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 Hansani is part of the Mastercard Scholar Stories Series launched to celebrate the journeys of Educate Lanka Scholars supported by Mastercard.
Background and becoming an Educate Lanka Scholar
Hansani is from the village of Olagama, Ridigama in the Kurunegala District of the North Western Province of Sri Lanka. Life was hard on little Hansani from her small days. Her father passed away when she was only two (2) years old. Since then, her mother took up day-to-day labor to provide for Hansani and her elder brother, earning a meager Rs.3,500 (~USD 25) per month — falling well under the extreme poverty line.
In 2011, Hansani reached out to Educate Lanka with the hope of alleviating the burden of her educational cost. She was studying in Grade 8 at Ku/ Rambadagalla Central College, Ridigama and was already showing signs of becoming one of Educate Lanka’s A-List Scholars. A-List Scholars at Educate Lanka are classified as students who perform exceptionally in their academics or in extra-curricular activities. In 2008, Hansani scored 142 out of 200 for the Grade Five Scholarship Examination and ranked first in her class in all three terms for Grade 7 as well as Grade 8. Considering her academic performance and potential, and her dire economic need, there was no question that Hansani was a worthy candidate and thus became a part of the Educate Lanka family.
“I want to be a good person — someone who will help others.”
Hansani continued to prove herself by maintaining her position as first in her class in the school term tests. Therefore, it was no surprise to us when we got the call from her with the wonderful news that she got 9 “A” passes for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination in 2014. Hansani was confident of obtaining such good results that, even before these official results were released, she started going for private tuition classes in the Physical Science stream to get a head start in preparation for the very competitive Advanced Level examination.
A New Opportunity and the Disparity within Sri Lanka’s Education System
As a result of performing so well at the Ordinary Level examination, Hansani got the opportunity to pursue her Advanced Level studies at a more privileged and resourceful school — Holy Family Convent, Kurunegala. When you take the Sri Lankan public school system, there is a significant disparity in terms of quality across different school classifications. Currently, there are approximately 10,000 schools in Sri Lanka serving over 4 million students, and they are classified as Type 1AB, 1C, and Type 2 and 3. Type 1AB schools have classes up to G.C.E. Advanced Level (grade 13) in all subject streams, namely, Science, Arts, and Commerce. Type 1C schools have all these features, except that they do not offer Science for the Advanced Level. Type 2 schools have classes only up to G.C.E. Ordinary Level (grade 11), while Type 3 schools are primary schools and generally terminate at grade 5. Incidentally, Type 1AB and 1C, the more privileged and resourceful schools, only account for less than 20% of the total schools in the island. These schools are also generally superior in terms of teaching, infrastructure, and overall quality of education. For students like Hansani from lesser-privileged schools (Type 2 and 3), the best, and often the only, option to get into Type 1 schools is by performing well at cut-off examinations such as the Grade 5 Scholarship exam or the G.C.E. Ordinary Level exam.
However, despite qualifying for such a unique opportunity to get into a better school, most of these students who are from marginalized and remote backgrounds struggle to take advantage of it given their inability to cover costs such as transportation expenses and boarding fees associated with attending the better school which could be far from their home. Addressing this issue is a primary purpose of the Educate Lanka Scholarship, which enables students like Hansani who fall into this category to cover these expenses so that they could take advantage of the incredible, life-changing opportunity they deservedly earned.
Continued Academic Excellence and Creativity
From being continuously first in class in her previous school, Hansani’s rank dropped to third place at her new school — understandable as she was facing the pressures of adjusting to a new school environment. However, the next term, she jumped back to her usual position at number one and maintained this position throughout the two Advanced Level years.
In 2017, Hansani sat for the Advanced Level examination — the most important exam in her schooling life, which determines her chance of pursuing higher education — in the Physical Science stream. Again, knowing her academic track record, it came as no surprise to us when we heard that Hansani passed the examination with flying colors — 3 “A” passes! She was among the top 3% of the entire country who sat for the examination that year and was ranked 14th in the Kurunegala District. This was an impressive achievement for a student coming from a family that has been struggling to put food on the table.
In addition to performing exceptionally in academics, Hansani also has a very creative side which she has demonstrated through her numerous bi-annual scholar feedback:
Hansani’s ambition is to become a Chemical Engineer. She is currently awaiting university admission and hopes to enter the University of Peradeniya to follow her dream. There is no doubt that she will make this goal a reality and Educate Lanka, along with Mastercard, will be there to provide her with the necessary financial backing, and more importantly, the guidance and mentoring needed to face the demands of a constantly changing educational and professional world. It is with scholars like Hansani in mind that Educate Lanka introduced its new platforms such as the Skills Development Program and the Mentorship Program, broadening its scope from just a scholarship program that addresses the education access gap to a more holistic intervention that addresses both the access and the learning gap, positioning its graduates to fulfill the needs of the modern world.
“Every girl, no matter where she lives, deserves the opportunity to develop the promise inside of her.”
— Michelle Obama
We are thrilled to have taken 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 Hansani 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.