When she answered questions at the competition she pulled out ‘gems’ from some of the best Sinhala literary compilations and baffled both the audience and the presenter, Chandana Sooriyabandara
But there was no danger in Shukra being exposed to the Cyber world because she said that she used the internet strictly for education purposes. That was the level of her discipline
Girls like Shukra need not be told that there are undergraduates in Sri Lanka who are employed as labourers and office assistants in state institutes
When the schools were reopened on Monday (January 25) for students in western Province there was another reason for them to celebrate other than getting back to a classroom environment. A schoolgirl from Galle had just won a prize worth two million Sri Lankan rupees contesting the show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’; underscoring the fact that child minds may not have idled at home during the period where students were given online education via zoom technology. The show was conducted by Sirasa Television.
The girl who created sensation was one Shukra Munawwar, a 17-year-old student of Sudharma Vidyalaya of Galle. There is much to learn from her in terms of how she put to best use the education she had received in a cultural background which is much different to where she lives and calls home. Shukra forces this writer to reveal her race; she is Muslim. But it is with much interest that we report that this commerce student had made sure that the lessons she learned in Sinhala literature were deep-rooted within. When she answered questions at the competition she pulled out ‘gems’ from some of the best Sinhala literary compilations and baffled both the audience and the presenter, Chandana Sooriyabandara.
We need to see beyond her winning and focus on how she culturally blended with the majority Sinhala students in her class at school. According to a Sinhala weekend newspaper which interviewed her she was open to ideas of other cultures and showed the willingness to mingle with students outside her race; being a cadet and participating in Buddhist functions in school.
During the early days of the fourth week of this month her name was more popular on television and on social media more than England Test cricketer and captain Joe Root who had got a century in a Test match
in Galle against host Sri Lanka
According to the story she has revealed about her family her mother has been the live-wire of the family and showed the four children in the family, of three girls and boy, the way forward after her dad had fallen ill.
Just the other day we read in newspapers that Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardene had requested Education Minister GL Peiris to conduct an investigation to check on the transparency with regard to the procedure of selecting students, who shine at the Year Five Scholarship Exam, to continue their education in popular schools. Shukra never had that blessing because she didn’t shine at this exam. Hence she remained in Galle even after her Ordinary Level Examination.
Most homes in the Muslim community don’t encourage females to pursue higher education. But the environment that Shukra grows up in is different because her parents have encouraged her to blossom as any other individual and given her freedom; a liberty she has not misused.
Education during the past months were online and internet use was inevitable. But there was no danger in this girl being exposed to the Cyber world because she said that she used the internet strictly for education purposes. That was the level of her discipline; not forgetting her focus which is to complete education on a high note and find employment as an executive officer in a leading institute.
During the early days of the fourth week of this month her name was more popular on television and on social media more than England Test cricketer and captain Joe Root who had got a century in a Test match in Galle against host Sri Lanka.
Shukra, quite unspoiled, opened out about her life at the show aired during weekends and underscored the fact that she is from a less affluent family and she participated at the competition to win a minimum of Rs 125,000 and buy herself a laptop. She ended up winning the ‘jackpot’ which is rupees two million.
Whether we like it or not individuals like Shukra will be followed by individuals for both good and bad reasons. The good side of it is that companies would eye her because she is a ‘brain’ and she has proved it; hence they would want her in their payroll. The not so good side would be that politicians would want to gain mileage by wanting to help her. Again on the flip side of it her success at the competition would make other girls in her Muslim community nudge their dads to allow them step into the outside world and explore all that is there in terms of education and opportunities. Just for the record even Shukra knows that women in Muslim families don’t have the freedom to chose for themselves; let alone come out like this into the open and revel in a man’s world!
In social media we saw how the presenter of the show visited her residence and attempted to nurture a friendship with the family. Soon there will be others who join the bandwagon and what she must be aware of is the lawmaker who steps into her residence and says ‘Shukra you must take to politics’ because it offers the best ticket to a luxury life!’
The Shukra we know values hard work and education. She knows that if she gets the right z score at the A Level Examination she would make it to the state university. But girls like Shukra need not be told that there are undergraduates in Sri Lanka who are employed as labourers and office assistants in state institutes. We read about such a pathetic state existing in state institutes through a weekend newspaper last week and that measures are being taken, thanks to an initiative taken by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to offer them alternative employment through an employment drive which will facilitated the offering of graduate appointments. The last time the state called for applications from graduates to fill in slots in employment as many as 91,665 degree holders responded and 49,478 received employment.
Shukra might receive a scholarship from a Colombo school to complete her school education. But that might not go well with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s concept that village schools must come up and present themselves as alternative options for students who are nudged by their parents to earn scholarships and shift to popular schools.
Shukra must remain in Galle because that’s her ‘home’ and the place where she can bask in all this glory for some more time. She must remain Muslim even if she loves the best literary products by great Sinhala scholars. She must pray five times a day in keeping with the Quran even if she participates in Buddhist activities in her school in Galle. And she must mingle more with the crowd even if in the past she only had less than a handful of friends. If how to mingle in society in not included in her school text book she can learn that from the politicians who will soon go out of their way to say hello to her.
And when she receives many more gifts from well-wishers in the future she can say ‘Shukra’ aloud because her name translated into Arabian language reads ‘Thank You’.
Yosuf Thursday, 28 January 2021 09:12 AM
There are many Muslims like Shukra who would like to be educated in Sinhala schools. Unfortunately opportunities are not available for various reasons. If such opportunities available , many muslims will join for this social integration. I am Being a Sinhala educated individual I find Sinhala is an interesting Language , Sinhalese are fun loving , friendly , caring lot. Give muslims opportunities to intergrade and we will thrive to be part of this undividable Island.
Anton Weerasinghe Thursday, 28 January 2021 01:41 PM
of course there are many opportunities for Muslims to integrate in to the Sinhalese society, but the problem lies with the Muslim society, which do not like to get out of their cocoon,
Christian Thursday, 28 January 2021 05:23 PM
But not give us the opportunity to bury our loved ones, for no good reason
M Kais Thursday, 28 January 2021 09:19 AM
While appreciate all the good words in the article I would like to point out that there are quotes to please people which should be avoided. Quote "Most homes in the Muslim community don’t encourage females to pursue higher education." Unquote Recently there was a complain that Law College had highest applicants from Muslims where majority of them were girls, I don't need to say anymore, you know what I am saying
Mulaffer Mohamed Khalid Thursday, 28 January 2021 09:28 AM
Even the Muslims of Our Dear Sri Lanka DO NOT know that most of them have Sinhala blood within them. The Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka did NOT bring their ladies , but instead were encouraged by our Sinhala kings to marry local Sinhalese ladies. Also most Muslims learnt Sinhalese very naturally. Both my sons are proud Anandians .Dr.M. Khalid
Dennis Davis Thursday, 28 January 2021 12:21 PM
If you hv good teachers in your own school who help you get thru the scholarship exam why go to another and ruin your future. Stay with your school and you will get all the blessings because you are blessed with a good Brain.
BE FAIR Thursday, 28 January 2021 01:28 PM
When I was schooling, never had a differentiation of religion or cast like nowadays. I cant recall such, we all ate from the same plate. Shared our clothes and played hell, where the Masters had a field day. Todate we remain the best of friends, sans the boundary of Religion. Never studied, but got educated, that's what our Teachers gave us.
Zeenath shilmy Thursday, 28 January 2021 02:15 PM
U complain that “most Muslim homes don’t encourage their daughters to pursue education” and yet wasn’t their a hue and cry about too many Muslim girls entering law college,?? Many families don’t encourage their daughters to study not for merely religious reasons but mostly due to financial reasons and you know that. A Muslim female chartered accountant
Hadam Thursday, 28 January 2021 02:19 PM
I watched entire episode and must an absolute joy to watch a 17 year old with so much knowledge and have drive to social empowerment. Hats off to the parents and teachers who she said show the potential in her. I wish Shukra the very best.
Preethie Kumudinie Abeyesekera Thursday, 28 January 2021 03:54 PM
Shukra became the talk of the town not because of her athnicity but the little life lessons she poured out of her unspoilt free thinking mind and the display of her all round knowledge of everything around and how cleverly she achieved her goal. I only hope the unpresidented attention she received will not change the course of life she already has planned for herself. To me she is another Malala Usufally in the making....
Gerard Thursday, 28 January 2021 04:26 PM
With all due respect to Shukra's talent and the editor of this article. Unfortunately, it was obvious for the intelligent and the socially experienced that this was all staged.
Mohan Friday, 29 January 2021 02:40 AM
Muslims in Sri Lanka may be fluent in Sinhalese but it is puzzling how Tamil became their mother tongue.
S.M.Naufer Friday, 29 January 2021 07:31 AM
There are thousands of Muslim girls and boys like Shukra in our beloved motherland. They are not given whatsoever opportunities to display there abilities or skills properly. We salute Sirasa TV.
Buddhist Friday, 29 January 2021 08:40 AM
Looking at social media comments on Shukra many Sinhalese have praised, blessed and wished her well. It shows that education, wisdom and the willingness to integrate can cut through and racial divisions and speak to the heart of all humans..
NightOwl Friday, 29 January 2021 09:46 AM
Lot of ignorance in this article in the name of saying good about Shukra. I wonder whether the writer knows or not, that there are more female graduates among Muslims than male counterparts. Similarly, first word of the revelation is "read/study". So education is not limited only to male. Whether to come to limelight or not would be their personal decision. I wonder what does the para staring Shukra must remain.." intends. there are many Muslim students who are good at Sinhala literature, that doesn't have any implications on the religion she adheres..
SEYED SHERALI Friday, 29 January 2021 11:24 AM
Good article. But applying the term 'race' to Muslims is not correct. Muslims are not a race. They are a religious community. Even when a Sinhalese becomes a Muslim by choice, his identity is as a member of a religious community and not of any race. The Sinhalese claim that they are the descendants of King Wijeya but according to 'Wamsas' King Wijeya never had children. His 700 friends married women brought from South India. And the friends were from present Bangladesdh. So it is obvious Sinhalese are a race born out the mixture of Bangaladeshi and Travidian races. Then why not accept Tamils as your own brothers? As far the race of Muslims of Sri Lanka, they are a mixture of Bangladesh,Tamil Nadu, Arabia,Indonesia and Malabari races. Hence they call themselves Moors. But they are not pure moors by race. Sri Lanka belongs to all communities and no race should claim it exclusively for itself if the country has to survive as one nation being united by our former masters The British .
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