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Hindu College, Colombo - Temple of learning - Part II:

Pulling through trying times

Continued from yesterday

In 1954 the Hindu Educational Society raised funds to build an auditorium for the benefit of the school and also of the Hindu community. DKS Brothers were invited from India to perform a drama as a fund raising program. Rs. 83,000.00 was thus raised. Although we may now wonder whether it is worth talking about such a sum that would have been a substantial sum those days. With those funds Saraswathie Hall was built by the HES on a part of the land given on a long lease by the Trustee of Shri Sammangodar Manicka Vinayagar Temple. The Lorenz Road front portion of this school premises was the balance portion leased to the HES by the said Trustee.

As mentioned earlier Colombo Hindu College at Ratmalana was constructed in the years 1953 to 1955.

To build that, some of the founders had given their personal guarantees and mortgages. In fact they first purchased a large estate and blocked them into lots. Having sold some of the lots they took away the burden of the costs of the land. It shows what a sacrifice they were making for their dream to come true and at the same time they used their business acumen for a social benefit. As stated earlier, the upper classes at Bambalapitiya were transferred to Ratmalana in 1955.

In 1958, the school had severe set backs. One was the demise of Justice C. Nagalingam who was the Manager of the school (in the previous year one of the founders and ardent supporters of the school, the philanthropist S. Mahadevan had passed away), the other being the communal riots in that year (1958).

Sivamani Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan who was a well respected Civil Servant who functioned as the Permanent Secretary and the construction of the first flats - Bambalapitiya Flats - is his brainchild, became the Manager of the school in 1959. In 1962 the school was vested in the Government.

New shape and life

It was during the period of service of S. Ambalavanar, the idea of making this school to serve the needs of Hindus on a par with the Colombo Hindu College at Ratmalana took shape.

In 1967, under the stewardship of P. Nalliah, the then Principal, Grade six was started and the school was raised to the status of a junior school. The two institutions which were functioning as one body, began to function as two separate entities from that date.

P. Nalliah gave a new shape and life for the school.

First ever sports meet was held on March 31,1968. First ever prize giving was held on March 28, 1969 with Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake as the Chief Guest.

After the retirement of P. Nalliah in 1970, T. Sangaralingam took over the Principalship of the school from February 1971.

In the N.C.G.E. Examination held for the first time in 1975, ‘76 out of ‘97 students from the school qualified to follow H.N.C.E. classes. This was considered a great achievement. Consequent to this, the school was given the privilege of starting the H.N.C.E. Classes [equivalent to the present GCE (A/L)] from 3rd April 1976.

In July 1972, Dr. P. Udagama, Secretary of the Ministry of Education, participating as the Chief Guest at the Prize Giving said - “Hindu College has been an example not only for the schools in Colombo but also for the other schools in this country.

It is not only the principal and the staff of the school but Parents Association takes keen interest in developing this school - it is really a pleasant surprise.”

In 1975, the colour of the school flag was changed to amber and gold.

Dream of dreamers

These are the words of wisdom expressed in the Administration Report written in 1954 by the late S. Mahadevan (then Secretary):-

“Though we have done a great deal so far with very limited resources the task ahead is of a colossal nature.

Much more determination and courage on the part of the Hindu public is needed for the fulfillment of the task and the Board of Governors is not without hope that the philanthropists will yet arise in our midst to give concrete form and shape to what has been characterised as the ‘Dream of Dreamers’.

This College has played a significant and unique role in the life of our community in Colombo. Whether it is a glorious moment or time of crisis it was the place for our people to turn to.

It had given shelter to those who flocked to it during periods of troubles and given accommodation for students to those who were displaced from their areas. By this ancillary role this temple of learning has been a haven for us in the Metropolis.

Although the Founder Society thought it prudent not to resist the vesting of this school in the Government in 1962, the Parent-Teachers Association and the School Development Society of which some members have been those of the Founder Society continued to develop this college.

While this school served as a centre in many respects for our community even after it became a government school, our community also reciprocated by nurturing the school.

Thus it remained our school for all of us. Parents, well wishers, old boys and teachers made their contributions through the School Development Society and also through School Development Board and the School Development Trust.

The dream of the dreamers was maintained as a reality due to the efforts of a number of dedicated parents and well-wishers who worked tirelessly with the principals to take their sc

hool forward.

The trend set by the forerunners in the PTA and SDS put their successors on the correct track and we owe a duty to remember those great sincere and devoted leaders of our Society. To mention a few names the late K. Visvalingam, Dr K. Velayuthapillai, S. K. Mahesan and S. Patkunam, the latter functioned as the Vice Principal for several years and also as Acting Principal.

He was the live wire of the activities of the school and worked as a catalyst to encourage the parents and the Old Boys’ Association to take an active role.

In early seventies, K. S. Mahesan had functioned as the Secretary of the Parent-Teacher Association which later became the School Development Society (SDS). K. Sivagananathan (well known Banker), Barrister-at-Law K. Nadarajah, Mr. and Mrs. S. Gulasingham, P. Kathiravelu, Prof P. Poologasingham, E. Ratnam, P. Kathiravelu, Mr. and Mrs. V. Kailasapillai, V. Ratnasabapathy (who later became Principal of Sri Lanka Law College) were some of the stalwarts of the SDS. I have already mentioned K. Viswalingam’s role. M. Arunasalam (an officer of the Ministry of Industries), T. Kandasamy who was an officer of the Education Department, K. Ramanathan (of Buildings Department), S. Tharmarajah (of Mascons Limited), and M. Balasubramaniam (Customs Officer), had performed the onerous task of the Secretary of the SDS those days.

Communal riots

Balasubramaniam was succeeded by A. P. Gnanasundaram in June 1986. In June 1987 I had to take the responsibility as the Secretary of the SDS.

Having continued in that position for three years I had to carry the same responsibility for another spell of three years after taking a break of five months in 1990.

The 1983 communal riots caused a temporary set-back to this school. However, due to the courage exhibited in action by the then Principal, T. Sankaralingam with the able assistance of his deputy S. Patkunam, whose efficiency was at par excellence in the time of crisis helped a number of refugees who took shelter in the school.

Dr K. Velauthapillai and A. Visvalingam who were two lieutenants of the SDS are the two names still remembered by those who suffered in time of crisis. Arrangements were made to conduct classes temporarily at R.C.T.M.

School at Bambalapitya for about 400 students who remained in Colombo with 27 teachers who were available. Classes up to 8th standard were held at that school. Arrangements were made to have other classes at Isipathana Maha Vidyalaya. Patkunam worked tirelessly to make those temporary arrangements. In January 1984, the school restarted to work as normal but with about 300 which number arose to 1,000 in a few months and it was the next year 1985 when I began my association with this school as my eldest son had just been admitted.

In June 1985, T. Sangaralingam who was really disappointed with and disgusted by the consequences of the unfortunate communal riots of 1983 went abroad on leave and thereafter retired after serving the school as its principal for several years. T. Sangaralingam is always commended for his services in developing this school.

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