Governor Hizbullah, Member of Parliament A.L.M. Nazeer, teachers, staff and students, good afternoon and as-salamu alaykum. I’m delighted to be here this morning to formally open this beautiful addition to the An Noor school, and most importantly, to meet with some of the engaging young people who are studying here. And let me thank the students who performed for us for their songs about unity and coexistence.
The future of Sri Lanka is its youth, and that future depends on access to a quality education in a safe and nurturing environment. Originally built in 1952, An Noor is currently one of the leading schools in Addalaichenai division with a total enrollment of 950 students (500 males, 450 females). This mixed-gender school was selected by the U.S. Government for upgrades based on recommendations from the Sri Lankan Eastern Province Ministry of Education and the Disaster Management Center. Together, the U.S. Government and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education have invested 58 million rupees (approx. $331,500) to build 10 new classrooms, as well as make the school handicap accessible. These additions mean another 400 students will have the opportunity to pursue their education in this facility.
The walls of this new addition offer a safe environment for students to explore new concepts and challenge old notions. The windows provide students a view of different landscapes of ideas, while the doors open to new opportunities. This is what a school represents: a chance for Sri Lanka’s youth to learn, to examine, to challenge. It is especially important to offer these opportunities to young women and girls. The education of women has historically been overlooked in many societies, including my own. I’m pleased we can provide this assistance to the future female leaders of Sri Lanka.
There is more to this structure than just a school, however. We are standing in a densely populated area that is, unfortunately, vulnerable to natural disasters. Because of this, we have worked with the Disaster Management Center to construct a building that can serve as an emergency shelter for your community in times of need. The kitchen can prepare 500 meals a day and the new 2,000-liter rainwater harvesting system will ensure safe drinking water for anyone who shelters here.
In the 18 months it has taken to conclude this work, our collaboration with the Eastern Province Ministry of Education and the Disaster Management Center has been essential to completing this project on time. I would like to thank them for their support, as well as that of school principal, Mr. A. Mohamed Azmy, and our partners at Magbool Engineering Consultants and Salasi Lanka Engineering. I also want to recognize the U.S Army Corps of Engineers for their essential contributions and thank Kathryn Hermon, Terry Johnson, George Richards and the Indo-Pacific Command/U.S. Embassy Civil Military Support Element at the U.S. Embassy.
This cooperation is part of the U.S. Embassy and government’s support for a reconciled and unified Sri Lanka. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Sri Lankan government as it rebuilds the economy, advances good governance and the rule of law, and works to ensure equal rights and human rights and equal opportunity for all. I am pleased to be here today to inaugurate a small piece of this vision.