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Old 22-10-20, 03:53 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Some Reflections on the Late Mr Mandawela

Some Reflections on the Late Mr Mandawela

Mr G.K. Mandawela was on the staff at S Thomas' College, Mt Lavinia
from June 1959 to August 1980. At various points during this time
Mr Manadawela held a range of responsibilities, amongst others-Chief
Librarian, College Boarding Master, Master in Charge of the Rifle
Shooting Club, Master in Charge of STC OBA celebrations-PT
Display, Master in Charge of The Royal Thomian Cricket Match Boys
Tent, Master in Charge of The Royal Thomian Cricket Match Souvenir
and President, STC Tutorial Staff Trade Union.
However he was best known as the Officer in Charge of the Junior and
Senior Cadet Corp whilst also holding the rank of Lieutenant- Ceylon
Volunteer Force. During this time he helped mould two Army
Commanders, one Air Force Commander, one Army Chief of Staff,
one Air Force Chief of Staff, one Commander of joint operations and a number of other Generals
and ranking officers in the Armed Forces. He was also the Master in charge of Physical Training
from 1960 to 1977. With the reputation of being a stern disciplinarian he was Master in Charge
of discipline at important College functions during much of his tenure.
Much has been written about his service in these roles so I would like to share more personal
reflections about Mr. Mandawela who was a teacher I grew to respect and greatly admire during
my time as a student at College between 1963-1974.
My first real encounter with Mr Mandawela was when I was in the Middle School, more
specifically 5Th Form in 1969. He caught me misbehaving and the outcome was that I had to
report to him outside the Cadet Room straight after school. The punishment was predictable and
he made me run several laps of the Big Club grounds with a fairly heavy military backpack. I
was moderately fit in those days and I took particular pride in showing him that I was not too
puffed at the end of it. This was a big mistake! With steely eyes and firm voice he asked a rhetorical
question ?so you think you are tough, do you?? He then had me leap frogging around the oval
complete with backpack. Needless to say I did not even complete a lap before keeling over and I
could barely walk for about two weeks!
During my time as a Junior Cadet I was once rushing off to parade and bumped into Mr Mandawala
and, as was etiquette, I saluted him. He stopped me and said ?Mather, that is how you wave
goodbye to your grandmother at a railway station. This is a salute? and promptly demonstrated a
salute that could only be likened to a whip being cracked and made me replicate it several times
till he was satisfied that I was no longer disgracing my uniform!
The time I really got to know Mr Mandawela was in the Upper Sixth during our O/L year. I was
in the Arts stream and we were traditionally housed in the Arts block that was very convenient for
boarders particularly those of us who were in Copleston House. We had run wild the year before
and the first sign that this had clearly been noticed by the Warden Ananadanayam was that we
were relocated to the main block. The second was when our new class master walked in and there
was a large collective gasp as we saw it was Mr Mandawela. That was no coincidence!

What followed next however was worthy of a Human Resource Management case study at a
Business School. Despite our track record there were no discussions about our past behaviours
or discipline. In many subtle ways he got across that he simply assumed we would do all the right
things and what was expected of us. Make no mistake, we were an out of control bunch of
ragamuffins the year before but it was amazing how the whole class rose to meet those
expectations. He treated us with absolute courtesy throughout that year and was very polite in his
interactions with us and his wry sense of humour livened our class. It must be made clear that that
the hard man had not suddenly got soft on us. I recall leaving class early to make the team bus as
I was in the U17s and it was the Royal Thomian Rugby game. He collared me as I was leaving
the main block and reprimanded me very firmly for not advising him that morning that I would be
missing the last two periods that day. I will never forget, however, that the first thing he did the
next Monday morning was to ask me what the scores were and how it all went. This was one of
the biggest school games of the season, was widely reported in the newspapers and radio so he
clearly knew the outcomes of the games. It took me a while to realize that that he was sending me
a message that Friday?s events were dealt with and we were back to normal.
Notwithstanding my initial trepidation, the Upper Sixth was one of my most enjoyable years at
College. My respect and fondness for Mr Mandawela grew exponentially that year. It was, at a
more personal level, a difficult time for me and I was singularly fortunate to be blessed with such
an amazing and strong role model who gave me a sense of stability that year. I was appointed a
Librarian the following year and I was fortunate to be able continue my association with Mr
Mandawela until I left College in 1974.
As the head of a large business school people management (academics and students) is an
important part of my role and I often reflect on the lessons I learnt by observing Mr Mandawala
over 40 years ago. First, that however ?tough? you may be, if you are seen to be fair and that
none of it is personal, people will respect you. Second and most important-have high expectations
and expect the best from people and they will often rise to meet those expectations. There is of
course now management theory that espouses much of the above. However, I was fortunate to
learn these lessons from a very humble man who never read about these theories but was a natural
leader of men.Wealth, career and fame are pretty meaningless in comparison to having such a
positive impact on people and being able to help mould generations of young people as Mr
Mandawela did in an exemplary manner. The Scholarship fund that has been created is a fitting
tribute to a great man who devoted his life to our fine institution. Through this he will live on, not
just in us his former students, but in future generations of Thomians.
Well done sir and I thank you for the impact you had on my life and the lives of numerous fellow
Thomians. I will always be able to picture you walking into our class ramrod erect, immaculately
dressed and with shoes polished and shining in true military tradition. For the one last time I salute
you. However, this salute is ?not all about the elbow? as you once instructed me but is from the
heart and I hope I have got it right this time.
Esto Perpetua
P.R. Mather (1963-74)

www.STCOBAAust.org.au THOMIANA Volume 19 Issue 1

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