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Whither Trinity College in new century?

by Ananda Pilimatalavuva

The missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) of England arrived in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1817 soon after the country was ceded to Britain. On Governor Sir Robert Brownrigg's suggestion they proceeded to Kandy where they obtained a piece of land from Government to open the first CMS schools in the interior.

Trinity College entrance

On appeals received by the authorities for a schools of higher education in Kandy, the Rev Ireland Jones arrived from England in 1857 and set up the Kandy Collegiate School with the object of "reaching the sons of Kandy an Chiefs and bringing them under the influence of a Christian education".

This collegiate school operated for about six years, and was closed in 1863/64. But due to fresh appeals from the Sinhalese to re-open the school, in 1872 the CMS sent out the Rev. Richard Collins, the Principal of the CMS Syrian College of Travancore to re-open the collegiate school in Kandy.

Hence the school was accordingly re-opened on January 17 of that year (1872) and Trinity counts its existence from that date; with the awareness created in Kandy for higher education, and the opening of the railway to Kandy the school became accessible and in time popular in the interior and the whole island.

In 1872 Trinity even boasted a boarding, and their now famous motto "Respice Finem" was introduced by 1873, and a crest designed; this evolved into the present Cross and Crowns by 1912. Finally the CMS changed the school's name to its present "Trinity College' in 1876.

By 1884 even the first graduate in the person of L.E. Blaze was produced.

The first seventy years of Trinity saw great English missionaries from England giving leadership to the school; as that was a time when the cream of their universities entered the Church and volunteered for service abroad in the colonies, hence the school was in safe hands.

With the cry for independence in the colonies the dedicated missionaries going out to the colonies diminished, as they realised that they had left behind sufficient educated and trained personnel to take over the reins of leadership in the schools they established.

Hence the educated sons of the soil began administering these schools.

The last of the Englishmen to lead Trinity was the Rev. R.W. Stopford who later went on to become Bishop of London.

His successor C.E. Simithraaratchy, was the first Ceylonese and old boy of the school to head the institution. Mr. Simithraaratchchy was confronted with a major problem in deciding whether to join the government scheme and go for free education or remain private and fee levying.

To his eternal credit he faced this problem squarely and decided to remain private. His decision was silently endorsed by the parents when they continued to keep their sons at Trinity.

This decision preceded another important decision the Church Missionary Society took, with independence to the island being imminent, in 1940 to hand over the management of the school to an independent Board of Governors (BoG) consisting of eminent persons, old boys and a few churchmen to serve in an ex officio capacity to ensure a smooth transfer to the sons of the soil.

The constitution of this Board provided that the Board shall be responsible to the parent committee of the CMS in London, the immovable property continued to be vested in the Church Missionary Trust Association Ltd., as custodian of the CMS.

These decisions showed the depth of vision of the Church Missionary Society who realized that the time was up to transfer management of the school to the locals.

In October 1959, the Executive Committee of the CMS approved a new constitution and resolved that it comes into force on November 1st 1959.

In January 1960 the Directors of the Church Missionary Trust Association Ltd., passed a resolution whereby the Church Missionary Trust Association Ltd., vested in the Board the immovable properties which they held in trust for the College.

The college chapel and some buildings in the vicinity were not transferred due to a fear prevailing at that time that the school may be taken over by the government. Therefore the college chapel though belonging to the school was for the time being brought under the surveillance of the Diocese of Kurunegala.

The chapel was always an integral part of the school coming under the direct supervision of the Principal assisted by a full time chaplain answerable to him.

The chaplain was a member of the teaching staff and was housed within the school to give his full time to the affairs of the school. This position should continue to be so, after all old boys of all faiths, their parents and grand parents toiled during their time at school to build this edifice as it belonged to the school and not answerable to an outside source.

Trinity at the moment is experiencing a resurgence of interest in its administration bordering on interference by over enthusiastic old boys.

As this is coming after the retirement of the dedicated senior staff and the vacuum thus created, old boys and the Board of Governors must take a fresh look at the management of the school and quality of its staff and monitor the school's progress in the new century. Where necessary the constitution of the Board of Governors should be amended to meet the needs of the times.

Trinity has had a history of strong Chief Executives or Principals who managed the school on their own without any interference from the Boards.

The Boards of Governors have always been happy to leave the management of the school and its discipline in the hands of the Principal and any interference by the Board has been against the culture of the school administration, undermining its leadership.

As far back as 1971 the respected and eminent Bishop of Kurunegala the Late Rt. Rev. Lakshman Wickremesinghe, the then Chairman of the Board in a memorandum to the Board said that to make the school more acceptable to the community he envisaged certain changes. Amongst these changes envisaged by him, even at that time, was drastic alteration to the constitution of the Board of Governors to eliminate religious dignitaries.

The late Bishop had said something very pertinent in today's context of the Church. Very little use is served by Church dignitaries sitting on the Board.

Trinity in its existence of 130 years has produced many educated old boys; they should now be given better recognition and made use of by the school along with the Parents-Teachers' Association which also consists of very eminent parents.

The post of Chairman of the Board of Governors must be occupied by an eminent old boy conversant with the traditions of the school.

Church dignitaries are not required, but for historical reasons the Bishops of Colombo and Kurunegala can serve as joint patrons ex officio. The general composition of the Board should reflect the religious composition amongst old boys and current school boys.

The school principalship should be by invitation of the Board and go to the best person available and not the best Christian, as experience has shown that the best Christian does not necessarily become the best administrator, he could turn out to be a weak administrator, then the school suffers.

The school should develop on secular lines with all religions having equal status with only Anglican Christians being awarded a special place due to historical reasons.

It is therefore suggested that committee of eminent. qualified, experienced old boys be appointed to study the present Board constitution and recommend changes to meet the needs of the times of Trinity to forge ahead and blossom into the new century that has dawned.

In 2004, Trinity once again engaged a foreign missionary and experienced educationist to head the school and sort out its problems. He should be left alone to do his job, and serve a second term to complete his mission at school. We wish him well.

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