Lanka government says over 500 child soldiers in its custody

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Colombo, Dec. 24 (ANI): The Sri Lankan Government has claimed that it has 550 ex-child soldiers in its custody - and about half of them are being given the chance of education.

Officials say 273 former child combatants are currently attending the Ratmalana Hindu College near Colombo.

"Others are given vocational or technical training because their education has been interrupted for a long period," the commissioner general of rehabilitation, Major General Daya Ratnayake (Retired), told the BBC.

Before coming here, these former soldiers were kept in rehabilitation centres in Vavuniya, in northern Sri Lanka, and Ambepussa in the south.

"These students are very keen to learn. They don't want to talk about their past. They want to forget it. We understand that. We are trying to create a good atmosphere in the classroom and motivate them," one teacher said.

Students are provided with hostel accommodation, but not allowed to mingle with other students and are taught in separate classrooms.

The military keeps a constant watch over them. Their movements are restricted.

These boys and girls are also encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities like yoga and literary events.

Most of these students are aged between 14 and 18. Their families are scattered across the north and the east of the country.

Some say their relatives are living in camps for internally displaced people in Vavuniya.

fficials say they are organising special buses from Vavuniya to bring their parents to the school on a regular basis. (ANI)

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