The Long acrimonious and bitter history of European Colonialism in Sri Lanka has had a vicious effect on its cultural and religious values. Europeans, who colonized our country, imposed their own cultural and religious values resulting in the destruction of our spiritual values. British rulers used English education in achieving their aims and objectives. In this process, the British officials also extended their fullest support and co-operation in the implementation of these objectives.
arious missionary organizations used this opportunity to establish English schools in many main cities of the island. Buddhists did not have the opportunity to learn English in a Buddhist environment. They could learn English only in missionary schools. Most of the Buddhists who studied in these missionary schools converted themselves to the religions of colonizers purely for selfish purposes of entering government service and personal gains. As a result, the people who still valued Buddhism and national culture were in a truly pathetic situation.
During this period, Colonel Henry Olcott who was an American citizen came to Sri Lanka with the intention of providing some kind of relief to the oppressed Buddhists of Sri Lanka. With the help of Lady Blavaski who was Russian national, Colonel Olcott established a branch of the “American Parama Vinyaratha Buddhist Society” In Sri Lanka. Many Buddhist monks and leaders contributed immensely to build and strengthen this organization. Among them were the outstanding leading such as Venerable Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala, Venerable Migeettuwaththte Gunanda , Don Karolis Hevavitharane , C.P. Gunawardena and Pandith Batwanthuduwe.
They very earnestly and zealously took effective and positive efforts to establish an English education system based on Buddhist principles and national culture. Consequently, Ananda College,Colombo was established in 1886 under the auspice and patronage of the “Parama Vingyartha Buddhist Society”. Later Mahinda College of Galle , Dharmaraja College of Kandy and other higher English schools in different cities of the island were established.
In the early part of the 20th Century the missionary organizations were expanding their influence in Kegalle District by establishing missionary schools and spreading their religion. Although the majority of the population of Kegalle District was Buddhists, there was not a single English school for Buddhist children. Educated Buddhists of Kegalle district started to find a solution to this problem. Former Mudliar of Kegalle,Mr.D.M.Senevirathne took the initiative to establish a higher English Buddhist school in Kegalle. Consequently, on 20th August,1937 a foundation laying ceremony was held in the present premises of the college to establish a school.
There was a special discussion on 5th August,1940 at the Kegalle Buddhist Mixed School.
At the district level, Mr.P.B.Balasooriya took the main responsibility with others and they were definitely encouraged by Dr.Gunapala Malalasekara and Mr.P.De.S.Kularathna who was then the principal of Ananda College. These two eminent leaders also participated in the above meeting. The meeting was chaired by Mr. P. De. S. Kularathne and Dr. Malalasekara delivered a special lecture.
During this period the powers centre of Kegalle city shifted to the catholic elite and Weweldeniya temple became the provincial centre of Buddhists in the temple Sri Sidhartha Buddhists Society was established. The semi-annual meeting of this society was held on 20th March, 1941. The chairman of the society was state council member Mr. A. F. Molamure.
Sri Sidhartha Buddhist Society was very enthusiastic about the Buddhist activities in the Kegalle District and an executive committee was elected to pursue the establishment of the school.
The continuous efforts to establish the school became fruitless on number of occasions and the educated Buddhists in the district had a strong confidence in the executive committee headed by state council member Mr. A. F. Molamure (later the Hon Speaker Of the first Parliament)
This executive committee contributed immensely and worked day and night sacrificing their time and personal wealth towards making this project a “Dreams Come True” venture.
For the successful implementation of the project, the Molamure committee realized that awareness among the people in the area was of utmost importance. Therefore, 1st publication of “Kegalle Buddhist English School” newspaper was launched in 20th February 1941. The edit
“We do not condemn the missionary education. In whatever the form it was introduced, that system contributed to the enhancing of our knowledge and intelligence. If we are not grateful to this positive contribution we are not true Sinhalese.”
Therefore, please be strongly committed to at least contribute whatever you spend on your cigarettes or cigars. Do you contributions “NOW”. Please do not think that your contributions will not bearfruits. Think of the utmost joy and satisfaction you will enjoy when your children are educated at a “Buddhist English School”
Molamure committee decided to build the school on a different site as a new building could not be built on the foundation. Mr.Molamure signed a specifications and special agreement to complete the building with a specified time framework with the contractor. Construction of the school building was completed by February, 1942, and a notice was issued by the Principal of Ananda College,Colombo Mr.L.H.Meththananda stating that “Kegalle Higher Buddhist English School” will be opened on 14thFebruary, 1942 at 3.00 p.m. as a branch of Ananda College Colombo. Necessary equipment and facilities were a supplied by Ananda College to Mr.Kularathna.
Appointment of a principal and teachers were supervised by Dr. G.P.Malalasekara and Mr.L.H.Meththananda.
The first principal of the school was Mr.K.L.V Mendis a B.A. (hons) graduate from the University of London (He was they an Assistant Lecturer at the Ceylon University; he later changed his name to K.L.V.Alagiyawanna.)
There is a hand written letter by Dr.Malalasekara which evidently shows the keen interest and devotion he has taken in the appointment of teacher. In the handwritten note Dr.Malalasekara indicates an follows.
“Monthly Salary of teacher will be Rs.385/- We need Rs400/- for other expense if 125 students are enrolled, this sum can be collected without difficulty” We also have to have fund of Rs.5000/- to meet unforeseen expenses. This is not a difficult task if proper methods and systems are adopted. I am not trying to frighten you. I am only trying to explain the objective reality. If the necessity arises, I am prepared to go from house to house to collect funds”
Dr.malalasekara made arrangements to invite Hon. Minister Sir D.B.Jayathilaka as of chief guest of the opening ceremony of the school.
Venerable Norada, Dr.E.W.Adhikaram and Mr.Kularathna were invited as special guest speakers.There were very elaborate arrangements including decorations of the town to mark the opening of the school.
There was also a discussion about whether the school should be a boy’s school or a mixed school. Mr.M.G.Ariyasena proposed that the school should be a boys’ school and was seconded by Mr.C.R.Gunarathana. Mr.K.A.Sirirathna proposed that the school should be a mixed school which was seconded by Mr.A.F.Ponweera. The second was passed by a majority of five votes.
On 14th February 1942 at 3 p.m the school was opened as a mixed school. The school was opened by Sir,D.B.Jayathilake and Mr.A.F.Molamure. Hon.Minister for Education Mr.C.W.W.Kannangara was represented by deputy director of education Mr.C.T.Loraj.
Our Alma Mater has not only given us education , intelligence , knowledge and cognizance, but also give us wisdom, spiritual wealth and enlightenment
There are certain very human personalities we should remember for the rest of our life. The great contribution made to school by Dr.G.P.Malalasekara , P.De.S.Kularathne , Hon.A.F.Molomure and the zealous efforts made of the first principal of school Mr.Alagiyawanna were invaluable Mr.S.E.De Silva made a comprehensive value addition to the name of the school and our school became very prominent in the district.
The glorious and the remarkable service rendered by the principals Mr.R.M.Abeywardane and Professor Jinadasa Perera made the school a first class school in 1985. They are immortal we also cannot forget the invaluable service rendered by Mr.Anula Udalagama and Mr.W.M.P.Dayarathna ,the former principals of the school. 1956 saw the first student from the school entering the University of Ceylon. He was W.A. Wanigarathna. In 1958 , E.M.G. Edirisinghe and G.L.S.Senarathne entered the university arts Faculty and followed by Prof.Wishva Warnapala , the first professor from our school.
From 1960 onwards, there was a constant inflow of university students from the school to Science, Engineering and Medical faculties.We will not be performing our duty if we do not mention the colossal contribution and efforts taken by Mr.Dayananda Gunawardane to make the school known in the whole island as a unique folk Drama centre. He produced three dramas in the school , namely “Swarnathilaka,”Parassaya” and the Famous “Nari Bena”
Coming back to the recent past,it is abosolutely necessary to mention the devotion, affection, humility and attachment shown by the former principal Mr.R.U.Senanayake and Mr.S.B.Koswaththe towards the school. Their dedication is also beyond comprehension.During the period, the results of the 5th year scholarships exam, G.C.E. (O/L) and G.C.E.(A/L) improved considerably.
Assets of the school developed remarkably new indoor stadium , new Buddhist temple , 3-strayed building incorporating 21 classes , old boys’ building , development of new sports ground, renovations adding to improve the image of the school , procurement of a school bus , and the construction of Balasooriya hall making their contribution to enhance its’ stature.
Presently, many old boys of the school including Doctors, Engineers, Academics who hold many responsible and high position in the government service, universities , corporations, private enterprises and many scientific research institutions. Lastly , we wish to take this opportunity to highlight a few events in the history.
Prof.Vishwa Warnapala was the first student from the school to be appointed as a professor of the University of Ceylon. He was also the first student to be appointed as a member of the cabinet of ministers on the Minister of Higher Education. There is Sarath Mayadunne who served as the Auditor General of the government of Sri Lanka. We also wish to mention that Daya Sadagiri who was the former commander of the Navy was also and old boy of the school. It’s also important mention that Dharmadeva Jayasinghe was as a Deputy Minister of the Sri Lanka Government. He was the 1st Old Boy to be appointed as a Deputy Minister. We must also mention that old boys, Sarath Mayadunne and Upananda Senarathne won the Sri Lanka National Integrity Award presented by Transparency International Organization. We regret that all names of the outstanding students of the school cannot be listed here owing to space restrictions.
Looking back at the history of 70 years of the school we as Kegalu VidyaLions should be proud, gratified and delighted to see the progress we have made.