Sencholai – Children’s Home
Tamil Eelam – a De Facto State
Sencholai – Children’s Home
Leader of LTTE, Velupillai Pirapakaran
opens new Senchcholai campus in Kilinochchi
15 January 2006
Leader of Liberation Tigers, V Pirapaharan, opened the new Sencholai campus, a children’s home established to care for children who had lost both parents in the war, at a location in Kilinochchi in a ceremony held Sunday, 15 January 2006.
The facility contains several residential blocks for girls. An adjoining facility for Kantharoopan Arivuchcholai, a home for boys, is expected to be completed soon, according to Senchcholai officials.
The new campus contains eleven residential blocks for different age groups for the 245 girls of age 3 and older cared for by Senchcholai staff. It also contains a special block for infants, dining, study halls and two kitchens.
The campus also has an administration block, a skill development center, a cultural hall, a health center and a library. A large park separates the Senchcholai campus from the future Kantharoopan center.”The program for building the campus started in June 2003 and we have completed the project in the targeted 18 months. Although plans of adding computer facilities, audio-visual facilities and other features to our campus still remain to be accomplished, we are all pleased to see the major phase of the project come to completion,” said Janani.
Senchcholai was founded in 1991 in Sandilipay, in Jaffna district. Prior to and since the exodus of Tamils from Jaffna Peninsula in 1995, children of Senchcholai have been displaced and relocated atleast four times, Director of Senchcholai, Janani (nom de guerre Sudarmahal) said.
Currently Sencholai is located in Vallipunam near Viswamadu and along Iranaimadu Road in Kilinochchi. These buildings are more than eight years old, and have only basic study, kitchen facilities.
Children of war in battle of life –
Children at Sencholai are from both the North and the East
Caught in the cycle of a protracted war these little victims have found refuge in two homes
– Sencholai and Kantharuban- run by the Tigers Children of war in battle of life
Sunday Times, 16 June 2002
The sleepy village of Vallipuram lies between Paranthan and Puthukudyiruppu. Most of the interior is thick jungle. Farmlands have sprung up in a few clearings. This is only after Tiger guerrillas withdrew from the Jaffna peninsula in late 1994, in the wake of “Operation Riviresa.”
Adjoining a guerrilla base and a school, some 11 acres of the jungle have been selectively cleared. Huge trees like Kohomba and others that provide valuable timber have been allowed to remain. Only the smaller trees have been cleared to accommodate a cluster of cadjan-thatched and tiled roof buildings. When it took shape in 1991, the daily chores of guerrillas included chasing away or killing poisonous snakes including Cobras.
Now more than a decade old, Sencholai is home for children whose fathers and mothers have died in the 19 year-long separatist war. There are 265 girls, from the youngest, a three month old to the oldest, who is 26 years of age. Some of the elder ones have been given in marriage. For the others, their world is this 11 acre complex where they live and learn.
I asked Janani Akka who is in charge of Sencholai for how long the orphanage has functioned. She shot back “Please don’t call it an orphanage. Orphans are those children who have no one to care for. Here, we are all one family. We care for all of them. They are our close relatives. They have lost their parents not their identity.”
Janani belongs to the first batch of Liberation Tigers of Tamil (LTTE) women cadres. She saw action in 1987 in the Vadamaratchchi sector of the Jaffna peninsula. That was in Thondamannar during the Army’s “Operation Liberation.” Later, on October 10, 1987, she was together with a women’s group of 15 near Kaithady junction. Around 1.15 am, a vehicle had come close. When they tried to prevent it from moving past, heavy fighting broke out. They were Indian troops. Hearing the gun battles, another group of women cadres arrived from Kopay junction. In the encounter, her colleague Malathi died. She was the first woman cadre to be killed. A fighting unit has now been named after her.
“I am happy to be in the midst of smiling faces. If I am called upon to the battlefront, I am ready to go at any time,” says Janani. Though life now has settled down, since its inception, Sencholai had to be shifted from place to place, from time to time, when the Security Forces launched offensive operations.
She says Sencholai began in 1972 in Sandilipay in the Jaffna peninsula. Following military attacks, it was shifted to Madagal and later to Alaveddy. Thereafter, they moved to Kopay. From there, it was again shifted to Ariyalai in 1995 from where it was forced to leave after “Operation Riviresa.” There were only 24 students when they began.
In July 1996 they were settled in Kilinochchi when troops began “Operation Sath Jaya.” They were forced to shift to Vadakaadu near Mallawi (western Wanni). They arrived in Vallipuram in 1997. “Things were uncertain as troops launched “Operation Jaya Sikurui” (Victory Assured). Shells were falling. Children used to fall at the feet of their teachers in fear,” says Janani. She adds “there was normalcy after we launched the various phases of “Oyatha Alaikal” (Unceasing Waves).” These Tiger guerrilla offensives in late 1999 forced troops to abandon the large area they held in Wanni.
Some of the children at Sencholai have not attended school whilst a few had only been in a class for a month or two. “Those who are 12 years and have had no education at all are taught in the premises. Younger students are sent to the adjoining school,” says Janani.
Paradoxical enough, students at Sencholai prepare for examinations run by the Department of Examinations from Colombo. One student passed out with three Distinctions and three Credit passes. There was another with two distinctions and four Credit passes. That was in year 2000.
Whilst studying for GCE (OL), children are also taught various trades. Among them: nursing, handicrafts, music and karate. There are two Black Belts and one Brown Belt says Janani. Some learn video filming and photography. Very soon they will be taught how to use computers, she adds.Computers are to be procured soon for this purpose, she points out.
The daily routine for the children include paying homage to their parents and their colleagues who achieved “martyrdom” in the war. Then there are the compulsory life survival techniques. If there is an air raid, children know which underground bunker to run to. The underground shelters, covered by roofs, lay cheek by jowl with living quarters in the cluster of buildings. Some are even close to the Montessori.
Janani says some children who came to Sencholai when they were only four years are now 15 years old. She insists that the children are not being prepared for war though there were women who had “voluntarily” joined the war effort. “These women made it clear to us they were doing so on their own volition,” adds Janani.
Children at Sencholai are from both the North and the East. Some wore gold medals and displayed the certificates and other gifts they had won at competitions. A photograph of LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran’s visit to Sencholai is displayed prominently in the office of the complex.
A 15 minute drive from Sencholai, we arrive at Kantharuban’s Home. That is exclusively for male children who have lost their fathers and mothers in the war. There are 186 between the age groups of three to 21 years.
Kantharuban, after whom the boy’s home has been named, was a Black Tiger cadre, who died in battles with the Army in Point Pedro in 1990. His parents had died during the unfortunate ethnic violence in July 1983. He joined the LTTE and made an express wish – if he died in action, a boy’s home be set up for children without parents.
Kantharuban Home is located in 15 acres of land, part of an abandoned 60 acre farm lined with Karuthakolamban mango trees. A school is located outside. In the complex, there are living quarters, nursery buildings, a playground for cricket and football. Maps of “Eelam” and portraits of “martyrs” adorn the office walls. Like Sencholai, children at Kantharuban Home have also been shifted around from place to place due to military offensives. It was in 1997 they came to the present abandoned farming complex.
Puviarasan, a Black Tiger cadre is in charge of Kantharuban Home. The eldest student there had passed his GCE (Advanced Level) and is a student at the “Tamil Eelam Law College.” Last year, a student obtained seven “A” passes out of ten subjects. Besides being educated, male children are also being taught driving, home gardening, poultry farming, animal husbandry, welding and other chores.
Since the truce between the Government and LTTE, Puviarasan says the next of kin of children from both North and East visit the boy’s home. They bring gifts and food. “We receive assistance from some NGOs and well wishers,” he adds.
“If the next of kin proves us that he is closely linked to a boy, we will release him after 18 years. Otherwise, we ensure a good future for them,” says Puviarasan.
The routine for the boys is much the same as in Sencholai. They are also subject to life survival lessons and how to rush to an underground shelter.
Sencholai and Kantharuban’ Home are reminders of the heavy price children are forced to pay in the protracted war. It is no different to the sufferings of children in the South, who are also victims of war.