glyph 211: Sri Lanka . Horizon School, HorizonLanka Academy . example for post-conflict societies ... Devlopment Gateway ... paths toward peace ... openworld learning . skype . land grants ... Nandasiri Wanninayaka, teaching, learning, education . enterprise and education, market originated schools


Horizon School, Sri Lanka -- HorizonLanka Academy

a history, by Mark Frazier, March 2005

The following history of Horizon School, Sri Lanka, and the achievements of Nandasiri Wanninayaka and his students and associates came to me from Mark Frazier, the author, by email, Subject: Endorsement of Horizon (Sri Lanka) Academy nomination forDevelopment Gateway award; Date: March 7, 2005. -leif, 28 Mar 05 (Mark Frazier)

Mark Frazier writes to as follows:

I am pleased to nominate the Horizon School (now formally established as
HorizonLanka Academy) for the Development Gateway award recognizing
extraordinary achievements in bringing the benefits of IT to disadvantaged

About five years ago, a donated 486 computer came into the possession of
Nandasiri Wanninayaka, a visionary teacher in a remote rural village of Sri
Lanka near the frontlines of the then-active civil war.

Wanninayaka (Wanni-) on his own time taught himself about computers by
reading the help menus -- and then urged the public school authorities to
include introductions to computing as part of the curriculum.

His efforts to reform the curriculum fell on unheeding ears. Most
individuals, in these circumstances, would likely have gone back to
established ways.

Wanni, with help from family and friends, did not do so. Rather than see
children of the village consigned to the despair and poverty firing the
civil war, he chose to leave the public school system and create an
alternative. He began to offer weekend language and introductory computer
lessons -- free of charge -- to students from all social and economic
backgrounds under a tree.

Dozens -- today, hundreds -- of students in the village responded, other
volunteer teachers from the village joined in, and word of the extraordinary
changes and successes in student skills and aspirations spread. Journalists
from Colombo made the journey and publicized the success. Individuals in
the Sri Lankan diaspora responded with donations of funds and
hardware/software to help meet the school's operating costs of $300 per

In 2003, I was finishing several years as a consultant on ICT-related
competitiveness reforms. I heard from a friend about the Horizon School and
decided over a weekend to take a 12 hour round trip by bus and taxi to visit
this remote village first hand.

What I saw there was astounding. I've worked or lived in more than 50
countries over the past three decades, but I have never seen students so
engaged in language and IT skills development, or so confident in showing
their abilities. Students took pride in conversing in English and in showing
their abilities in word processing, web page creation, creating Flash
animations, and preparing graphics in Photoshop.

Since that visit, the progress has continued. Horizon last year secured
about US$3K in private donations from local and overseas supporter to put up
a tower and establish a dedicated 64 kbs microwave link. This enabled web
sites and work-study projects for the first time to be published without the
need for a lengthy bus or motorbike journey to upload and download files.

Horizon teachers and students have continued to innovate. They are working
now to implement other precedents in ways that can be affordably and widely
replicated. These include:

- extending the example of microfinance to learning -- via
"microscholarships" ( that can give poor students
greater access to hardware and software as well as online learning

- engaging students as co-creators of eLearning materials (through a new
Horizon Virtual Academy) in digital form that can be shared with students
across Sri Lanka as well as other countries;

- offering faculty and students opportunities to do international work-study
"microprojects" (such as web research useful to local clients and
transcription of lectures by noted speakers)

- using Skype's voice-over-internet system for to engage overseas supporters
in live, interactive ESL sessions with student to practice their
pronunciation; and

- investigating "land grant" scenarios where diaspora investors help Horizon
build an asset endowment (e.g. greenfield sites with vacation/retirement
home investment potential), helping the school to move to a self-sustaining
and expand community-wide microscholarship offerings.

In years of working on IT-related projects, I have never seen so much
achieved with so little. In a society where status hierarchies remain much
in evidence, Horizon has shown what technologies, combined with courage and
an open-hearted spirit, can do for those least advantaged to realize their

Horizon's example deserves to be widely known. In an era when there is a
pressing need for grassroots educational advances in post-conflict
societies, Horizon stands out as a extraordinary -- and potentially
replicable -- inspiration. I hope that the Development Gateway award will
recognize its past and present achievements, and help make possible its


Mark Frazier
Openworld Learning LLC

Further background on the Sri Lankan context and Horizon's pioneering role is at
Continued at:
entered before July 9, 2006; edited/updated November 26, 2015

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