Young Computer Scientist contest gives an impetus to identifying and harnessing hidden talents of rural youth - Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena

Young Computer Scientist (YCS), the annual ICT competition organized by the Federation of the Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS), affords a remarkable opportunity to identify and harness the hidden talents of students of information and computer technology, particularly in the far-flung, difficult areas of Sri Lanka, Minister of Education Bandula Gunawardena said.

Minister Bandula Gunawardena made this observation at the presentation of awards and certificates to the winners of the Young Computer Scientist 2011 competition organized by FITIS for the 10th successful year. The colorful awards ceremony, organized by FITIS in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and was held in the auditorium of the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI) recently.

Minister of Education Bandula Gunawardena presenting an award and certificate to H. M. Lahiru Sandaruwan of Mahiyangana Ridimaliyadda Maha Vidyalaya.

The Minister was the Chief Guest at the awards presentation of the 10th anniversary edition of this popular ICT contest which was attended by a large and distinguished gathering, including Mr. Govin Nangrani, Chairman, FITIS, Mr. Neil Gunadasa, Director - ICT, Ministry of Education,Mr. Udaya de Silva, Secretary FITIS, Mr. Damith Hettiarachchi, CEO, Mr. Sudarshan Welihinda, President FITIS Software Chapter and Prof. Gihan Wickremanayake, Director, University of Colombo School of Computing.
Continuing his speech, Minister Gunawardena further said: "At the time President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected to office in 2005, the computer literacy rate in Sri Lanka stood at a pathetically low 5%. The objective of the government is to move towards a Knowledge Economy by achieving a computer literacy rate of 75% by the year 2015. We are now working towards this goal.

"The winner of the top honors in the junior category of this competition was a student of Mahiyangana Ridimaliyadda Maha Vidyalaya. Ridimaliyadda is a village in far-flung, rural Mahiyangana with the minimum of infrastructure facilities. It is situated in a very difficult area with limited resources.
"The fact that a student from such a difficult, rustic hamlet won the top prize in the Young Computer Scientist competition amply proves two factors: The first is that the government's ongoing initiative to take ICT to rural schools has been a resounding success. The second is that this contest organized by FITIS has established itself as an excellent platform to identify and expose the computing talents of school children at early stages and encourage them to develop their talents and earn recognition for their innovations".

The National School level Gold Award winner in the senior group category in the competition was Chathura Samarasinghe, a student of Thrithwa Vidyalaya, Kandy while H. M. Lahiru Sandaruwan of Mahiyangana Ridimaliyadda Maha Vidyalaya bagged the top prize in the junior segment. In the International Schools senior group category Krishan Chandana Mendis of Gateway School of Computing, Galle emerged Gold Award winner, while Chanuka Yasawardena, a student of Gateway School of Computing, Nugegoda won the first prize in the junior category.

Student H. M. Lahiru Sandaruwan of Ridimaliyadda Maha Vidyalaya said his village was so backward that his small house did not even have electricity - a basic requirement. He took part in this competition thanks to his school teacher Priyantha who put together some pieces to produce a computer. That was how Sandaruwan sent his entry and bagged the top accolade.

The Young Computer Scientist competition was initiated by FITIS to take the fruits of ICT education to youth in the urban as well as rural segments, said Mr. Govin Nangrani, Chairman, FITIS.
He said that this contest has, over the past decade developed into a fully-fledged, enormously popular annual event, and is at present conducted on a national level in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

The two national level Gold winners (Senior/Junior) in the Young Computer Scientist competition, Chathura Samarasinghe of Thrithwa Vidyalaya, Kandy and Chanuka Yasawardena of Gateway School of Computing, Nugegoda, will get the opportunity of representing Sri Lanka at the APICTA, Thailand in November 2011.

Sri Lanka Telecom, Acer Computer Company, Metropolitan and Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology were the official sponsors of the Young Computer Scientist competition.

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