Alone and in care at 16, to top grades and university, Sri Lankan student’s hard work pays off


A care child who says he could have ended up on the streets has achieved top marks in his exams.

Piriyankan Thavaraja was left alone aged 16 after his older brother had to return to Sri Lanka three years ago.

He went to his teachers in Harris Academy Greenwich in a blind panic.

The 19-year-old said: “I was so worried. My mind was out of focus. I had no hope that I was going to be able to continue my studies.”

Bexley council found him a care home in Erith and he was moved to Christ the King Sixth Form.

Piriyankan said: “If Bexley council hadn’t been there I would have been on the streets.

They helped with money and housing. This meant I could focus again.”

He had had a turbulent life before this. He came to Lewisham from Sri Lanka in 2008 aged nine. He moved from Lewisham to Catford, and then on to Woolwich with his brother after he had become estranged from the rest of his family.

“Moving around was unsettling,” he said. “But I just kept myself focused on my studies. As long as I could do my school work then I could get through it.

“When I made it to Christ the King I started two jobs, working in the co-op for two days and in an off-licence for another two days. The rest of the time I focused on school work. I didn’t have much time for a social life.”

Piriyankan’s hard work paid off when he went into the school in Chislehurst Road to get his results for the engineering Level 3 BTECs at 9am on Thursday.

He said: “I was so scared. When I opened the letter, I was like, ‘Oh my god’. I couldn’t believe it.” BTEC diplomas are an alternative to A-levels.

They have a focus on practical skills on top of academic work and the grades go from distinction, D*, down to pass. Piriyankan, who now lives on his own in Thursland Road, achieved top marks with D*, D*, D*.

He will be starting a civil engineering degree at Brunel University this autumn. He said: “I have wanted to study at Brunel for a long time.

Their engineering department is famous. “I was offered a place at UCL, but I made Brunel my preference.

“I want to be qualified engineer in five years, and if I’m not picked up by a firm then I’ll start my own business.”

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