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Rahula College, Matara:

Ninety years past a stigma neutralized

The year was 1923, when British colonialism was at its peak. English as a language was dominating the national fabric of Ceylon in every respect and at all levels, from South to North and East to West. So was the case, not only in the public service and the private sector, but also in the homes of a wide Ceylonese community following British tradition, in preference to the indigenous cultures and oriental practices. In the tip of the Southern Province, beyond Galle, hardly could the upcoming generation match these trends without a properly streamlined English education, as was enjoyed by the more fortunate children in and around many other cities of the country.

Bridging the gap

This stigma primarily became the vision of a noble man called F Gordon Pearce - himself a British, who was the principal of Mahinda College, Galle-one of Ceylon’s best known educational institutions of the day.Pearce propelled himself into action to bridge this gap in terms of English education, between Sinhala children in Matara and those in Galle.

He spoke to a group of philanthropists from Ruhuna to start a school in Matara with the prime objective of teaching English. They organised themselves as the Matara Buddhist Education Society (MBES), with the popular notary public D T W Rajapaksha as the Secretary, and founded Parakramabahu School in a small building rented out for the purpose on the Main Street, Matara.

Great generosity

Pearce in his unparalleled magnanimity offered to release one of his most committed and dedicated senior teachers called Willimas de silva as the principal of the new school. Williams de silva earned the respect of all Southerners then, for the sacrifice he made and risk he took, by giving up his well-established position in Mahinda College to pioneer a small unregistered school in Matara.

The Business and industrial magnate of Matara,C A Odiris de Silva and his family with great generosity offered their valuable property called Siriwardena Watte where the famous Saram Walawwa was located, to shift Parakramabahu School to a more spacious premises. With the shift in the location, there was also the shift in the name, Parakramabahu School becoming Rahula Vidyalaya. With these major historical events,Rahula was attracting more and more children, but it somehow remained unregistered with the Education Department.

Extending his hand

The department, manned by some highest elements of bureaucracy, instead of recognising the need for the new school, threatened the parents to take them to courts for sending their children to an unregistered school. The much-disturbed leadership of the MBES, appealed to the then legislative council member Forrester Obeysekara for assistance.

The white skinned director of education asked Obeysekera “Why Rahula, when there are other schools in Matara for the children to learn English?” and the matter ended there.

The good Samaritan Gordan Pearce, who was then resident in India, and extended his hand of assistance again to Rahula, and through the new director of education McRay,he was able to register Rahula Vidyalaya with the government as an Assisted School.

Role of Rahula

With the major hurdles thus cleared, there was no looking back for Rahula. Year after Year, Chapters and Chapters were written on innumerable epoch making events that took place within its precints to the delight of its worthy pioneers. Achievements of Rahula and its students in the past 90 years have been numerous, multi-faceted and remarkable. Many of them have become indelible in the national horizon due to more than one reason. Products of Rahula, with or without graduation at higher echelons of education, have dominated with considerable impact a variety of areas ranging from academic fields such as Engineering, Medicine, Law and Crafts, through industries, Business and Trade, Sports and Politics and Several others.

Rahulites are active today in all places and in all fields, within Sri Lanka as well as in many countries of the world.The role of Rahula and the Rahulites was succinctly translated into a few words by the Principal, Gurudeva D J Kumarage who masterminded the renaissance of Rahula in 1937 and worked relentlessly for the glory of the school, as well for the well being of the students, until he retired in 1956. He wrote “ it may not be possible for every student to become a government official or a member of the learned profession, But it is possible for everyone to become an honest, disciplined and useful citizen, living at peace with himself, and his fellow human beings, and thereby fulfill the purpose of life.”

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