Horizon Lanka Academy
The Horizon Lanka Academy (HLA) was created in 1998 from the front lawn of its founder, Nandasiri Wanninayaka, or Wanni. Outfitted with a single laptop, Wanni -- a former public school teacher turned educational entrepreneur -- first taught himself the workings of a PC, then set out to spread the skills through his village. Within a few years, he had over 300 students in attendance on weekends.
Located in rural Mahavilachchiya, Sri Lanka (pronounced “Mah-ha-vil-ah-ch- ee-yah”), HLA is now internationally celebrated and an object of national pride. It was the first 24-hour internet access point in rural Sri Lanka -- the result of contributions by private funders in Sri Lanka and overseas -- and has paved the road to IT education and rural connectivity.
Upon first glance, the school resembles any other with yellow uniform-clad students teeming across its grounds. Though these students are pouring in for weekend classes and have come from all across the 30 square-kilometer village, many of them riding five or ten kilometers to get there. Ranging from kindergarten aged to high school, these students are doing what no other schoolchildren in the country had done before: gaining the technical skills once reserved for college students and professionals. In this rural village of cement floors and corrugated metal roofs, kids are designing their own websites and securing offshore employment. Radhika, one of the school’s first students, got a job creating maps at seventeen-years-old and was already matching her parents’ monthly income.
The Openworld-Horizon partnership developed in 2003 when students began work-study projects to create eLessons using Powerpoint and Flash animations, including Openworld FlashPresenter. With accomplished examples like this one on kinetic energy, the Horizon students proved their ability to excel in the field of educational entrepreneurship. These experiences in creating eLessons have led to a decision to pursue development of the Horizon Lanka Virtual Academy, to share with other schools in Sri Lanka the new course content as well as the skills to create them.
As the learning successes of Horizon Lanka have spread, its innovations have won international recognition and acclaim. You can see more of the Horizon kids in action in this YouTube clip where three of them present their web designs to Craig Barrett, Intel's Chairman, during a visit to Sri Lanka. Other highlights of Horizon Lanka Foundation's activities include: