S Pushparani has a 15-year-old daughter who needs constant care - she cannot speak, or eat without assistance. Pushparani has taken her from the Gampola hospital to Colombo, without success. There being no school to accommodate children like her, Pushparani says she has no choice but to keep her at home. Yet she is forced to work when she can find someone to look after her child, in order to support the cost of her younger daughter's education. "We are in great difficulty. My husband works as a mechanic, but his salary is not enough to cover all our living expenses."
Most parents do ensure their youngest children go to school, as Kanageshwari Ramiah, a teacher at SIDPS pre-school on the Strathsey estate, off Badulla, said. However, the dropouts begin after the transition to government schools in the town, which are further away. “Many of them aspire to go to Colombo. They think if they can work in a shop, as a mason or even entering the garment industry, they can earn up to Rs. 1,500 a day, in comparison to the Rs. 730 they would receive on the estate.”