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. This story is part of the Mastercard Scholar Stories Series launched to celebrate the stories of Educate Lanka Scholars supported by Mastercard. Madhusha Lakmini is one of the first scholars to thus benefit from this unique social-private collaboration focused on guiding Sri Lanka towards its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Madhusha’s hometown is Thihagoda in the Matara District of the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. Her father is a farmer and does not receive a stable income. Her mother is unable to work as she is not well. Madhusha has a younger sister who is preparing for the Advanced Level examination. It is with great difficulty that the family manages their household expenses and the educational costs of the two daughters. Despite these economic barriers, Madhusha performed well in school at the Thihagoda Kanishta Vidyalaya, Matara. Realizing the importance of the English language in the modern world, Madhusha studied in the English medium after sitting for the Grade Five Scholarship examination up to the Ordinary Level examination.
As a child, Madhusha aspired to become a good doctor and treat innocent patients. She sat for the Advanced Level examination in 2013 in the bioscience stream and obtained good results that allowed her to follow a general degree at the university. But those results were not sufficient for her to study medicine. Therefore, she decided to sit for the examination a second time to fulfill her dream of entering the Medical Faculty. This time, too, she was unable to score enough to study medicine, but was selected to the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences to study pharmacology. Madhusha refused to give up. She faced the examination a third time — a clear testament to her determination, drive, and tenacity. However, due to the pressure she faced with her family’s financial circumstances, Madhusha decided to take up the opportunity that opened up at the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences without delaying her future any further. As luck would have it, she found out that her third shy results could have gotten her admission to the Medical Faculty at the Rajarata University or the Dental Faculty at the University of Peradeniya. Unfortunately it was too late, and Madhusha missed out on her ambition of becoming a doctor.
As with Madhusha’s story, getting into public university in Sri Lanka is no easy task amid such a rigid and complex system. Only 9% of those who sit for the Advanced Level examination and only 17% of those who pass it get admitted to state universities overall. When it comes to entering Medical Faculty, the odds become much worse. Only 3% of those who sit for the Advanced Level examination in the bioscience stream and only 6% of those who pass the exam get the opportunity of entering state universities to study medicine.
Despite the setbacks, in 2015, Madhusha registered for a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Peradeniya. This faculty, which was inaugurated in 2007, is the only Faculty of Allied Health Sciences in Sri Lanka. It is a relatively new option within Sri Lankan higher education and offers degrees in fields such as Medical Laboratory Science, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, and Radiotherapy. Such new opportunities within the Sri Lankan education system offer students like Madhusha with further options and hope to still pursue their larger passion despite narrowly missing out on their preferred program. Even though Madhusha was initially disheartened by the turn of events, she has come to enjoy her degree program and hopes to obtain a First Class. She also looks forward to completing a PhD in Pharmacy one day and fulfilling her new ambition of becoming a good pharmacist — an aspiration driven by empathy and compassion.
“One day I will help to relieve pains and help people to maintain their health as a pharmacist. Your kind dedication may lead me to achieve that goal.”
It is heartwarming to see scholars like Madhusha making the most of the very limited opportunities awarded to them. What’s inspiring about Madhusha is not only her academic and professional achievements, but also her genuine interest and commitment to give back to the society some day when she will be in a position to do so:
“By awarding me this scholarship, Mastercard and also Educate Lanka, you have lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of university, that is universal education and learning. Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.”
Today, the social restrictions imposed on women when selecting a career of their choice have lessened when compared to several decades ago. However, economic barriers, lack of proper guidance, and lack of exposure to professional networks still remain major obstacles in women’s path to education and gainful employment. It is this gap that Educate Lanka and Mastercard hope to bridge through their Doing Well, Doing Good collaboration. Such endeavors not only help individual students, but also benefit the country as a whole since “one percentage point increase in female education raises the average level of gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.37 percentage points” (UNICEF).
“Education is a human right. Fifty-five years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established that everyone has the right to education. The fact that millions are still deprived of it — most of them girls — should fill us all with shame.” — Kofi Annan, 2003
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 Madhusha on the impact of the unique collaboration between Educate Lanka and Mastercard:
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