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Shot and shelled – but still succeeding

A small war-impacted school in Mullaitivu celebrated as two of its students, both who were left paralyzed from the waist down by Sri Lankan military attacks in 2009, achieved top marks in their O-Level exam results this week.

Battling through more than a decade of disability, the two teenagers who were injured in separate gun and bomb attacks by the army, collectively achieved 8 As, B and 6 As, 2Bs in their examinations.

One of the schoolchildren, Vidurshika, spoke to the Tamil Guardian at her home in Mullaitivu the day after she received her results.

She was just 6-years-old when a Sri Lankan soldier shot her in the back.

“During my time at the Ananda Coomaraswamy camp, I was caught up in the conflict of a military fire zone which has resulted in my current state," she said.

Having survived through the massacres at Mullivaikkal, Vidurshika and her family were detained alongside tens of thousands of other Tamils at the Menik Farm IDP camp in Vavuniya. On September 26, 2009, Sri Lankan soldiers opened fire on a line of civilians queuing up at the camp, in an incident that received widespread media coverage from the BBC, HRW and even then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Her older brother - who was 8-years-old at the time - was also injured in the same attack.They received no reparations or assistance from the government, with her family relying on donations from NGOs or the Tamil diaspora to get by. The soldiers who delivered her life changing injury have also never been held to account.

Despite the tribulations she has been through and the challenges she continues to face, the 17-year-old says that she has ensured her focus has been on her studies and was proud of her achievements so far.

"I am paralysed from the waist down. However, the next stage in life is education. If we educate ourselves, we don’t need anything else.”

“Despite the problems we have, education is important. Through education we can achieve our goals,” she added. 

Vidurshika credits her achievements down to her parents, her evening reading group, school staff and peers. 

“They encouraged me, telling me that education is important and that I could overcome any obstacles… they gave me faith,” she explained. 

Vidurshika shows her desk where she sits and studied for her exams.

Her brother, who was also admitted to hospital alongside Vidurshika at the time, has also succeeded academically, and is currently a first-year engineering student at university.

                                                          

Vidurshika is not alone in her perseverance. Her classmate, Pavadharani, was also disabled during the Mullivaikkal massacres more than a decade ago. A shell attack launched by the military landed where her family was sheltering in 2009. Pavadharani’s father, a popular English teacher, was killed on the spot and the then 6-year old was left with her legs paralysed. Despite being confined to a wheelchair since, Pavadharani also excelled in her examinations this week.

Both girls attend Kalaimagal Vidyalayam school in Mullaitivu, a district that is still struggling from the impacts of war and continued militarisation more than a decade since the end of the armed conflict.

Yet, stories like those of Vidurshika and Pavadharani, are still present and a testament to the deep-rooted resilience of the region.

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