We only had meager information about Riyas: the A-Test results would not be known till August; he was doing fine. That was all we had heard by e-mail. At the time we had met Roy in Colombo, he told us that Riyas had not passed the exam, and that he did not have any information about the three girls.
In Hambantota, we tried to get in contact with all four of the students. Riyas was the only one that showed up. He came with his schoolmate’s father who gave him a home after the tsunami, a very nice modest man.
As there were a lot of other visitors to Zariya’s house at that time, we hardly could talk to Riyas. He was terribly shy, yet he seemed honestly glad to see us again. He was planning to repeat the school year at the government school. He would also take his tutoring classes in Tangalle, 50 kilometers from Hambantota, where they had much better schools.
We invited him for lunch the next day and the poor guy did not feel very comfortable in Faye’s, Humaid’s and our company. We made some small talk and as soon as he relaxed a bit, Humaid started to ask questions. Why did he not keep contact? Why did he not forward the details of his A-Test results since we had promised him that we would cover the costs?
The talk in Singhalese became more and more lively. Faye had listened quietly at first and then she started to translate. It was humiliating.
Riyas got severe leg injuries in the tsunami and was hospitalized till the end of February. Overall, he was still in bad shape when the exams started in April. We always assumed that he was not caught in the tsunami at all, as he was the only survivor of his family. We never dared to ask him about details.
He could not remember much. All he knew was that he could see the bone of his right knee when he came out of the water. The doctors had to transplant skin from the other leg and in the meantime, he had been pretty much pain free. He pulled up the leg of his pants to show Humaid and it still looked terrible.
After the tsunami he had to show up like all other orphans at different NGO headquarters. They took his data, made pictures and he never heard from them anymore. He figured that he would not hear from us again either, especially since he failed to pass the exam.
But what about the monthly payments of 50 Swiss francs we sent to him to cover his living expenses? With big eyes, he admitted that it never occurred to him to check his savings account. He had been using money from the government compensation for the loss of his parents and sister in the tsunami.
Nothing can take away your education … but you sure can lose your faith!
Humaid had given us the 22`000 rupees back that was supposed to be for the youngest student’s tuition. As he had not received any records from the school about the girl, he had not forwarded it. He could not understand why we insisted to meet Riyas again. After the talk he was also humiliated.
In addition to the government school in Hambantota, Riyas got up four times a week at five in the morning to attend tutoring classes in Tangalle. He will forward us the details and we promised him that we would cover those tutorial fees, with hopes that he would finally find some trust in us.
Three more students were introduced to us, that were two years prior to graduation. Since we never had any feedback from the Seliyant Institute about the other three girls and because we had provided the girls tuition for seven subjects for 5,500 rupees a month each, we refused!
And then we met Sithy Sameena’s Mother.