Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara statue to be unveiled today:
Honouring the Father of Free Education
The great educationist C. W. W. Kannangara, was a veritable gold mine
of information. His oratory was mesmerizing, his language, rich and
Following are a few words he uttered in his inimitable style
presenting the Free Education Bill.
“The great Roman emperor Augustus once blew his own trumpet stating
that he turned the brick laid Rome into a marble laid Rome. On this
occasion, please allow me to say this. I humbly tell you, I am
responsible in giving free education to all. Remember all this time, you
got education for a big price.
You paid a very big sum. I opened a book, which was closed all this
time. I opened the door of education to the poor, which was once meant
only for the capitalist class of this country. It was once a right of
‘haves’ only. I opened it to ‘Have nots’.
Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara
Christopher William Wijekoon Kannangara - popularly known as C. W. W.
Kannangara was a born Leader - ‘Yuga Purusha’ ‘Man of the Era’, who was
instrumental in bringing a social revolution in this country, through
education. We all respect this great personality as the Father of Free
Education in Sri Lanka.
Education is an investment in a person’s future. It is the most
powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world. Patriot
Kannangara was instrumental in introducing free education, whereby
opportunities were given to poor village children, to further their
C. W. W. Kannangara, was born on October 13, 1884. He hailed from
Randombe, a village, sandwiched between Balapitiya and Ambalangoda. His
parents were John Daniel Wijekoon Kannangara and Emily Wijesinghe.
Little Kannangara had his Primary Education at Wesleyan Mission School
in Randombe. Even as a child, he showed promise and leadership.
At the school prize giving he collected all the prizes, and shone as
a Bright Star of the future. Sheer dint of merit, caught the eye of
Richmond College Principal Rev. J. H. Darrel, a Cambridge Wrangler (Top
Mathematician) who was the Chief Guest at the Prize Giving at Wesleyan
Mission School, Randombe.
Rev. Darrel patted little Kannangara and remarked “Son, you may have
to hire a Bullock-Cart, to take home the books, you collected at this
prize giving. This prize giving was the turning point of little
Kannangara’s life. Rev. Darrel gave an opportunity to Kannangara to sit
for the Richmond College Foundation Scholarship. He excelled in
Mathematics and won the scholarship.
This enabled him to have free board, and lodging at Richmond.
Kannangara who hailed from a village knew the difficulties that a rural
child undergoes in Education. Therefore, it would have been a dream for
Kannangara to help these rural children who does not get the facilities
that a child in a elite school is provided.
As Shakespeare said “Some men in their life play many parts.
Kannangara was one of the few to perform all at the same time. He was a
brilliant all round student and in 1903; he sat for Cambridge Senior
Examination, heading the Ceylon and British Empire list in Mathematics,
and brought honour and glory to Ceylon.
Kannangara captained Richmond College First Eleven Cricket Team in
1903 and was a member of the College Soccer team. He was not only an
academic, but also a fine sportsman. A rare combination indeed. He was
an all-round student.
He started his life as a Teacher at Richmond College. He taught his
favourite subject Mathematics. Then, he served as a Teacher at Prince of
Wales College, Moratuwa and Wesley College Colombo. While teaching, he
studied Law and became a Attorney-at-law and passed out as a lawyer in
He entered the Political Arena in early 1920s to serve his country in
a big way. His mission was to serve the downtrodden. In 1923, he
contested Galle bye-election, and entered the Legislative Council. He
was re-elected Legislative Council in 1924. Under the Donoughmore
Constitution in 1931, he was elected to the State Council and was
appointed Minister of Education, which he held for 16 years.
The first Education Executive of the State Council consisted of C. W.
W. Kannangara, H. W. Amarasuriya, W. T. B. Karaliyadda, A. Ratnayake, G.
R. de Zoysa, P. E. Madawela and Dr. S. A. Wickramasinghe. C. W. W.
Kannangara was elected as the Chairman of this Committee and thus he
became the First Education Minister of Ceylon.
C. W. W. Kannangara’s Central School Concept was a great boon to the
rural children. By 1941 there were 3 Central Schools. In 1945 it was
increased to 35. By 1950 there were 50 Central Schools.
With Kannangara’s thinking, every electorate at that time had one
Central School. This helped the rural children, further their Education
and enter the University of Ceylon. Father of Free Education,
Educationist par-excellence, Kannangara granted scholarships to each
Central School for needy brilliant students. This helped the rural
students to pursue their University Education.
In appreciation of the service rendered by C. W. W. Kannangara to
Education the University of Ceylon conferred the Honorary Doctorate to
C. W. W. Kannangara in their first Convocation held in 1946. Thus, he
became Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara.
Politics is a funny game. Great men are rarely recognised in their
own home. A national hero, who did so much for education, was defeated
at the General Election in 1947.
Wilmot A. Perera of Sri Lanka Palee fame, was elected from Matugama
From 1950-1952, Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara was the Ambassador to
Indonesia. Again, in 1952, he was elected to Parliament from Agalawatta
electorate, defeating S. A. Silva. Kannangara was assigned - the
Portfolio of Minister of Housing and Local Government.
He retired from Politics in 1956. He was a man of honesty and
integrity. This Great National Leader C. W. W. Kannangara passed away on
September 23, 1969.
Dr. Kannangara laid emphasis on Swabasha, but he insisted the
children to learn English and compete with the students of elite
schools. He is a man of Multi-Cultural reach. Further, he was concerned
about the poor Tamil children. Kannangara’s Philosophy was to give
opportunities to all students of this country.
Dr. Kannangara’s concept of Central Schools, originated from his idea
of equity that could cover all children, irrespective of the
circumstances into which they were born. In addition to the sense of
justice, he felt that giving special advantages to the more intelligent
children all over the country would result in a better group of leaders
that could forge the future of Sri Lanka.
The end result has been that these children were privileged to attend
the Central school, imitated by Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara. Today some of
the leading Civil Servants, Academics, Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers,
Bankers, Officers of the Defense Forces and men of very high standards
are from these Central Schools.