A mediocre teacher explains.. A great teacher inspires

Lt. Col. L. M. De Alwis

Lt. Col. L. M. De Alwis (1988 – 1998)

He was the second old boy to be appointed direct from the staff, although at the time of appointment, he had risen to the position of Head Master of the Junior School. His career right up to that position was unchequered – in some ways similar to that of Mr. C. E. Simithraaratchy, who also began his career at Trinity as a student. Mr. De Alwis, joined Trinity in 1948 as a student and had his entire school career here. In 1963, he left and was well on his way to accept a lucrative career in the commercial sector, when the call came from the then Principal, Mr. Cedrick Oorloff, to join the staff and to make a career in teaching. The request was enveloped in the finest courtesy, but in essence was a command about which there was no compromise. Recalcitrant at first, as he like so many in his days, could not resist the lure for well paid employment, which was open to young men of his calibre. He began his career as an assistant master and before long was absorbed into the total life of the school. In addition to his full time work, he was House Master, Cadet Officer and also the Master in Charge of many clubs and societies. About all these activities references have been made. While teaching in school, he qualified as a trained teacher and later obtained his Degree in Education, from the University of Hull – England.

His appointment marks a change in the position of Principal for some of the powers and authority was delegated to committees. For appointments to the staff, admissions of students and finance special committees were set up in order to advise the Principal. But the school during the period he managed was flourishing, with a considerably stable and cooperative staff. In turn there was distinct improvement in academic standards. By 1995 the number of students gaining admission to Universities had shown a one hundred percent improvement. A serious effort was made to boost up sports activity in the school. The high standards in Rugger and Hockey were well maintained, while lesser sports were given more prominence. To improve teaching skills he organised training programmes conducted by the education section of the Medical Faculty of the University of Peradeniya. These were mostly sponsored by the OBA.

It is worthy of record, that the time he took charge was probably the worst, for it was the time of the insurgency in the country and the schools were closed. The fees not having been collected there was no money for the day to day needs of the school. But he steered the school well and at the time he handed over in 1998 the finances of the school was sound. He too believed that the school must avoid unnecessary expenditure, fearing that the higher school fees would bring down the quality of students admitted. A survey conducted by MARGA, an institution specialised for this kind of work, made a startling revelation that the school which had a long history, had only 10 percent of old boys’ children. While many attributed that to the situation of the school in Kandy, away from the bigger seat of employment Colombo. The distance was not only the criteria on which old boys were dissuaded from sending their children to their alma mater, but also the high cost which too many was not within their means. Hence it was necessary for the Principal to attract more old boys’ to fall in line with some of the prestigious schools in Colombo. The details of the MARGA report will be given in the relevant section.

While one side of the coin was to reduce expenditure it was not possible to keep aloof of the historical events that made celebrations necessary. The Centenaries of Cadeting, the Old Boys and the 125th year Celebrations of the school, all three coming in intervals made the period colourful.

Although he inherited an empty chest in building activity, it was one of achievement. To complete the Wickremasinghe building, he added a 3rd storey. Of more importance, was the construction of the beautiful three storey building, between the Alison and Napier Houses. Reference has been made to the extension of the library. The beautiful administration building was begun in his days. The legacy he leaves for his alma mater is the Rugby Stadium, which was an outcome of the good rapport he had with the Executive President, His Excellency D. B. Wijethunga.

Twice during his period the school was exposed to full Education Departmental inspections. On both occasions it was revealed that the school was well managed, making it a model for all in the country to follow. His retirement, which came soon after his return from England, after a study tour, was marked as his ill timed. If his objective was to prepare the school to face the next century with its need for heavy accent on technology and simultaneously to keep the tone of the school on which it had always excelled, was amply met is now acceptable.


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