Education, Human Rights, Women & Girls Empowerment

Sangeeta, Sri Lanka

Being good at mathematics sometimes becomes a matter of gender. Not because a girl is less capable or less inclined, but just because for a teenage girl like Sangeeta, who lives in an isolated village near a tea plantation in Sri Lanka where both her parents work, even moving alone on foot or with the few available means of transportation to attend extra classes to study and improve her math abilities can be risky.

Sangeeta, aged 14, is studying in the ninth grade. She has an older brother, and her younger sister is in the eighth grade. Her parents work in the tea estate factory, spending a lot of time away from home.

I was weak in mathematics and science, so my exam scores were not good despite being good at all other subjects. My parents cannot afford to send me to tuition classes, and also, as a girl, I am scared to travel alone, I do not feel safe.

The economic crisis in Sri Lanka is disproportionately affecting children from socioeconomically disadvantaged or marginalized backgrounds, such as the tea plantation worker communities that remain at the bottom of Sri Lankan society. Students affected by poor conditions are experiencing 57 per cent more learning loss than the wealthiest, leading to long-term impacts of the economic crisis, perpetuating the cycle of generational poverty in Sri Lanka.

Sangeeta is one of a thousand children involved in the Child-Friendly Safe Spaces initiative run by the Good Shepherd sisters with the support of GSIF in the rural communities of Walawa and Waleboda, in Balangoda district, and the coastal communities of Mankerny and Vaharai. The diverse activities carried out in these safe spaces enable children to continue their education and maintain their overall well-being, focusing on empowering them to protect themselves. Activities such as drawing exhibitions, competitions, presentations, drama and play, and poster-making help enhance their knowledge and skills.

“Now I am happy that I am participating in many daily activities here in the Safe Space, and I am getting extra classes in Mathematics and Science, guided to improve my study method as well,” says Sangeeta.

I can learn Mathematics and Science without fear, and the teaching method is student-friendly and easy to understand. Last term, I scored 50 in Science; this term, 64; in Mathematics, 60.

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