“The John Keells Scholarship Programme has opened a golden opportunity for students from rural and low economic backgrounds. I have gained better skills in writing and speaking English than before, after my completion of this course. I believe that this programme has improved my English knowledge more than enough to get through my O/L and A/L examinations easily so I’m looking forward to that,” said Thakshila Dilhara, a student from Welimada.
Thakshila is one of the 1,251 students from 21 locations of 17 districts to receive a scholarship under the John Keells English Language Scholarship Programme in 2015/16. Since project inception in 2004, more than 12,500 school children and youth have been empowered through this initiative which is aimed at enhancing English Language skills of school children and youth from socially/economically disadvantaged backgrounds throughout the island towards improving their opportunities for higher learning and sustainable employment.
Owned and managed by John Keells Foundation and implemented through Gateway Language Centre, the John Keells English Language Scholarship Programme has sponsored a range of scholarship programmes over the years with its current focus being the ‘English for Teens’ courses comprising foundation, pre-intermediate and intermediate levels. The scholarship covers class and examination fees, text book, T-shirt and certificate. A total of 1200 children completed the programme in 2015/16, recording the requisite 80 percent attendance.
The John Keells English Day is an annual event organised as a platform for John Keells English Scholars such as Thakshila to showcase their talents through performance of various items, build self- confidence and also interact with students from various parts of the country. The event featured drama performances and poetry recitals from students from various backgrounds, religions and races. It was a wonderful gathering of children expressing themselves in the form of performing arts.
Speaking at the event, chief guest Justice Shiranee Tilakawardane, retired Judge of the Supreme Court, said, “Education is power, it gives you the ability to stand out. This English language scholarship programme not only focuses on theoretical knowledge but practical aspects, it is wonderful to witness the confidence and pride showcased by these children on stage.”
The best 10 items out of the 21 branches were selected through a first round of judging to participate at the English Day, enabling children from various parts of the country including Panadura, Ampara, Jaffna, Negombo, Kurunegala, Bandarawela, Kandy, Batticaloa, Matara and Ratnapura to celebrate their progression and development after completing the course. A special performance was made by scholars of the the Chavakachcheri branch, who though not qualifying for the competition, were recognized for their hard-work and commitment.
Speaking at the occasion, John Keells Foundation Head of CSR Nadija Tambiah said, “As a key stakeholder in Sri Lanka’s economy, the John Keells group believes it has a key role to play in partnering the development of Sri Lanka into the future. Key to the success of Sri Lanka’s future is the development and education of the next generation of Sri Lankans, specifically gearing towards becoming productive individuals with skills suited to needs of the future. We believe that the ability to use English is a relevant skill. Events such as English Day provide the children the ability to showcase their knowledge of English but also their creativity and presentation skills.”