Scholarships for deprived youngsters to encourage Learning and Leading


On an initiative of the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat, the Business for Peace Alliance of the Ceylon Chamber of commerce commenced in 2007 a scholarship programme entitled ‘Learn & Lead’. The purpose was to  secure a good education for gifted children from difficult areas whose future schooling was uncertain. The scholarship was also intended to help young people from conflict affected areas in Sri Lanka to realize their leadership potential.

The programme grew out of a vision to decentralize the next generation of leadership from the capital to less-affluent regions. Its goal was to nurture leadership abilities in conflict-affected and poverty stricken areas that were emerging from a generation of conflict. Capable but under-privileged students from the conflict affected areas of the country were selected and provided with funds and assistance to study in leading schools in the capital.

L&L scholars at the Colombo Zoo with Program Manager Pushpi Weerakoon

L&L scholars at the Colombo Zoo with Program Manager Pushpi Weerakoon

The programme provided full scholarships to gifted pupils to study in an environment where they could network, build confidence, and develop their full leadership potential. Understanding the value of the program, schools such as St Thomas College Mt Lavinia, Ladies College, Methodist College, Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya, St Benedicts College Kotehena and Singapore Informatics offered places to the L&L scholars.  In addition to schooling, the project manager Pushpi Weerakoon put in place a number of initiatives to build the leadership capacity of scholars. This included peace-building and exchange programmes with students at other schools to foster a greater appreciation of the disparity of opportunity which exists in different parts of the island, and to encourage interaction between people from different ethnicities and backgrounds.

L&L scholars with their new classmates & Teachers from Colombo schools with the Secretary General of SCOPP Prof Rajiva Wijesingha, Program Manager Pushpi Weerakoon & Chairman of BPA Manique Mendis

L&L scholars with their new classmates & Teachers from Colombo schools with the Secretary General of SCOPP Prof Rajiva Wijesingha, Program Manager Pushpi Weerakoon & Chairman of BPA Manique Mendis

To build the profile of the programme, a Steering Committeewas established that included the former United Nations Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Dr Jayantha Dhanapala, the Director of the National Child Protection Authority Dr Hiranthi Wijemanne and Mr Mahen Dayananda the President of the Regional Chambers of Commerce, in addition to the the Secretary General of SCOPP and Manique Mendis of BPA. Pushpi was the first point of contact for the scholars, and administered to their wider needs. Some had grown up with conflict, and were uncertain of who they could trust. They came from rural backgrounds with parents who tilled the land, and lived with large families in makeshift houses smaller than some garages in the homes of urban students who were now their classmates.

Coming to an urban area, and mixing with often privileged children, was extremely intimidating for them. The leadership challenge was to build trust and provide comprehensive pastoral support. As the scholar’s confidence grew, Pushpi established a network of ‘guardians’ who provided much of the function of a parent whilst the children studied away from their homes.  Having received successful results from the A/L exams in 2010 from the Maths, Science, Arts and the Commerce stream the 1st batch of scholars are now attending vocational training courses, awaiting university entrance and some have also set up their own entrepreneurial ventures.

The Rotary Club of Colombo Mid Town has now adopted the L&L scholarship and is looking forward to nurturing a 2nd batch of scholars to lead the reconciliation & development process and sustain the hard won peace achieved in Sri Lanka.

Anyone interested in contributing to the programme should get in touch with Pushpi at:

By Pushpi Weerakoon

2 comments on “Scholarships for deprived youngsters to encourage Learning and Leading

  1. Wow! This is a wonderful and a very well thought out initiative indeed. Pushpi, is this the same program you yourself completed sometime back? Knowing you, I’m pretty sure that you must have been the inspiration behind this bold endeavour… I think that this sort of encouragement in this well structured manner is highly required for our youth. I must say “Well done!” to Rotary for furnishing a platform for programs like these and also glad that it’s harnessed by Rotarians. I was amazed to know that most of the scholars from previous batches have got good marks and succeeded to enter university. Their truly blessed to have this wonderful opportunity. I’m pretty sure that even the others who could not get the expected marks to enter university are with reincarnated confidence to set higher goals.

    If I may ask, can you let me know what are the graduates doing now? after their successful completion of the program that is…

    Are there any more scheduled programs of this sort planned out? If so, I would like to be aware of it, as myself coming from a field involved in the skills development sector, we should all try to play a part to assist these inspiring initiatives.

    I wish the students, Pushpi and the reconciliation unit all the very best!

  2. Hi
    Thank you for the wishes.
    The Tamil scholar from Muttur who studied at Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya is a Management Trainee at the Birmingham City University in Colombo. She completed the 1st year Chartered accountancy exam and have also registered herself to follow the Open University Foundation course in Small Business Entrepreneurship this year.
    The Muslim scholar from Bandarawela who was enrolled at the Singapore Informatics is a Contact centre associate at Dialog while studying for his final year Bsc in Computing from the University of Portsmouth UK. He also completed a Diploma in Networking at the Turn Key Computer Institute.
    The Sinhala scholar from Trincomalee who attended St Thomas College Mount Lavinia is about to sit for the Open University LLB and Law College entrance exams this year while completing the final year Diploma in HR Management at IPM. He has set up his own company named ‘Bling Entertainment Pvt Ltd’ which is an event management & Production Company.
    Another scholar from Anuradhapura Kabithigollawa who also attended St Thomas College Mount Lavinia is holding the positions of the Personal Development Trainer & Accounting and Purchasing Manager at Jinasena Co while studying for the Diploma in HR Management at IPM.
    Out of the two scholars who studied at Ladies College Colombo, the scholar from Anauradhapura who has done very well in the A/L Maths stream have gained entrance to the Vayamba University to do further studies in Physical science. The scholar from Badulla also having received good results in the A/L Arts stream is looking forward to become a professor in Law.
    In keeping with the initial objectives of the program L&L made sure the scholars have been in constant contact with their previous schools in their villages through initiating projects and exchanging of resources to instill the sense of ‘giving back’ responsibility and to bridge the gap between the youths in Colombo and out station.
    As stated we’re looking forward to revive the scholarship through Rotary Mid Town Colombo. It would be great to receive your expertise and guidance to assist our scholars to become future leaders.
    Thanks a lot for the continuous support!

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