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Students in Sri Lanka Attempt Return to Normalcy

Two weeks after a deadly tsunami killed more than 30,000 people in Sri Lanka, students in the island nation are returning to school. Social workers say it's critical for students to get back to their studies -- one way to ease the trauma caused by the tsunami.

It's the first day of the new term for the young students at Sudharma College in the village of Galle on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka. Many students no longer have the crisp white uniforms they usually wear to classes, so the school headmaster is making an exception to the dress code this term.

It will be some time before students in the damaged school will receive proper care and education. But the ritual of the first day of the term was something students did not want to miss.

Many students lost family members in the tsunami. Some survivors accompanied their children to school on the first day. Deepika Kumari says it was very difficult to drop off her children. "I am very afraid to come to school and to bring my children here because it is so close to the sea."

But seven-year-old Sayuri tried to assure her mother she wants to return to school. "I am looking forward to going back to school, some of my friends died, but I think all of the teachers survived."

Students paused before classes for a moment of silence for their 400 classmates who perished last month and the nearly 50,000 children who died in the 11 Indian Ocean nations pounded by the tsunami. In the capital city of Colombo, which was spared severe damage from the tsunami, students began their term with a prayer for victims.

Meanwhile, relief continues to arrive in Sri Lanka. U.S. marines have arrived to clear debris and pump out contaminated water wells. International relief arriving in the region includes the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team, which will help with water purification and medical needs. The commander of the DART Task Force, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Voith, says they will help clinics. "We will put our doctors right in those clinics and work with Sri Lankan medical people."

More than 90,000 homes were destroyed in Sri Lanka, and in Galle alone nearly 50,000 people are living in refugee camps. The Sri Lankan government has pledged that reconstruction efforts will begin by the weekend.