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John Keells English scholars excel at English Day 2015

28 August 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Speaking at John Keells Foundation’s English Day 2015 held at Bishop’s College Auditorium recently, K. Roshani Thamali, a young student from Ampara, gave a heartfelt speech about the value of the John Keells English Language Scholarship Programme in her life: “I think providing English scholarships to poor children is the greatest social service. Many of our students are from poor farmer families. My father is also a farmer. You have given us a golden opportunity for us to learn and speak good English. We will never forget that it is because of you we were able to realize our dreams.” 
Roshani is one of the 1,689 school children awarded scholarships in 23 locations of 17 districts of Sri Lanka under the John Keells Foundation’s ‘English for Teens’ programme in 2014/15, comprising foundation, pre-intermediate and intermediate level courses implemented through the Gateway Language Centre. Moreover, the programme was extended to include a total of 33 primary students and vocational trainees of The School for the Deaf, Ratmalana under initiatives branded as ‘English for Pre-Teens’ and ‘English for Youth’, respectively. 
The John Keells English Day is an annual event organised as a platform for John Keells English Scholars of the preceding financial year to showcase their talents through performance of various items, build self-confidence and also interact with other scholars from various parts of the country. English Day 2015 featured drama performances and poetry recitals by students from various backgrounds, religions and races performed in front of a distinguished audience comprising senior management of the John Keells Group led by Deputy Chairman Ajit Gunewardene, Chairman and Directors of the Gateway Group and a representation of invitees, school principals, teachers and parents. 
Speaking at the event, chief guest UNICEF Sri Lanka Deputy Country Representative Dr. Paula Bulancea said, “Your programme complements government policies and initiatives to improve speaking and communication and it is consistent with our goals to support the development of national standards and frameworks for life skills based education including English language training.” 
The Romanian-born Dr. Bulancea added, “It is because of English language tuition that I am here today, it is English that actually helps me communicate right now with you! So, truly, it is a way to bridge gaps and bring people together.” 
The event was structured as a two-tier competition, with the 10 best items selected by Gateway to perform at English Day 2015 following the initial round of performances conducted at District level. Accordingly, while the finalists from Batticaloa, Ampara, Mullativu, Galle, Matara, Colombo, Panadura, Kurunegala, Bandarawela and Ratnapura competed with one another, it was also a celebration of their enhanced language and performance skills after completing the course. For many of the children, it was their first visit to Colombo and also the first opportunity to perform in a theatre setting. Seeing the children interact with each other, embracing their differences and building bridges of friendship and goodwill, was truly the highlight of the event. 
Most items comprised well-known dramas and poems while the Ampara branch took on an original script penned by their teacher titled ‘The War is Over’. The level of enthusiasm and energy of the students on stage was a remarkable sign of their new-found confidence. The most moving moment came when a group of scholars from The School for the Deaf, Ratmalana recited ‘Silent Hands’ - a poem by Sandra L. Brooks. Their determination to perform, notwithstanding their hearing and speech impediments, was truly inspiring. Through their performance, one could almost feel the audience as well as the children themselves being empowered and uplifted. 
Speaking at the occasion, John Keells Foundation Head of CSR Nadija Tambiah said, “As a key stakeholder in Sri Lanka, we are very aware and very concerned that we have an important role to play in the development of Sri Lanka into the future. In particular, we believe in equipping our youth with skills that are relevant to meet future needs and English is certainly one of the most essential skills.”
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