U.S. Ambassador Inaugurates Virtual Platform to Connect Schools

Vavuniya, February 23: U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz inaugurated a U.S.-funded online education platform today that connects students and teachers from different regions and responds to education challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions. These “Smart Classrooms” connect Sinhala and Tamil speakers and provide remote schools with access to teachers trained in science and technology.

“This Smart Classroom directly supports children’s access to a quality education using new technology,” said U.S. Ambassador Alaina Teplitz. “This opens a new world for them and also improve the connection between Sinhala and Tamil students, building stronger links with each other and their communities.”

The U.S. government’s Agency for International Development (USAID) supported an initiative that worked closely with provincial and district authorities to identify a school in Vavuniya and one in Trincomalee to pilot the Smart Classroom program. These state-of-the-art classrooms include digital displays, audio equipment, desks, and chairs provided from the American people through USAID. This $20,000 pilot program helps less advantaged schools deal with the challenges of meeting educational goals during a pandemic. It also connects students and teachers from different regions so they can support lasting peace in their communities.

The Smart Classroom activity is one component of the longstanding partnership between the American and Sri Lankan people to support self-reliance, strengthen stability, and promote economic growth. USAID’s program in Sri Lanka, totaling more than 350 billion Sri Lankan rupees since 1956, promotes a healthy, educated, and employed population. To find out more about USAID’s work, please see www.usaid.gov/sri-lanka.

Ambassador’s remarks:

Thank you very much, and I want to say As-salamu alaykum to everybody here. It’s great to be here with this room full of teachers, both Secretaries, and of course the students who are going to benefit from this program.

We’re very proud to have been supporters of the virtual classroom program. It looks like this initial program is a success and clearly there is a desire to expand it.

We’re pleased to help celebrate today new ways to encourage education and also the clearer understanding across the island of Sri Lanka and we’re pleased to be able to encourage those connections as they happen among young people organically.

Especially during pandemic conditions it’s essential to have this kind of innovative programming to sustain education. The Secretary noted that even without classrooms progress can be sustained but it sure helps to have true classrooms to sustain that progress. So this is a very important initiative, as are the partnerships we’ve developed.

This is only a portion of the assistance we’ve provided to Sri Lanka in response to the pandemic to help your studies as well but we didn’t want to [deflect] the obvious other impacts of the pandemic, whether they’re economic or social or related to the education of children going to school.

We are also working with young Sri Lankans on vocational skills training. We’re trying to help the next generation in other work. So this is only a portion of that, but I’m glad to see that the program is working here, and I wish everybody success in taking full advantage of it.

I really encourage the students both here and in the eastern province to take maximum advantage of it and to be very creative in thinking about how you can use this platform to further your education and build connections with other students around the island.

Thank you very much.