THE MASTERCARD SCHOLAR STORIES SERIES
In October 2017, Educate Lanka Foundation joined hands with Mastercard to empower 250 young women of Sri Lanka through enhanced access to education and employment opportunities during the first year of their exclusive partnership. The story of Arosha is part of the Mastercard Scholar Stories Series launched to celebrate the journeys of Educate Lanka Scholars supported by Mastercard.
An Unforeseen Illness
Arosha is from Kurunegala, the capital city of the North Western Province of Sri Lanka. Her mother is a housewife and the family’s only income is her father’s salary as a laborer which is about SLR 12,000 (~USD 75) per month. This meager income supports the basic needs of four family members — Arosha, her parents and her grandfather — and Arosha’s education. In addition to these expenses, Arosha’s family has to bear an additional cost that none of them imagined at the time of her birth…
When Arosha was only eight months old, she was diagnosed with Thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder. This serious disease, while an impediment to her health, is also one of the main challenges to Arosha’s education. Since her childhood, she has been a regular patient at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital where she would receive her monthly blood transfusion. During times when her hemoglobin level is low, she has to stay in the ward for two or three days to receive multiple transfusions. She takes daily medication and sometimes must also take a daily injection if the iron level in the blood is high. These medical expenses, which could otherwise have been spent on her education, are a great burden on Arosha’s family. Despite such physical discomfort and economic hardship, Arosha is positive about her circumstances and remains optimistic about her future. She says with a smile that apart from the days of the blood transfusions, she goes to school on a regular basis and carries on with her academic work.
One of Educate Lanka’s very first Scholars
Arosha is a very unique case as her relationship with Educate Lanka as a Scholar goes back to 2007 — the year Educate Lanka Foundation was initiated! She was just a small girl of 7 years back then, studying in Grade 2. She was a Scholar of Educate Lanka’s Ratnapura portfolio which eventually closed due to circumstances. However, Arosha was continuously supported through the Educate Lanka Scholarship Program and in 2014 she was added to the Kurunegala portfolio of which she continues to be a part.
From Grade 1 up to 5 Arosha studied at Kuda Kowana Kanishta Vidyalaya, Kurunegala. In 2009 she sat for the Grade 5 scholarship examination and with great determination scored 144 marks out of 200, an impressive feat for a girl suffering from a disease such as Thalassemia. This achievement qualified her to get enrolled at Sir John Kothalawala College, Kurunegala, a school ranking higher up in the Sri Lankan school system. This is the first cut-off examination in the country’s education system that offers high-performing students with the opportunity of entering better schools.
Increase in Economic Challenges with Educational Advancement
The next major step in Arosha’s school life was the General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level). This is the second cut-off examination in Sri Lanka which qualifies students for their higher-secondary studies. With the support of Educate Lanka, Arosha has been able to meet the new economic challenges of preparing for a competitive national examination and afford the increasing private spending on education that families are forced to bear such as purchasing stationery and books, paying for school facility fees, transportation and boarding, and attending private tutoring classes. In fact, the demand for and dependency on private tutoring within Sri Lanka’s free education system has become more of a necessity and a societal challenge as a result of a combination of factors including the lack of teachers, the overall decline in quality of teaching in schools, and the intense competition to get into better secondary schools and state universities.
In 2015, Arosha sat for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination and obtained good results that qualified her to study in the Commerce stream for her Advanced Level (Grades 12–13). Currently she is preparing to sit for the highly competitive General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) in August 2018.
It is inspiring to see that Arosha has not let her physical ailment disrupt her from having an eventful and engaging school life. In addition to her studies, Arosha takes part in many extracurricular activities. She is a member of the school’s St. John Ambulance. She completed the initial First Aid examination and helps train new school recruits to the group. She is also a member of the school’s latest Police Cadet corps.
Creativity through Verse
Arosha also has a very sensitive and creative side to her. This artistic side of hers is displayed in the poems she has written along with the bi-annual Scholar Feedback over the years:
A Bone-Marrow Transplant for a “Normal” Life
After sitting for the Advanced Level examination this year, Arosha hopes to undergo a bone-marrow transplant. If her family is able to gather the necessary funds for this operation, this could be Arosha’s chance of leading a “normal” life in the future and pursue her dream of becoming a Bank Manager.
Students like Arosha, who have additional economic barriers to their education as a result of medical reasons, often have no choice but to drop out of school so that they would not be a burden to their families. It is with such deserving cases in mind that Educate Lanka took this significant step in Sri Lanka by introducing a unique social-private partnership towards our vision of making opportunities universal for everyone. With the backing of a global pioneer like Mastercard, we are excited to create an inclusive workforce and an equitable society that would drive Sri Lanka towards its socioeconomic advancement and its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Please watch the following brief video for the experience of more Scholars like Arosha on the impact of the unique collaboration between Educate Lanka and Mastercard:
Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.
You could also read previous stories under the Mastercard Scholar Stories Series on this link. To learn more about Educate Lanka’s mission and to invest directly in the education of an Educate Lanka Scholar, please visit www.educatelanka.org.