facilities are Up and Running
The JRS building in Vavuniya was redesigned to provide two classrooms, each equipped with 20 computers, and a space for students to use during breaks. The Microsoft Company has been generous in providing the Centre with the necessary operating systems and the Microsoft office software for the 40 i7 computers. Loyola Campus maintains a small library through which students are encouraged to develop their skills in reading and accumulating knowledge on different dimensions. The rest rooms for students and staff were renovated and Loyola Campus currently maintains a clean and pleasant environment for students for learning.
Jesuit Worldwide Learning: Higher Education at the Margins
JWL is a collaborative global partnership comprised of organizations, institutions, companies and, above all, people, to provide tertiary education to those who would otherwise not have access to higher learning opportunities. It draws on the rich and centuries-long Jesuit tradition of higher education and through a blended on-site and on-line approach mobilizes the resources of Jesuit and other worldwide networks of educational institutions. Work accomplished from many volunteers, strong on-site and virtual partnerships, a lean executive team and the commitment from the students over the past five years continues to move JWL forward in achieving its mission to “Learning Together to Transform the World”.
JWL Has Founded Sites in Both Mannar and Vavuniya
The Mannar site construction and preparation started in November 2014. The first batch of students started in February 2015. The response of students in the subsequent batches has been progressively improving. We’ve had 74 students who’ve graduated from our Academy till date who’ve gone on to pursue a degree course at University or have succeeded at getting a job. The third batch with 75 students is currently going on. We offer four month certificate courses in EFL and Computer Applications. The premise is located at the JRS headquarters, on the Talaimannar road, just a 10 minute walk from the Mannar bus stand. The building is well equipped with two class rooms, both air conditioned and 40 computers. Students have access to internet for educational purposes.The staff at Mannar Academy aim to create a welcoming atmosphere for the students where they feel comfortable enough to interact with their peers as well as the staff who are always open to helping them. Students are encouraged to improve their communication skills by speaking in English. The influx of foreign volunteers who cannot speak the local language helps this cause. All-in-all, the course aims at not only theoretical knowledge, but the practical aspect involves students teaching what they have learnt in our classes to the local school students. We work with more of a community based approach, giving our students the opportunity to reach out to the local community to impart to them the knowledge and values they have gained at the Academy.