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Old 23-08-20, 01:29 PM
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Default Mr. S.L.A. Rathnayake (1964-1985)

Mr. S.L.A. Rathnayake (1964-1985)

When a small village school at the top of a hill with a 14-member staff teaching 280 students in temporary
structures made of timber becomes a grade one collegiate school spreading itself imposingly and
impressively upon the landscape, bearing within its lofty portals almost a thousand students excelling in the
fields of education and sports it would indeed remain throughout the ages as a monument to what the
indomitable human spirit is capable of achieving.
If Samuel Louis Alexander Ratnayake, better know as S.L.A. reflected on how he might serve humanity,
when as a school but he cycled from Boralesgamuwa where he lived, to Christian College, Kotte, (whose
Principal, Revd. Canon A.C. Houlder he later succeeded, being the first Old Boy Principal) if he vaguely
dreamt of showing men the meaning of fine character, conduct and discipline, if he prayed for courage and
faith to fight with his back to the wall and to mount the seemingly insurmountable; his dreams came true
and his prayers were answered.
Ratnayake, who served for 58 years as an educationist, of which 49 were as Principal, was an outstanding student of Wesley College
where he studied from 1924 to 1928. He passed out first in the London Matriculation for which he was awarded the distinguished Hill
medal for the most outstanding student of the year.
It is hardly likely that S.L.A. indulged in Hamlet-like procrastinations of ?to be or not to be?, for he had inherited his vocation from his
father a Headmaster, and his mother a dedicated teacher. The only teachers Training College in the island took an annual batch of 40. In
1933, S.L.A. was one of them. When he passed out the Principal of the Training College handed young Ratnayake two 3 rupee
increments (added to his Rs. 10/- salary) together with his certificate.
He has since served as Principal of Christ Church Boys? School, Baddegama (1935) member of staff and later Headmaster of the Training
colony run by the Anglican Church, Principal in the Central Colleges of Passara and Bibile, and Principal Gadaladeniya Senior School
which later became the Pilimatalawa Senior School. Under his guidance the school trebled in size and developed into one of the best
schools in the Kandy region. Meanwhile Ratnayake graduated from London University. After being promoted as grade one principal, he
went on to his old school, Christian College. Under his guidance and inspiration the College produced the Public Schools Athletics and
Decathlon champions and sent a team of athletes to India. The tenure of his office coincided with the heyday of that great C.M.S.
educational institution.
On May 1st, 1964, Ratnayake retired from government service and took charge of St. Thomas? Prep. School, Bandarawela, where he
served as Headmaster for 21 years. From the time S.L.A. came over to the Prep. School, he began to work with unflinching devotion for
its upliftment. Year by year the school began to expand. It also came to be increasingly known throughout the island as an educational
institution par excellence. While the school held an unique record of 100% passes in successive G.C.E. ?O? Level examinations, it also
became inter collegiate badminton champions for several years running. Young Thomians graduating from S.T.C.S. Bandarawela were
gentlemen well equipped for life and work.
Battling against the lack of financial resources, Ratnayake strove tirelessly to build what has come to be one of Sri Lanka?s greatest
educational institutions. When he left after 21 years of labour, there remained only 3 of the buildings that stood before his time. The
additions being new and extended kindergarten and middle school blocks and hostels, an impressive Keble Memorial Hall built in
appreciation of the founder of the school, W.T. Keble, and to crown it all, a gigantic gymnasium and indoor sports complex the only one
of its kind in any college in the island.
The retirement and passing on of S.L.A. who drew from over half a century of experience removed from the contemporary field of
education one of its greatest contributors. Not only the young Thomians but also their parents have been generous in their encomiums
showered on their late beloved master. They have indicated to his wife Constance (who was a constant source of support and
encouragement to him) how much they owed to their old Headmaster - a paragon of discipline, integrity and affection, whom they
respected and loved. They recognized that within his strict countenance and firm exterior was a heart of gentle care and genuine
concern. He rejoiced with the success of his students and staff and shared deeply in their sorrows. He adeptly interwove teacher, student
and parent into an effective partnership in the school he lovingly nurtured and tended ? a partnership that helped build a healthy
community ? a community with a true national perspective and understanding. He drew inspiration from, was motivated by, and had
constant recourse to the Word of God, recognizing and imparting the truth that, ?The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.?
Would that we had more men of his caliber ? great gentlemen of education, men of substance, who never succumbed to the attraction of
riches of station, of power or pride, who could not yield to the pressures of power or influence, men with unswerving dedication to the
simple yet deep confidence in God and man. It is in the hands of such men alone to redeem our educational system from the maimed
and maligned state it often manifests itself in and restore to our beloved country the mobility, which once robed the teaching profession
and bolster the sagging standards of life and discipline in our land.
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