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Education reaps peace dividend

Colombo, Jan. 10 (AP): More than 75,000 children, most of them minority Tamils, have enrolled in schools in Sri Lanka’s former northeastern war zone, the education ministry said today.

During the civil war, only 40,000 to 50,000 new students enrolled each year in the northeast, said Thillai Nadarajah, a deputy director of the ministry of education in Colombo.

“We have not had events of this nature for the past two decades,” in the northeast, minister for education Karunasena Kodithuwakku told a gathering of parents, newly-enrolled children and teachers in the port city of Trincomalee.

Sri Lanka’s school year began peacefully this week.

The huge school enrollment in the main area of conflict was encouraging, the minister said.

Kodithuwakku said the war had pushed back the educational development of children in the northeast, home to most of Sri Lanka’s two minority groups: the 3.2 million Tamils, and 1.4 million Muslims.

The 75,000 children were enrolled in grade one across the northeast, where many school buildings were damaged in the war. Some buildings have been repaired.

According to Kodithuwakku, the dropout rate for students in the northeast has reached 16 per cent, compared to the national average of 4 per cent.

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