Bigger battle looms for Sarojini – the poor rustic girl who secures university entrance


Sarojini with her parents and some relatives outside their hut

Principal M. M. Maithripala and teachers L. D. Senaratne, B. B. Wijeratne and H. M. C. Herath are pictured here with Sarojini

Story and pix by W. G. S. S. Ranathunga in Dehiattakandiya

Tears of joy flowed freely down her cheeks as they made a beeline to her wattle and daub hut to congratulate the student.

Sar1ojini Tillekeratne didn’t enjoy any comforts in life. She didn’t even know what luxuries meant. She lived in a hut with a thatched roof in the far-flung, elephant infested village of Suriyapokuna bordering the Maduruoya wildlife sanctuary.

The family was desperately poor. There was only a single chair in the run-down hut, she called "home". There was no electricity and life was a bitter battle. Wild animals roaming the precincts added to their woes.

In spite of the adversities and grave financial constraints, she attended Suriyapokuna Vidyalaya at Dehiattakandiya and studied hard. At one point, her father who was suffering from a mental illness, set fire to their hut. The family lost everything including her school books.

It was on that day she decided to give up her education. Sarojini was a bright student, but with her books consumed by the fire and no money to replace them, there was no hope. Life, it seems, had come to an abrupt standstill.

But, the principal and teachers of her small school would hear none of it. They insisted that she continues her education despite the family’s abject poverty. They rallied around to help the child. Villagers built a new hut for them.

The end result of these wonderful gestures, though in small measure, emerged when she passed the GCE Advanced Level examination with flying colors and qualified for university entrance. She is the first-ever student to achieve this feat from her village.

As her family has no money to send her to university, the principal and staff of the school raised some funds and personally visited her humble home to hand over the cash, some books and gifts to her. With limited incomes, they have done their utmost. The villagers are also poor and are struggling to eke out an existence.

Whether Sarojini will be able to enter the portals of higher education still hangs in the balance. She expressed her gratitude to her principal, teachers and all those who rallied around to help her in whatever possible way.

She has won the battle and qualified for university entrance, but out there in the horizon, a bigger battle looms. Only human hearts which feel the pain and reach out to ease suffering will pave the way for Sarojini Tillekeratne to realize her dream of becoming a lawyer one day.


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