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Some Schools Reopen in Sri Lanka After Deadly Tsunami


Schools have opened in Sri Lanka for the start of the new school year, but not for everyone. Two weeks after a deadly tsunami killed more than 30,000 people in the country, thousands of students from the devastated coastal areas are coping with the loss of friends and family and have no classes to attend.

It is the first day of school in Sri Lanka, and groups of kids are shooting marbles and playing games on the grounds of a college in the eastern city of Batticaloa. But they are not going to class.

The 193 children here are from the nearby district of Navaladi, which was pounded by the December 26 tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka's long coastlines. At least 100 of those lost were fellow classmates.

Twelve year-old Vitaya was meant to be starting her first day of seventh grade. She survived the tsunami by climbing on the roof of her school, most of which was washed away beneath her. Now she has no desire to go back.

She says she has happy memories about school. But she lost friends and feels sad. She says her best friend, named Ramendini, was swept out to sea by the wave.

This college is located on the east coast, near the territory controlled by Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil rebels - an area that has already seen its share of dislocation due to the country's long-running civil war. Now the college is serving as temporary housing for these children and hundreds of others displaced by the deadly waves, until officials decide where they can go to start their lives again. They hope to set up some form of schooling for displaced children by January 20.

Officials with United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, say it is critical for students to get back to school as a means of overcoming the trauma of the tsunami - but it may not be easy.

Twelve year-old Rajindenun says Navaladi is his home village and he wants to go back - but he is scared of tsunamis.

UNICEF officials say at least one third of those killed in Sri Lanka were children. They say the same ratio has been repeated across the eleven Indian Ocean nations that lost citizens to walls of water, meaning roughly 50,000 of those killed were kids.

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