Kids in Remote Village Develop Websites for US Firms – Daily Mirror, July 02, 2003

Young Isuru teaching computers to the parents
Young Isuru teaching computers to the parents

By Ramesh Uvais
Mahawilachchiya is one of our remotest villages and is on the border of thick jungles of Wilpattu, but this has not prevented its children from communicating with the outside world, so well, that they are today designing web sites for US companies.

The children of Mahavilachchiya who had not even seen a computer in their lifetime, first began seeking knowledge in English and Computers five years ago at the Horizon School in their own village.

The voluntary school which started with 20 students in the compound of its founder Nandasiri Wanninayaka has made tremendous progress in the intervening years although they are still forced to trek some 40 kilometres to the nearest town of Anuradhapura even to make a phone call.

Undeterred by all these drawbacks creative bunch of students will tomorrow (July 3) make their way to Colombo, probably for the first time to demonstrate and make a presentation on ‘Taking Information and Computer Technology to Sri Lanka’s rural villages’ at the Colombo Plaza (formerly the Lanka Oberoi).
“In spite of the kind of lives they live, it amazes me the way these children whose parents are mostly farmers, smile and never feel out of place. Their dedication and commitment to hard work is simply fascinating,” says Wanninayaka, the motivator of Horizon school – a project he has every right call his own.

Horizon was started five years ago by Wanninayake who grew up in the same village after he left the teaching profession as he believed the conventional teaching methods were not beneficial to rural children in particular.

“I don’t want to make children dependent on me alone. My aim is to motivate them to become true leaders of society. Everyone has a basic right for education and that’s what I try to provide to,” Wanninayaka said. “Though there were inhibitions initially, we have now established a trust with the parents after they were shown the progress made by their children. And now the poor parents are saving a bit of money to buy at least used computers for their children,” Wanninayaka added. While gratefully appreciating donor support, Wanninayaka stressed Horizon totally depended on donations for its funds. There are several schemes how an individual or a company could help these children, details could be obtained through their web site www.horizonlanka.org.