News Features

Four students who came Island first at A’ Levels
They are on cloud numbernine

By Chamindra Wickremasinghe and Anurangi Singh
Pix by Nissanka Wijerathne

They have reached their aspirations, made themselves role models and brought respect to their families and their alma-mater by being the first in the island in their respective streams. However, though this is their peak of success they have always been outstanding and bright.
The Nation spoke to Manudha Thiunuwan Herath of Royal College, the island first in the Mathematics stream with a z-score of 3.1716, Rasanga Abishek Perera of Nalanda College, the island first in the Commerce stream with a z-score of 2.8191, Anuruddhika Dissanayake of Nalanda College, island first in Bio Science with a z-score of 3.3142 and Madhavi Nihaminee Fernando of Girl’s High School Kandy, island first in Arts with a z-score of 2.5871 to discover the secrets behind their accomplishment.
Manudha Thiunuwan Herath’s ambition is to be a world class mechanical engineer especially in the field of automobile engineering. He loved his choice of subjects and that took him all this way, “These AL subjects are made for me, meant for me,” he explained. However, the scope for it is limited in Sri Lanka, he admitted.
Though he had not been a bright student when he was in his primary grades his position gradually increased from grade ten onwards, he said. “I was the first in class when I was in grade ten. I think I understood what learning is and how to compete with the others after that. I had to protect my position. I did as I could.” Adding to this his father, Gamini Dharmasiri Herath, Deputy General Manager, Commercial Bank revealed he was also not good in his studies at the beginning like his son. His mother is Manohari Herath is a housewife.
This youth despises the possibi
Thiunuwan did his work according to a plan which wasn’t rigid. Watching TV while having dinner for half an hour to forty five minutes everyday from around 8.30pm was a usual thing for him but he revealed he studied until 12.30pm. “I planned the whole week. I revised the lessons. I just prepared myself by answering the past papers. I did one past paper four times and referred the marking schemes often.”
Receiving such heights is a matter of persistence, he believes but of course one needs to be ‘gifted,’ he said. “You need to have luck. If you are lucky you will get good teachers who would like the presentation of my answers.” Through hard work just getting three As is possible but to get a rank you need some kind of luck, he added. He was placed the island 10 at Ordinary Levels he further said.
He is an accomplished chess player since 1996, from year 4 and had even won colours in school for chess in 2003 and 2004 and Provincial colours as well. He had won four medals for chess at National School Games in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.
“Parents, class teachers, friends all motivated me to come to this position,” he said with gratitude. “My class teacher and Math teacher, K.R. Sugathadasa had even made a promise to my principal that he would make me the island first in the Math stream. My parents helped me, motivated me to come to this position. They made my life pleasant. I did not feel studying a burden because of them. My masters were very helpful and provided everything.” An astrologer’s prediction that Thiunuwan would reach such an achievement had motivated him greatly. “I imagined all the fame I receive now long before the exam.’
He is a prefect and a steward at Royal College, a President’s Scout from this year. Playing badminton, cricket, football and swimming are his interests. He likes both classical and rap music.
I received the schools’s gold medal for Math and won the Inter Class Mathematics Competition in 2005. From Physics, he believes he can take part in the Olympiad in 2007.
Harsha Dissanayake who came first in Bio Science stream is the only child of Dr.Gamini Dissanayake and Mrs. Preethi Dissanayake, who are both doctors at the Colombo National Hospital. He said he was good in his studies from his early days at school. “I was the first in class every year except when I was in grade seven - I became the second for the first time.’ He was the island second and district first at the GCE Ordinary Levels.
What made him reach these heights? “Surely the family background supported that factor,” he admitted.
It was not his nature to stick to a daily timetable but an organised plan. The last three months before the exam he had committed to answering past papers which he stated brought him training in timing, and answering essay type and structured essay type questions.
He said attending private classes is not compulsory, but if more experience and opportunity is needed in answering questions tuition classes are of help. Nevertheless he added that with regard to practicals school teachers do a lot and the best.
“Most probably I might enter the local medical faculty. I like that way because the standard is quite high in our country,” he said.
He won the school colours for table tennis both in 2002 and 2003, even got placed island 2nd in Prose writing in 2000 and 2003. He was the secretary of the Western Music Association, a Member of the Sinhala Literary association and he was an English Announcer in the Commercial Unit in school and captained the school science quiz team.
He added that he stopped all his extra curricular activities in order to concentrate on his studies after he started his ALs. Yet, “I read books, watched TV, read magazines like Vidusara but tried to balance everything,” he said.
“I might specialize in neurology but it might change in the future because there could be other areas open before me,” he added.
Rasanga, Abhishek Perera who came first in Commerce stream is the eldest in the family of three, a brother and a sister and comes from a family with a business background. Harsha and Rasanga were good friends in school. “We were to together from Grade one. We continuously studied pretty well. Won both class prices and subject prices. I became the first in class several times.” With luck and hard work he gained ten A’s and I was able to be the island 17th.
“I always wanted to continue my studies in Marketing, and Business Management. Being a top Manager in an organization, a professional businessman is my dream and that is what motivated me when I was in grade four or five. From the beginning I had this target settled in my mind. I have been following CIMA since I finished my OLs. I think what pushed me for this was that I was influenced by my family - my father, uncle, grandfather -they are all businessmen.”
He remembered the support that was rendered by the teachers and the principal; especially his class teacher, S.M. Mallikrachchi, who motivated him about the ranks. “All the other teachers also helped me. The tuition masters also gave me lot of support. I pay gratitude to them.”
“If you have the determination reaching heights like this is nothing. It is a matter of determination. Not intelligence. I have supportive parents that look after me in everyway. One of the best opportunities I have ever had is going to Nalanda College and having my friends and teachers. That is where I am gifted.”
Though he was interested in swimming, playing the piano and drawing even after winning three Nippon gold medals for art, he did not want to continue these as he wanted to concentrate on his studies. However, he said he read a lot of books, watched lot of Hollywood movies but balanced everything when he came to ALs.
He believes as to the modern exam system, studying alone would not help. “For Business Studies, you need to read the Central Bank reports, refer business magazines, be updated on current business issues. It helps a lot. Studying what the teacher gives alone won’t help,” he added.
“I am kind of studious. It is the most important thing at this stage of life. Study was the first thing for me.”
He added that their batch of students was amazing – they got the best results in the history of Nalanda College. “We were a well disciplined batch too.” He added.
Madavi Nihaminee Fernando who came first in the arts stream said that she was on cloud number nine.
“I am really happy even though this was totally unexpected.” She said.
Madavi Fernando, eldest of the family has a brother. Her parents who are professional engineers badly wanted her to do science or mathematics for Advance Level, since her excellent achievement of ten A’s at her Ordinary Level Exams. She said that it was a bit hard to get her father’s consent as he strongly objected otochoosing arts as her subject.
“I always wanted to become a teacher when I was small, but later on my ambition was to become a lawyer. So finally my mother was able to get my father’s permission for me to do arts for my A/L’s. They are really happy for me despite the subjects that I did,” said Madavi.
She says that it was mainly the support that she got from the school as well as the tuition masters that helped her to achieve this success. She did not study hard as one would expect an island 1st to be so. But she had a special secret, and she was humble enough to share that secret with us.
“I must say that I never studied throughout the years. I watched all my favorite television programs without missing any of the episodes. I used to roam around, but the main thing was that I adored and loved all my subjects. It made me interested in reading my texts over and over again and made me think further about them and it was more like a part of me. I didn’t cram my subjects” she said.
She was interested in writing and reading, and was doing them as a hobby which helped her in the long run. She had her primary education in Swarnapali Vidyalaya in Anuradhapura and her secondary education at Girls High School in Kandy. “I think that it is very important that parents allow their children to choose the subjects and not force the children to do what they don’t like. I don’t think that I will go abroad for my higher studies (again amidst objection of her father who wants her to go abroad). I guess I will make him change his mind with the help of my mother” she says with a laugh.