Fathima Nuzha Jawardeen
Prior to the Learn and Lead scholarship, Fathima attended Muslim Central College Guruthalawa. She describes it as a good school but, lacking in necessary facilities which tends to stunt the development of talent and potential leadership. Fathima also laments that where she comes from girls aren’t always encouraged to pursue their academic goals and dreams no matter how talented or intelligent they maybe and instead are given in marriage at an early age. She states that a few of her friends have succumbed to this fate and are deeply unhappy that they are not given the opportunity to reach their full potential and consider Fathima blessed to have gained an opportunity to pursue her career path.
Fathima now attends
The future to Fathima is clear; becoming a Muslim lawyer and upholding and protecting women’s rights is her topmost priority. Injustice and intolerance are her main aims of focus when it comes to women’s issues and she is passionate about doing her part for the enrichment of women’s lives. She also states that education is the best and only way for a person to take charge of their lives and strive towards bigger and better goals. Therefore, Fathima declares, she will always strive for the provision of equal educational opportunities for both sexes and make sure that other women and girls like herself, will receive the same opportunities that she has been given.
Lahiru is a tall, lanky, good natured 17 year old from Kebithigollewe, North Central region of Sri Lanka. His face is either adorned with a bright smile or quizzical look as he is constantly contemplating the practicality of his actions. Though he is shy by nature, he nevertheless has a spark of intellect, sensibility and good humour which tends to draw his peers towards him. Lahiru, excluding himself, has three members in his family; his father works for the Ceylon Transport Board, his mother a housewife and a sister who is a sixth grader at Aunradhapura Convent.
This scholar has witnessed more than his share of horror, living quite near terror camps. He recalls that the period leading up to the O Level examination- instead of indulging in normal student activity such as extra classes or cramming in preparation for the exams, Lahiru had to flee from home in order to be nearer to the town for shelter and protection during times of war and terror. It is there where he poured over books, never giving up hope in performing exceptionally well, which finally resulted in 9 A’s. Even without the danger of conflict, this determined young scholar still had an uphill battle in finding an environment in which to cultivate his knowledge. He states that his school was always short of staff- especially teachers in English, Math and Science. Furthermore, the school also did not offer Math or Science as A Level subjects, therefore compelling him to travel to
Now, after receiving the Learn and Lead scholarship, Lahiru is an
Lahiru’s main aim is to go to medical college and be of service to his community and fellow countrymen. He mentions that he feels deep sympathy for the many he has seen enlisted in the army and feels extremely lucky at gaining an opportunity to take a stab at achieving more than he ever thought possible. Like most of the scholars in the Learn and Lead program, he too hopes to eventually go back to his hometown and dedicate himself to empowering the youth of his community to achieve goals that they may think impossible.
Chamali is a bright young student from Badulla, Central region in
Prior to the scholarship Chamali attended Srisumana Vidyalaya in Badulla. There she says the students had to face many hardships mostly due to continuous shortages of supplies and facilities. According to her descriptions, the school is lacking in a variety of facilities ranging from the basics such as desks and chairs to more modern ones such as computer and internet facilities, which in this day and age has become an increasingly necessary commodity in business and society. Chamali explains that her classmates most often couldn’t even afford books, much less a school bag to put them in and were frequently absent from class declaring it a pointless waste of time. This was also exacerbated by the absence of teachers as a reaction to the students’ behaviour and numerous teachers’ strikes. To her, this meant a constant uphill battle to finish the syllabus to perform well at exams. But as determined as she was, Chamali achieved 8 A’s for her O Level exams.
This diligent student now attends Ladies College Colombo. She has chosen to study arts subjects for her ALs and enthusiastically engages in her favourite subject Logic, which wasn’t offered as an
Chamali aims at becoming a law lecturer and has ambitions of earning a place in the Sri Lankan law faculty. The use of English as well as Sinhalese, she mentions, is of utmost importance to her and she is happy with the progress she has made so far with the former due to frequent use when in
To the question of what she wants to do (if anything) for her society in the future Chamali pauses to think for a second and then shyly offers that she wants to help others of her hometown to receive the same opportunities she has gained and make sure that they are armed with the necessary skills to contribute towards a more equal and diversely strong society.
Nisal is a boy of 17 years residing in Gomarankadawala in Trincomalee, East of Sri Lanka. His personality is best described as one full of life. One can always find him either engaged in sports or cracking witty jokes in the midst of his friends. He is sprightly and ever willing to engage in new adventures and experiences. Nisal’ mother works as a teacher while his father is an Army Officer He also has a younger sister and brother.
This young scholar attended Rajakeeya Vidyaloka Maha Vidyalaya where he was a school prefect prior to receiving the BPA Learn and Lead scholarship. Due to war and poverty, Nisal has undergone very many trials and hardships throughout his childhood that most people will not even experience through out a lifetime. He remembers that form grade 1 to 5 they lived a mere 48 Kilometres away from the terror camps thus various movements he had to interrupt his education in order to go into hiding. In fact, during his O Level year the school closed down for 2-3 months due to rebel attacks and a further month was spent where children didn’t show up to school as they were too afraid to go back. This school also does not offer science or maths as A Level subjects. Irrespective of these hardships he was actively involved in social development and charitable activities, through the Rotary and Interact Club.
Nisal is now a student in the Arts stream in
Nisal wishes to become a lawyer in the future and to do so he has taken up Logic as an extra A Level subject and studies for it privately. This young all rounder mentions that he has a fierce determination to better his skill in both the classroom and playing field. When asked what motivates him towards success he states that unlike in Colombo, where many lead carefree lives, he and the people of his hometown are instilled with not only the will to survive, but to also strive for bettering themselves and their communities. Nisal laments that though most of his friends have immense potential and intellect, they are unable to nurture and cultivate it due to the lack of opportunities and have to engage in fishing industry to earn an income soon after their compulsory educational years.
When we asked him what he would do to better the situation, Nisal explains that to him, education is the only key to success and therefore will do his part and beyond to ensure that others like him will receive the same opportunities he himself has been fortunate enough to have.
Akila is 17 years old and hails from Anuradapura, North Central region in
The school she attended prior to the BPA Learn and Lead scholarship was
She now attends
Akila’s interests are wide and varied, she is both artistic and technical and her ambitions reflect this trait as she aspires to be either an engineer or linguist. She states that though she doesn’t take classes in languages she is nevertheless ever improving on her trilingual skills as being in
Akila smilingly declares that the scholarship has given her a new perspective in life and that she now works diligently at achieving solid goals.
Arshad is a rather quiet but well spoken boy of 17 from Badulla Central Region of Sri Lanka. Despite his soft spoken manner Arshad is an active sportsman and an avid dance enthuse. He is pleasant and respectful and is always game to participate in activities and is generous in offering others the chance to participate as well. Back home his mother works as a teacher and his father is a three wheel driver.
Prior to the BPA Learn and Lead scholarship Arshad attended Badulla Maha Vidyalay. Here, he says, the students had to face many hardships due to under funding and poor allocation of facilities. According to him, the classrooms were rarely equipped to accommodate the mass of students who attended the school, and because of this a lot of classes were conducted outdoors where the atmosphere was often distracting and not the best for concentrated study. Still for all this determined scholar achieved 7 A’s at the O/L exams.
Arshad now attends
Arshad’s burning ambition is to become an IT engineer, greatly reflected by his interest in computer technology. He strives to make most of what has been offered to him through the Learn and Lead scholarship and is determined not to squander any talents he may possess.
When this ambitious youth was asked if he would like to be of service to his community in Badulla, he takes a moment to reflect on the question and then sincerely explains that within his new school he has been exposed to children from all walks of life from the wealthy to the poor, and regardless of his social background, he’s been treated equally and fairly by everyone. Therefore, he says, that in the future, when he can be of good use to the country, he aims to help everyone realise their full potential in life regardless of their socioeconomic standing and will strive to bring about true equality of opportunity to all.
Niroja is a 17 year old girl hailing from Pallikkudiruppu which is a highly volatile conflict affected area up North. She is tall, sturdy and once spoken to one discovers that she exudes simplicity and intelligence. Niroja has quite a large family with a 14 year old sister and 3 brothers, of which two attend thier village school and the youngest still a toddler at age 3. Her father currently is a casual worker while her mother is a housewife.
Before the BPA Learn and Lead scholarship, Niroja attended
Niroja now attends Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya. She has chosen Business Studies, Economics and Accounts as her A Level subjects. Though she is new to the school, she has not failed to shine. Niroja, a member of the HFC netball team played and had a hand in leading the team to victory at the Interschool All Island Netball Championships 2008. Her resilient determination is displayed here as later on I was informed that just a few days before the championships, Niroja suffered from a bad flu and had to be kept in hospital for awhile. All in all, this all rounder states that she is quite content at the moment. She smilingly informs us that the friendships she has made during her short time in Colombo has helped her to cope with the distance from her family and to catch up with the school work she has missed. Niroja says she has faced no discrimination and states that the teachers are always willing to help her with her work and that overall her knowledge and understanding of her subjects have broadened considerably as they are compelled to answer past paper questions after each lesson.
Nirojas ambition in life is to become a charted accountant and is confident that she is on the correct path to becoming one. She earnestly declares that by receiving and accepting the BPA Learn and Lead scholarship, she has made a commitment to better herself by improving her language skills, gaining greater knowledge and finally, becoming independent and take care of her own affairs- specially when she is in Colombo. Though she has great dreams and ambitions for herself she has not forgotten her hometown as she declares with a determined eye that she will return there and help her community stand up for themselves by improving their standard of education and helping to instil confidence within the youth, that they too can dream big with confidence in themselves.