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Ananda College’s 134th Anniversary: Memories of Ananda College from 1914-1926

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By C.E.P. Kumarasinghe Ananda College was just 28 years of age when I had the good fortune of throwing myself into her service as a member of the tutorial staff under Principal Fritz Kunz in May 1914 – the year of the outbreak of World War I. Kunz had just succeeded M.U. Moore, who had, during a period of just three years, not only continued the yeoman service of his predecessor, but also produced appreciable examination results quite consistent with her early formative years. From her babyhood and toddler years, Ananda appeared to have had a line of persevering principals whose primary concern had been to promote her growth into robust maidenhood. Towards the achievement of this objective, one from this pioneering line stands out for having made an invaluable contribution to her guardianship for over a decade with ceaseless dedication. Unfortunately, he had been constrained to relinquish this arduous role to take over responsibilities in his country’s service. This was a transition period, an era that needed accomplished personalities of his calibre for the struggle that arose to liberate this land from the yoke of a foreign domination. Towards this goal, he laboured and strode the political scene till this tiny tot of a land, that had possessed and enjoyed a glorious civilisation, saw the horizon of the Abode of Freedom. He was none other than D.B. Jayatilaka, later knighted as Sir Baron, whose memory will, no doubt, be perpetuated not only in the records of our dear Ananda, but also in the annals of this land, as one of Mother Lanka’s most redoubtable and patriotic sons. Ananda was exceedingly fortunate to have, at the helm of affairs, a person of distinction in what may be regarded as a crucial period of her growth. Principal Buultjens, his predecessor, though a scion of an illustrious Dutch Burgher family of South Ceylon of that time, had, true to the spirit of his faith, accepted this post and given the young institution the necessary shape and character to put her in line with other collegiate schools of the day. Thus, he had paved the way for his erudite successor to produce Ananda’s first University Scholar in G.K.W. Perera in 1904. At the commencement of the second term of the school year, i.e. in May 1914, I saw the principal with my letter of appointment for instructions regarding my duties. After examining my examination certificates and other relevant documents, he assigned me to the middle school. I had only a provisional certificate as a qualification, which had to be endorsed annually by the various inspectors during the annual inspection of the school. Increments to salaries were determined by the management in accordance with these endorsements. Those were the days of the State Grant-in-aid to teaching institutions, which largely depended on the Annual Inspection Report. To say the least, it was a menacing, rather harrowing experience for a teacher to go through the ordeal of teaching a class in the presence of a lynx-eyed inspector. It so happened on a certain occasion that C.A. Wicks – MA of an English University – as Inspector of Maths sat in a corner of the classroom to watch me giving a Geometry lesson on polygons. In order to engage me in conversation about the Maths syllabus for the class, he drew a hexagon on the board and joined angular points to form triangles, each standing on a side.  A dare-devil sort of a boy surreptitiously manoeuvred to draw another line so as to make the figure have an additional triangle. Our conversation over, he got near the blackboard and asked the boy: “How many triangles do you observe in the figure?” Came the reply: “Seven”. Repeating the question, he asked another. “Seven, Sir.” Posing it the third time, he got a chorus of voices: “Seven, Sir”. “No,” he bawled out. “Oh, no, Sir!” they bellowed reciprocally. After the inspector had gone, there followed not a joyous symphony, but a thunderous babel over the comic scene. On another inspection, a classics inspector, L.G. Gratiaen, a distinguished Old Royalist, walked into my Latin class. Being an inexperienced and untrained stripling of a teacher yet in his teens, I had been observed to be thundering in stentorian tones in the course of the lesson. Before he walked out he made a passing remark savouring the reproachful – Vox magister detrimentum discipuli –  indeed a pithy maxim. What was hinted at was that the high-pitched tone of a teacher is a hindrance to the understanding of the pupil. I gave my thanks for his advice. Those old-time inspectors, seeming inconsistent with the changing educational set-up, have since ceased. The original school building was T-shaped, with a row of separate classrooms in each of the horizontal and vertical sections, with open sidewalks running on either side of them. The principal’s room stood at the right end of the horizontal wing. There was no staff room as such.  The front portion of this two-acre block of land was ordinary open land, whilst at the back of the building there was a square-shaped patch of ground that had been used for a playground. It looked like a virtual juvenile cricket pitch but it had, strangely, nurtured the school’s early cricketers, amongst whom was her first All-Ceylon player, D.L. Gunasekera, later a well-known lawyer practising in the Hulftsdorp Courts. On the Mackwoods side of the vertical wing of the main building, Principal Kunz managed to build the spacious Olcott Hall, the first major addition to the College, after nearly 30 years. Shortly afterwards, the Dias Memorial laboratory was put up on the highway end of the Hall through the munificence of the Jeremias Dias family, Panadura. It was after the construction of these two buildings that the college was registered for a government grant as an elementary school with a secondary department running up to the Cambridge senior, the examination that determined the Government Scholarship on its results for the year. During this short spell of nearly four years, Kunz laboured more than any of his predecessors. My recollection is that he started teaching sciences with the help of his brother-in-law. One was Gould, who set up a makeshift laboratory in a classroom. Another of Kunz’s firsts was the establishment of a hostel for outstation students who were beginning to storm the school, as the college was now functioning as satisfactorily as any of the well-established and old-standing institutions with high-scale examination results and appreciable inter-school sports performances. The College boarders were housed in a large upstairs building called “Starlight” in Jail Road, a few yards away from the present St. Anthony's Church. This hostel was shortly afterwards shifted to a very spacious single-floor building called Kityakara, also bordering the road but on the opposite side. Incidentally, this was an ancestral sprawling mansion of the famous cricketing family of the Goonesekera’s. I am wondering even at this date, over 70 years later, if my appointment as the Sports Master in charge of the team and of other games activities was another of Kunz’s firsts. After the performances of the school’s early players, more especially of her first All-Ceylon cricketer, D.L. Gunasekera, Ananda began to play inter-collegiate matches. If they are still among us, T.K. Burah and H.R. Perera, two distinguished players, and others of the day, are sure to bear testimony to my information. Thus, Kunz’s contribution to the progress of Ananda, was not only significant and memorable, but laborious and laudable as well. The short spell of his stewardship of just four years was a very calamitous and troubled period of the century, as in his first year of principalship, World War I broke out. The next year saw the Sinhalese-Muslim riots, and the proclamation of Martial Law and its horrible aftermath. The leaders of the country were incarcerated, and their lives were at stake. Into the bargain, the land was in utter disorder and distress, Kunz faced all odds with unflagging courage. In short, he endeavoured not merely to maintain the school’s standard of his predecessors, but also elevate it with additional improvements. His vice-principal was one Menon, a graduate from an Indian University, and his headmaster one Dandris de Silva, who was acting when he took over. The staff included C.V. Ranawake, A.P. de Zoysa, J.R. Peiris, J.E. Goonesekera, W.G. de Silva – affectionately known as “dadi-bidi”, W. Dharmarama, V.T.S. Sivagurunathan, Sundar Raman, W. Martin Silva, and many more. During the entire period, i.e. 1914 - 26, that I was at Ananda, there prevailed an excellent camaraderie among the fellow teachers. These were fee levying days, when the pupil's were sent home if the monthly fee had fallen into arrears. It should be said that salaries came regularly at the end of the month. An employee who was dressed in cloth and coat and sporting a small knot of a konde used to walk up to the College office with measured tread carrying an old fashioned leather bag which of course contained the teachers' pay-packets. There was nothing in the shape of private tuition or after-school classes. The teachers generally were sincere-hearted and very conscientious, and impelled by considerations of a pupil's future. Some boys of affluent families used to attend school dressed in cloth and coats. My impression is that the pupils of those early years were extremely well-behaved, docile, courteous, obedient, and furthermore, remarkably respectful. Also what a change we notice today. To be continued... This article was written by C.E.P. Kumarasinghe for the centenary of Ananda College in 1986. It was submitted by his son, Meghavarna Kumarasinghe, himself a Senior Old Anandian, who was closely associated with the school for over 50 years as a student, a Committee Member of the Old Boys' Association, and Joint Secretary of the Senior Old Anandians group. It has been edited for length and clarity.  

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