Delhi opens whole new world for Jaffna’s ‘war born’

August 20th, 2011 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) It is their first trip outside of Jaffna, Sri Lanka’s once war capital. And the 10 Tamil students of a 160-year-old school in Jaffna find their tour of Delhi simply amazing.

Since flying into the capital on India’s Independence Day, the still shy students have been captivated by a whole new world — Indian students, local cuisine, lifestyle, historical monuments and more.

“This has truly been an enriching experience,” said Rev. M. Jero Selvanayagam, principal of Jaffna’s St. Patrick’s College, founded in 1860 and a Jaffna landmark.

“These are Sri Lanka’s war-born children, they have only seen conflict. Now that rebuilding and development are on after two decades, the visit to Delhi has come at a very appropriate moment,” Selvanayagam told IANS.

The visiting boys are Class 9 students. They will depart Monday, after spending a week in the Indian capital.

Hosting them is the St Francis de Sales Senior Secondary School at Janakpuri in west Delhi, an institution that also received girl students from Jaffna last year.

“Our boys are a little shy,” admitted the Jaffna school principal. “In contrast, the students here are lively and energetic. The confidence level of our boys is bound to go up after all the interactions.”

He added: “It has really been an amazing experience.”

The Tamil boys, their principal said, had never been even out of Jaffna peninsula till now. “So this is a completely new experience. When I return to Sri Lanka, I am going to promote more such student exchanges.”

Father Melroy Almeida, principal of the Delhi school, was full of praise for the visiting children and the exchange programme between Sri Lanka and India.

“It is only now that they are opening up,” he said of the Tamil boys. “They are staying in a hostel. We provide opportunities for them to visit homes of Indian students and interact with our boys and their parents.

“They get to taste north Indian food and get a feel of Delhi and India. We feel they are enjoying it.”

He said the principal and a teacher of the Jaffna school have also been regularly interacting with the Delhi school teachers. “They are very impressed with the facilities we provide and our overall system.”

The Jaffna students were thrilled to see the Taj Mahal in Agra and they have also toured Delhi.

On Sunday, they will see the sprawling Akshardham temple in east Delhi and Noida in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

The St. Patrick’s team participated in cultural performances, depicting both Sinhala and Tamil culture, at the welcome ceremony in the school.

“They are very impressed with all that they see… And we are very impressed with their football talent,” said Father Melroy Almeida. “Though they are only 10, they formed a team and played very well.”

(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be contacted at narayan.swamy@ians.in)

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