Re-visiting PWC


May 7, 2016

The great philanthropist Sir Charles Henry De Soysa’s dream of building two schools for children in Moratuwa and naming those as Prince and Princess of Wales to commemorate the visit of Edward VII (Prince of Wales at the time) to Colombo in 1875 came true when permission was granted to his request by the British authorities. Consequently, on September 14, 1876, Sir William Gregory, the Governor of Sri Lanka, graced the occasion by officially opening the new seats of learning on a picturesque 15 acre land facing the Galle Road on one side and bordering the Lunawa lagoon on the other.

As a mark of commemoration of his great service, March 3 has been named as PWC Founder’s Day (Flag Day) where students in pairs went around Moratuwa town selling flags, proceeds of which went towards the building fund of the College.

Flag sales

It was the time when the late  Mr.A.P.M. Peiris, was our Middle School Head Master, who called boys in pairs to his office and allocated tills to collect money out of the flag sales with instructions to return the collection on the following morning.

I was paired up with a classmate, and I had to be accountable for the ‘filled up’ till at the end of the day. After a full day’s roaming on the streets and being thoroughly exhausted, I went home entrusting my mate to bring the sealed container with the day’s collection to school on the following morning, which he completely ‘forgot’! This naturally forced me into an embarrassing situation to face the Head Master. Being a nervous wreck, I avoided the Head Master for a week, while exerting pressure on my ‘partner’ to return the till, but to no avail!

To cut a long story short, that collection never reached the headmaster or me, and I continued to shiver with a self-reproach. Head Master may have known that some ‘hanky panky’ had taken place but never made an issue out of it, so as  not to embarrass me, yet I had to live with the guilt ever since. To this day, I am bamboozled to find out what on earth happened to the missing till! Did my classmate actually forget every time I pressurised him to bring it back……? Or was it a case of procrastination, which led to an embarrassing stage where it became too late to return…….? Or did he really play foul remained a mystery!

English medium class

Even after I left College, the sequence of numerous activities seemed to have continued for a while as the teachers remained the same despite rotation of students.

An Old Cambrian who happened to be in the final English medium class recollects how some of the students were confused at the time when there was a sudden switch over to English to do science subjects ( being the final year for science), as  the education system took a nose dive. The problem was that many students who had done science in Sinhala right throughout now having to switch over to  English  in the science class overnight in the prep class.

Those who were taught  Science in Sinhala  up to Grade 8 apparently had some  difficulty with the language as they  were caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea. Despite the  fact that Indian staff  were proficient in their work they could not speak a word of Sinhala.  The Sinhala teacher who took over to teach science subjects  in English was fluent in English and Sinhala both, and  could in a difficulty explain anything in Sinhala as well.

However, looking back at that era some students would admit today that it was in fact a blessing in disguise  that they had to switch over to English, though it was hard at first, and praise the Sinhala teacher’s stance at that time because, although it was tough and strenuous to cope at first, those students who  were not proficient in English somehow managed  to  brush up with English with the help of the Sinhala teacher within three months.

Old Cambrians

It is with such memories that some of the old Cambrians today pay tribute to that Sinhala teacher for taking a firm stand at the time,  however ‘unpalatable’ it appeared then.

An old Cambrian praising the Sinhala teacher, reminisces how on the very first day of the Zoology master walked into the classroom and wrote a sentence on the blackboard (‘Characteristics of living things’), which sent many to the ‘orbit’. The full-size word ‘Characteristics’ had appeared completely as Greek to  some of the class! Those students who were in that particular Zoology class, and struggled with English are well to do professionals today and leading comfortable lives while working abroad, and  are able to say, “Thank you Sir, for everything. We   learnt  many things from you both in Zoology and everything else, particularly English, outside the perimeters of the classroom”.

A lecturer’s ability to part with his/her vast knowledge to students on the subject he teaches depends not only on his academic skills and qualifications alone, but to a greater extent vibrant personality of the lecturer helps to hold a whole class glued to his tutoring. In this respect some of our favourite teachers have been able to achieve their aim by garnishing lectures with a bit of wit and humour to make any important area or a lesson glued to the grey matter in students’ heads with good-humored illustrations.

The most popular teacher happened to be a bachelor who was a thorough gentleman, always smartly dressed in immaculate white. His lectures were effective and entertaining. Most of the time he had a habit of facing the blackboard and scratching his shirt at the back and laughing to himself even while writing something on the blackboard to demonstrate.

Popular lecturer

Out of all  our Science subjects , Zoology lessons appealed to the pubertal lot, especially when the area of reproduction was explained – from Amoeba to the human. It was in such an occasion that the Zoology master managed to aggravate  students’ hormone levels to a pitch when he touched on the subject of mammary glands of females.

The teacher gracefully accommodated any related question pertaining to the subject matter in a professional manner without making it either too serious or a joke. Such skills and qualities appealed to  the students, which made him as an extremely popular lecturer – that is the reason why we talk about him even today!

Either being completely naive about the structure, development and its functions of the female body, other than feeding milk by mothers to offspring, one pupil exceeded the limits of his enquiry by trying to be over dramatic  and clever student came up with some irrelevant questions. Immediately the teacher shut him up with his usual smile by saying, ‘Get hold of a good looking female and examine!.”

A roar of laughter put an end to any further questioning!

PS: Reproduced in tilaksblog

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