FUNDRAISERS in North Yorkshire who helped establish a school for survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami are celebrating the first students to complete their high school education.

Every year since the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, students at Bedale High School have raised £1,000 towards the development of a school at Nambikkai, one of the fishing villages of Tamil Nadu in Southern India where the devastation was at its worst. Donations have also come through Caedmon School at Whitby.

Now children who would never have had the chance of an education have just graduated.

The school was set up through the Friends of Mettupalayam, an established UK charity working with the Institute for Rural Development Trust in India. Voluntary Trustee of the Friends, Francis Muncaster from Bedale, said:”It really does bring tears to your eyes, I try to go out there every year and the work that has been done is astonishing.

“Out of this disaster opportunities have come which give young people potentially a promising future. We started with a small primary school for 25 children staffed by one of the mothers - it has since grown to provide an excellent standard of education for around 100 children, mostly from the fishing community.

"Following the Tsunami we were determined to try and help rebuild and develop the shattered communities.

“These people depend for their livelihoods on fishing and are mostly uneducated themselves. However, they have been enthusiastic supporters of the school.

“After finishing their primary education, pupils are encouraged and supported into the government secondary school and this year for the first time six pupils have completed their year ten studies."

He added: "Almost unbelievably, Shalini, a 16 year old girl, has not only graduated with 469 marks out of 500 in her final exams, but she came out the top girl student in her entire year - and she ranked second overall, scoring 100 per cent in science and social science.

"She is entering higher secondary school to study Maths, Physics, Chemistry and computer science.

”Without the Nambikkai School, IRDT, their Director C G Venkatachalam and the support from Bedale High School, Caedmon and the UK, these girls would have remained uneducated, would probably by now have married a local boy and be very young mothers.

"Instead it is hoped that they will choose to continue their education into university or college.”

To help contact Mr Muncaster on 01677-425961.