Human cost of tsunami counted

April 8, 2005

Post-tsunami reconstruction is proceeding steadily at Sri Lanka's universities but the psychological and financial impact is still a concern, according to Ranjith Mendis, chairman of the University Grants Commission.

Serious damage at the Eastern, the South Eastern, Jaffna and Ruhuna universities had been repaired, Professor Mendis told The Times Higher .

Sri Lanka's universities suffered 72 million rupees (£387,000 at local prices) worth of damage. Eight staff and 30 students have been confirmed dead. A further 71 students are missing.

Although all universities have reopened and are offering courses, a British Council survey in Sri Lanka says that "respondents have drawn attention to the psychological effects of the disaster, and the financial effect on students whose source of family income has been destroyed.

"The sector has suffered a loss of public confidence due to its perceived failure either to foresee or prevent the tsunami, and this has led to a lowering of morale within the body of academic staff."

Professor Mendis has launched an appeal for the 20 students who lost both parents.

"These students have been left without any means of sustenance and are unable to continue their university education unless they are supported financially," he said. The UGC planned to pay a lump sum of 10,000 rupees and a monthly allowance of 5,000 rupees to each affected student until they completed their university education, he added.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh University has introduced three tsunami scholarships for Sri Lankan students at its Graduate School of Social and Political Studies. The universities of Warwick and Keele are offering similar tsunami-linked scholarships.

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