(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Atlas, Sri Lanka’s leading children’s stationer and learning brand, recently hosted a virtual panel discussion to bring awareness to theplight of over 22,000 underprivileged children in Sri Lanka who drop out of school every year due to the loss of parents and economic difficulties.This number recorded by the Department of Census and Statisticsis projected to have been further exacerbated by the conditions brought in by the pandemic, resulting in a negative impact on the children’s skills and economic prospects for the rest of their lives.
The discussion was supported by theAtlas SipSavi Scholarship Programme, which was initiated in collaboration with the Department of Probation and Childcare Services, to provide financial assistance for children in need to continue their education until they reach their key educational milestone – the Ordinary Level examination.
Presenting the causes, cases and solutions to this under reported yet, very serious social issue to members of the media present in the forum, and calling upon them to amplify the conversation amongst the public was Sandareka Liyanage, Assistant Commissioner at the Department of Probation and Childcare Services, State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre School and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and School Services; Shanthi Seneviratne, Additional Director, Southern Province Education Department and Principal of Southlands College, Galle and Asitha Samaraweera, Managing Director, Atlas Axillia.
Speaking first, Sandareka Liyanage, explained the reasons behind children dropping out of school. “Some children from economically challenged households feel they can make a better contribution to their home by working, while others are directed to do so by their parents,”she said, adding that sometimes older children remain home to care for younger siblings.
“It is a basic right of a child to receive an education, and we must do everything we can to ensure it. I really appreciate the efforts of private companies such as Atlas that have generously offered scholarships for students with the sole intention of ensuring that they stay in school until theirOrdinary Level examination. Keeping children in school protects them from being misled and taking up inappropriate and illegal means of earning and for this reason and many others, it will have a massive positive impact on their entire life,” stated Sandareka Liyanage.
“Education is the backbone of the country,” said Shanthi Seneviratne. “Children drop out of school mainly due to financial issues, or social situations where the mother leaves the country, or even due to the ignorance of parents on the vital importance of education.” Such children join the workforce and then, it becomes very difficult to convince them to return to school, Seneviratne said, adding that the Department of Education has many programmes to tackle this issue.
The Atlas SipSavi Scholarship Programme was launchedin partnership with the Department of Probation and Childcare Services in 2019. With priority given to the students who are vulnerable to dropping out of school due to loss of either both or one of their parents, children in grade groups of 07 to 11 are selected by a committee to receive a monthly financial scholarship to continue their education. Stakeholders from the Department of Probation and Childcare Services as well as representatives of Atlas keep track of the children’s progress.
Asitha Samaraweera, Managing Director of Atlas Axillia addressed the forum saying, “It is the hope of everyone at Atlas that the children who benefit from our SipSavi Scholarships achieve as much as our own children do. SipSavi is not just another CSR programme, we are deeply committed to this initiative that is driven by our Atlas purpose.We started Atlas SipSavi with scholarships for 200 childrenwith a 5-year commitment and we hope to extend it to 50 more next year and even more students in the future. We are already speaking to other organisations on collaborating with us on this journey, and have received many positive responses.”
Apart from the financial Scholarships, AtlasSipSavi supports underprivileged children to continue their education through multiple initiatives such as the Annual RidiViharaya Outreach programme which has been ongoing for over 17 years to empower students of rural communities, by providing school supplies and books. To illustrate the widespread impact made through these efforts, last year alone, Atlas was able to help 14,400 kids.
Samaraweera thanked the education officials for working closely with Atlas to ensure more students stay in school andalso expressed his gratitude towards the Atlas team for putting in the time and effort towards this project. “I want all of you to take this message to the people, and to help ensure every child in Sri Lanka stays in school,” he added.
For more information about the Atlas SipSavi Scholarship Programme, please visit:www.atlassipsavi.lk.