With the new year nearly upon us, these days are occupied with applications for the new school year, which traditionally begins on the 1st January at DTI.


Over the past few weeks, flyers and posters have informed families in the area about the new school year, and invited them to register for courses at the DTI. The great response in 2014 makes us hopeful that the DTI will be a great success and attract lots of students, thus playing its part in social change in Sri Lanka. In the last few months, the founders of the DTI have taken the time to review the year. In order to improve the DTI’s work, they have been running a lot of conversation events with the pupils and their families. As well as evaluating past courses, these are also intended to attract more young people to the project’s work and make them aware of the training courses offered and the opportunities these offer.


As in previous years, the woodwork and tailoring courses were very popular in 2013. The afternoon classes are most attractive to the young people and children, and were well attended. The male DTI students in particular requested that we resume courses in mechatronics and car maintenance. Old tuk-tuks and motorbikes could be collected and taken to pieces. This material could be used to build a good stock of old motors and sparest hat could be used for teaching purposes. However, there is a lack of money to initiate and carry out such a project.


Lack of teaching staff for English and computer courses

 Due to differing opinions and expectations about the teaching tasks, the DTI amicably said goodbye to one of our teachers this summer. Because there is a lack of suitable teaching staff, courses in English and computing at the institute have had to be suspended. In this rural tea-growing region, it is difficult to find properly-trained teachers. The limited budget the DTI has makes the search much more difficult. The search continues, thus far unfortunately without success.

New area of concentration: computer technology

 Now the previous teacher has left, the computer courses we offer are being restructured and modernised. Technological change and the demands of the globalised world apply to Sri Lanka as much as to anywhere else. Familiarity with computers, word-processing and tabulating software and applications, and with the internet, are basic requirements for a job other than in tea farming. Coding skills are also becoming increasingly important. The DTI has therefore decided to set a new standard.  At the institute, children and young people, and especially their parents, will be taught about the importance of computers for their professional future. The first step has already been taken: the DTI leaders have visited families in the area and informed them about the training courses that are being planned. These visits made clear that most young people want a concise but comprehensive selection of courses. For primarily financial reasons, many young people can’t afford to be away for a few hours over several weeks at the DTI. Intensive courses would therefore be much preferred.


After a very successful first workshop to which 11 schools in the region were invited, we have now put together four courses. The highly positive reaction from the 50 young people who took part shows that this concept fills a much-needed gap. Over 12 days, courses will offer traning in hardware, web design, software development and game design. Teachers and experts from the IT industry will design the course content and co-ordinate its implementation. With support from Germany, a new experimental technical set-up is planned in the course of a renovation. For reasons of cost, and in order to take full advantage of the possibilities offered by the internet, the plan is that the IT teachers will not have to be permanently physically present. As well as face-to-face lessons, part os the course will take place online. The young people are taught and guided via Skype at the “academic cinema”. The teachers are beamed into the classroom on monitors. This is supported by an e-learning platform which underlines the digital character of the new set-up. The best of the students and pupils will take part as a team at the annual “codefest” contest, which is organised by the Sri Lankan Institute for Information Technology and the ministry of education.



Still crucial: social education

Finally, a private donation enabled us to carry out renovation works on the teacher’s accommodation and the guesthouses. These are all positive developments and indicate that the DTI will be able to carry on offering young people new perspectives beyond the tea industry. However, problems are still present. It is important to highlight here the fact that many mothers place an enormous burden on their children where success at school is concerned. Some of the conversations we had with students showed that some parents beat their children if they receive poor marks at school. Punishments even extend to being burnt and driven out of the parental home. The key motivation here seems not to be concern for their children’s future but competition amongst the mothers. This topic requires a lot of conversation and social education so that children can be protected from violence and overwhelming burdens concerning schoolwork.