Kularathna Rajapaksha – A School Principal Who Uses Facebook for Community Development


Kularathna Rajapaksha

Kularathna Rajapaksha

Many adults in Sri Lanka are against the use of social media, especially Facebook, as they see only the negative sides of it. Public school principals and teachers are the most vociferous among them. But today I am going to talk about a public school principal who does a yeoman service for the students and the community in Mahawilachchiya.

He is none other than Mr. Kularathna Rajapaksha, a social servant in Mahawilachchiya. He started his career as a science teacher since he was still a high school boy. I was one of his students while I was in Grade 11. We had no science teachers during that time as most of the teachers in my alma mater, Thakshila Public School in the village got transferred to their villages. So, we had no science teachers to prepare us for the Ordinary Level (OL) exam which is held to identify which students can go for high schools. Kularathna came to our rescue by teaching us every weekend. The best thing about his teaching was that he had this special talent to teach most complicated areas in science like physics and chemistry in a very interesting way. Usually experienced and trained regular science teachers dreaded to teach those parts in science and only taught biology parts of the subject while this schoolboy-teacher showed us how easy those subject areas were. Thanks to him, a lot of students in our classes got good results for Ordinary Level (OL) national level exams.

Kularathna Rajapaksha

Kularathna Rajapaksha

Kularathna is 50 now and recently was promoted to the post of principal in Seevali Primary School in Mahawilachchiya. I am not too sure if the promotion as a principal will hamper his talents as a teacher. Too much administrative work has affected many good teachers.

Kularathna started his Facebook account in 2014, much later than I did but mastered the craft in no time. I can still remember his first Facebook post which he posted about the need of library books for Thakshila Public School where he then taught. The post brought a lot of donors donating books to the school and today the school library boasts of having 4,000 odd books. He did not stop there and constructed a separate building to store and read the books with the help of his donors and the members of the Civil Defense Force who volunteered with their labor.

School Library at Thakshila Public School

School Library at Thakshila Public School

Kularathna spends about 3-4 hours with Facebook on a daily basis. He does all his work through his old desktop computer, recently acquired laptop and the smart phone while taveling. He spends around 3,000 LKR (20 USD) monthly with his own funding. But he works for the others in the village. This is a good example for most of the ICT teaches in the country who do not do much with government sponsored 24X7 internet facilities at their computer labs with 30-40 PCs connected to internet.

Kularathna does not stop his duty by just donating money or resources. He ensures that the money and the resources he collects and disseminates are properly used. He visits the people whom he helps and monitors if the money is spent on the intended purposes. He has to spend a lot for traveling too. (I think it is the high time his donors work on reimbursing his internet, phone and fuel expenses. Otherwise he will end up broke just like I did.)

RO filter installed in Thakshila Public School

RO filter installed in Thakshila Public School

Kularathna’s biggest achievements are building a school library, building houses for those who cannot afford them, providing scholarships for the needy students, and providing RO water filters to the village. He does all these through the funds donated by both local and overseas Sri Lankans whom he befriends through Facebook. He has won the trust and the respect from those donors as he spends the money frugally and monitors the result of these interventions.

house

A house being constructed

When asked how the teenagers and the youth should use Facebook, his answer was “Use Facebook in such a way you educate you and work for the social good.” This is easier said than done though. Teenagers and the youth tend to use Facebook mostly for time and money consuming fun and have romantic relationships.

Groceries donated by some donors

Groceries donated by some donors

Kularathna also says that the other teachers who use Facebook should use it in such a way that they improve their knowledge by subscribing to educational Facebook feeds and also changing the negative attitudes towards the social media.

Ongoing drought in and around Mahawilachchiya disturbs the villagers’ lives as they either do not have or cannot afford drinking water. Kularathna shared this with his Facebook contacts and they promptly collected funds and sent to Kularathna so that he could hire a small tractor with a plastic barrel and distribute drinking water totally free of charge to the villagers. Such is the trust he has gained from his donors.

Distributing drinking water in Mahawilachchiya

Distributing drinking water in Mahawilachchiya

When asked what were his biggest challenges with FB and his community work, his answer was, “Not yet.” That is the spirit.

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Social Media Workshop at the American Center


Prasad Perera doing the workshop

Prasad Perera doing the workshop

Last Monday I attended a social media workshop at the American Center. The instructor was a guy called Prasad Perera. He covered Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and digital storytelling. It was a very effective workshop. I learnt a lot there.

Usually majority of the social media users use only the very basic features of the social media tools. But if you attend this workshop you can learn a lot more than what you already know. They have a basic, intermediate and advanced level workshops. You can contact the American Center for more details.

Public Diplomacy Office of the American Embassy

44, Galle Road, Colombo 3

Sri Lanka.

Phone: 94-11-2498153

Fax: 94-11-2449070

 

Facebook Usage in Sri Lanka


FacebookShop in Colombo

The cutest girl at Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya, now a young woman, married a guy whom she befriended through Facebook. Never knew that Facebook is this effective. I did not take Facebook seriously earlier. This is something to explore. At the right time, I received the book “The Facebook Effect” from a friend. I cannot comment about it till I finish reading it.

I too have an FB account. It was dormant till last year as I wasn’t interested in it. But with the loneliness I had without a job for more than a year, I started using my FB account quite often. I too started sharing photos, interesting news, informing my friends about my latest blog posts, finding my old friends, etc. on FB and now I am quite addicted to FB. But I keep my serious stuff limited to emails and Skype. I feel that opening up yourself in FB is like standing naked in a public park.

A friend of mine, Ranjith Gunarathne says that FB is just a gossip tool and not meant for decent people. It is an open space to share the very personal side of someone. So, a friend of Ranjith calls Facebook, ‘the Fartbook.’According to Ranjith the Facebook is ideal for Asian society who are not as direct as the Western world in telling what one feels openly. So, the Facebook is their choice of tool to tell everything one wants without control. It is also suitable for timewasters. He also has found out that the Facebook is a place for gays and lesbians to connect each other’s partners as they don’t have an open forum in Sri Lanka.

What I have understood now is that the Facebook is a good place to run political campaigns, hate and religious campaigns. We also saw instances that the FB users getting together for an annual party in a beach hotel in Colombo to see their online friends in real and have some fun.

The Facebook has become a good place for advertisers too. They promote their products and services to the target groups over Facebook. Once totally unknown Anything.lk became a famous website through Facebook. Today it is #1 in top five brands in Sri Lanka in the Facebook while Odel, Kapruka, Dialog and Mobitel are the next in line respectively.

Some of the newspapers, TV channels, radio stations also have their own Facebook pages. The number of their fans is encouraging.

The downside of the Facebook is that there is a crime trend related to FB of late. It was not a long ago that a schoolteacher  was lured by her FB boyfriend to a hotel in Colombo and ended up having sex with him and letting him take nude pictures of her. Later he started blackmailing her with the photos. But what I feel is that this is not the fault of FB. People should use their common sense. With the advent of any new technology there had been people who misused them but if one has common sense, one can avoid ended up being victims.

Famous people like actors, sportspersons, and artists are also hit by fake Facebook accounts created by unknown people under their names.

Currently, there are 1,214,420 Facebook users in the Sri Lanka, which makes it #74 in the ranking of all Facebook statistics by Country while the USA is number one and China, with the biggest population of the world is not even listed in the ranking as FB is banned in China.

Statistics show that Facebook penetration in Sri Lanka is 5.64% compared to the country’s population and 68.37% in relation to number of Internet users. The total number of FB users in Sri Lanka is reaching 1,214,420 and grew by more than 88,400 in the last 6 months.

Comparing these nearest countries by penetration of Facebook users shows that Sri Lanka has 0.05% higher FB penetration than Moldova and 0.12% lower FB penetration than Samoa.

The largest age group in FB in Sri Lanka is currently 18 – 24 with total of 497,912 users, followed by the users in the age of 25 – 34.

User age distribution on Facebook in Sri Lanka

Age Ratio

There are 67% male users and 33% female users in Sri Lanka, compared to 46% and 54% in Puerto Rico and 69% and 31% in Ghana .

Male/Female User Ratio on Facebook in Sri Lanka

Gender Ration

Statistics source http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics/sri-lanka