Finalist

Community Engagement Initiative of the Year Award

Service Learning Programme, Career Guidance Unit

Finalist of the Community Engagement Initiative of the Year Award

"Future Leaders: Engaging, Empowering, Transforming"


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Summary

Recognizing the importance of quality education as the main infrastructure to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs), Career Guidance Unit (CGU) of the Faculty of Science has developed a project under the Service Learning Programme to help remote and underprivileged schools to improve and uplift academic activities. The aim is straightforward: engaging undergraduates in transforming the society. “Service Learning” programme is novel working experience where science undergraduates are given the opportunity to exercise their scientific abilities to help needy communities in the country. The financial support is provided by corporate sector partners. The Programme is managed, supervised and assessed solely by the volunteer academic staff members of the Faculty. Thus, Service Learning Programme can be considered as a “Triple Helix” initiative that promotes the partnership between university, private sector and the community. The Service learning programme to strengthen school education focuses mainly on IT, Science and mathematics. It also offers vocational training and other life skills for students to enhance their employability. Since 2012, the Service Learning programme has helped more than 16,000 school children islandwide. Future leaders of the country - the undergraduates and the school children – united for a change. Not only this programme supports schools, but also helps universities in community engagement: provide opportunities to use their skills and resources in science to serve the society, create out-ofclass learning experience for undergraduates with significant enhancement of their soft skills including leadership, communication and activity planning. By this project we have initiated engagement of future leaders- undergraduates and school children.

Key People


Prof. K. R. R. Mahanama
Dean
Faculty of Science,  University of Colombo



Prof. Deepthi Wickramasinghe
Co-Director
Career Guidance Unit, Faculty of Science,  University of Colombo


Acknowledgements

Commercial Bank PLC, Sri Lanka Ministry of Education, Sri Lanka (Central and Zonal offices)

Images

Undergraduate students assisting in class room activities

Vocational Training workshops for students

English language proficiency workshops

Building up of relationships

Class room learning activities

Experiencing IT technologies

Introduction to the IT programme by undergraduate students

Teacher Training workshop on IT software

IMPACT STORY

Impacting lifes

This project has enlightened the life of many school children in the rural, underprivileged schools where facilities for IT, maths and science education are minimal. Those remote schools are poor in facilities as well as resources including properly trained teachers, regular classes, laboratories and hands on experience for the students. Some remote schools do not have teachers to help in maths and science.

In this context, reaching the unreachable communities, leaving no one behind, by the operation of service learning project has been a tremendous help to the schools. Our undergraduates not only help uplifting academic environment of the schools by teaching, training teachers and giving a hands on experience for use of computers, IT basics have been a strength to schools. Training on web based learning with the establishments of the IT labs help school children in many ways: it increases their knowledge about IT, finds useful resources as supplement to their normal academic syllabus and enhance computer literacy. Moreover, they can continue the learning process even without regular guidance of teachers which makes the learning process sustainable. To add more, the transformation of the students in to a “science and computer literate” community has a very strong psychological upliftment, as we have observed in many schools.

LEARNINGS

Lessons learned

By participating in the service learning programme, the undergraduates of the university have demonstrated significant enhancement in many life and soft skills. We annually perform a survey on how this programme has impacted on participants and the results have been very promising: they show significant enhancement in,

- leadership qualities where shy and backward students have gained confidence

- time management ability

- problem solving ability

- crisis management ability (in rural areas, many unexpected issues and problems arise that include transport, food and accommodation, conflict with other activities etc)

Therefore, this project was able to transform both the actors (undergraduates) and the beneficiaries (school children) in a positive way.

FUTURE PLANS

What's coming?

We intend to expand this project into the other faculties of our university and beyond that to reach the other university sin the country. We are planning to organise a workshop to share our experience with others and motivate them to start similar projects to help uplifting rural schools and build the capacities of teachers and students. We also wish to get more stakeholders involved in rural settings including the central and local government authorities. In addition, we wish to evaluate the success of each project by developing key performance indicators.


KEY STATISTICS

4-5

Corporate sector partners

50 individuals

Service provided to

16,000+

School children islandwide supported

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