It is a rare opportunity that a student gets to write about his teacher on his 100th birth anniversary. He was our teacher 51 years ago. But to this day he, and what he taught us is strongly etched in our minds. That is why it is such an honour for me to write about him and the influence he had on generations of Thomians.
|No sooner he enters the classroom the class is silent. The class was ready to receive him. He never had to raise his voice to get us to focus. For a teacher to receive such acceptance is incredible
|The lesser-known fact is that he is a fabulous artist. His visual aid to the lesson was what he drew on the blackboard. And that is how he kept our attention glued to the lesson. His dedication to teaching is indeed exceptional
|He was simple, friendly and affectionate. His priority was teaching and his personal life was secondary. Sadly, for present-day teachers that priority order has been reversed
|We need teachers as well as leaders who could instil great human values such as integrity, honesty and self-respect in order to establish true discipline
|He made every attempt to teach everything he knew. He used creative methods to get into the lesson. What the present-day development theorists call ‘edutainment’ is exactly what Mr. Ahubudu practiced
|It is indeed an honour to appreciate a teacher who has lived a simple but exemplary life. For all the teaching and guidance he has given us I cannot thank him enough
Clad in the white national dress, one might think how odd it may have been for him to be a teacher at STC. He was small in stature, a Sinhala scholar, a Buddhist and a patriot. During our school career, we come across varied types of teachers. Often all these teachers used their voice to control or bring the class to attention. In the case of Mr. Arisen Ahubudu, he had nurtured and developed his own style of bringing the class to attention. He did not need any words or sounds or even gestures I can still see in my mind’s eye, how he would walk into our classroom. No sooner he enters the classroom the class is silent. The class was ready to receive him. He never had to raise his voice to get us to focus. For a teacher to receive such acceptance is incredible. One can imagine how boisterous a class of young Thomians would have been. And his influence has lasted over fifty years.
Commitment to educate
Looking back, I realised that his duty was to impart knowledge. He made every attempt to teach everything he knew. He used creative methods to get into the lesson. What the present-day development theorists call ‘edutainment’ is exactly what Mr. Ahubudu practised. Because he knew that if you kindled the interest of the student you have achieved 75% of your teaching job; the remaining 25% was the imparting of the information.
There were several ways in which he greeted us; ‘iqN WoEikla’‘wdhqfndjka’ (Suba Udasanak’ ‘Ayubowan) were some of them. Soon after, he picks up a piece of chalk and draws pictures from one end to the other of the wall-to-wall blackboard, which he completes within minutes. The lesser-known fact is that he is a fabulous artist. His visual aid to the lesson was what he drew on the blackboard. And that is how he kept our attention glued to the lesson. His dedication to teaching is indeed exceptional.
Subtle messaging – ‘Respect the Dead’
I distinctly remember how he narrated the story about the final confrontation between kings Elara and Dutugemunu. The story did not end with Elara being killed. (He could have done so). But he narrated how King Dutugemunu made it a law that anyone passing the tomb of Late King Elara should pay respect. Today we are debating in parliament whether the final rites of Muslims should be allowed according to Islam or not due to COVID-19. We bring in Court orders disallowing Tamils to remember their loved ones who died in the war. Today we as a nation have forgotten to respect the dead. But to us who has listened to our dear teacher, there is absolutely no debate about respecting the dead. That is how powerful the message was when he narrated this historical event.
Patriotism is not Racism
He was the one who sowed the very first seeds of patriotism in our minds. His vision on patriotism was all about being community-minded. The heroes of his stories epitomized this vision. He was able to strike that fine balance in his stories by highlighting the exemplary character traits of these heroes and heroines and not just giving a false sense of pride of being Sinhalese. Even when he told us stories about the fight against the British Empire, he instilled no anger or animosity in our minds. He knew his audience was hundred percent teenagers. Boys of a very impressionable age. So he was careful not to allow us to misconceive the idea of nationalism. He also introduced the concept of farming for self-sustenance to us. This was the time that Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government was promoting Sri Lanka produce called ‘j.d ,xld j.d ix.%duh’ (‘Waga Lanka Waga Sangramaya’)and Mr. Ahubudu’s contribution was immense in this regard. He made us understand the importance of agriculture and taught us to love and respect the farmer.
Wealth of Knowledge
He gave us much more than the syllabus or the prescribed subject matter. Today, a teacher will not go beyond the subject matter for two reasons; one is because he or she would not know anything more than their own subject, the other is that they do not care that much about the students. Mr. Arisen Ahubudu went above and beyond his line of duty to give us more.
He was a different type of character; non-threatening and soft-spoken but extremely effective as a teacher. I cannot recall a single day when he punished us. He addressed each of us as ‘oba’ (‘you’ in its mildest and most respectful form). There was no necessity to send anyone to the Warden or give any sort of punishment. The reason was not that we were great students but because he was a great teacher; great because in his presence all the students behaved well.
We need teachers as well as leaders who could instil great human values such as integrity, honesty and self-respect in order to establish true discipline. We, therefore, need teachers like Mr. Ahubudu who will teach, transfer knowledge and transform the young to be disciplined in its true sense through character building.
What he did was preparing us to become worthy citizens of Sri Lanka. Never did he tell us to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. He so generously shared with us EVERYTHING he knew. He wanted us to be good citizens. He wanted us to be better than him. He was genuinely pleased that his students have achieved more. He felt that he has done his duty well. His great contribution to the country was making his students worthy citizens. And how humble of him to acknowledge their success than to claim credit? He was always punctual. It was his way of respecting others but also being an example to others. He was simple, friendly and affectionate. His priority was teaching and his personal life was secondary. Sadly, for present-day teachers that priority order has been reversed. The present-day generation is in dire need of teachers of his calibre. We do not need teachers who will see children who are a burden. We need teachers who understand the minds and hearts of children.
A lesson for today’s teachers
Undoubtedly, the teachers of today draw a very good salary. However, at the time Mr. Ahubudu taught, salary anomalies or personal benefits never came into the school system. They may have had certain disagreements with the education or school authorities. But we never witnessed such disputes. Even if there were issues, the teachers brought them up at different fora but NEVER at the cost of children’s education. Like the health sector, the education sector too was considered noble and those who were engaged in both these areas of work understood and respected it. What he wanted and what he dedicated his life for is to ensure that the younger generation became citizens of worth. He was thus connected to his students.
‘Sirs’ on Billboards
For all the extra teaching he did, he never demanded a cent extra. Teachers of yesteryear never worked for the money. They believed in imparting knowledge and moulding characters of the students. In the case of Mr. Arisen Ahubudu, he came into this world to teach. And he did an excellent job of it. Today every town and every village have ‘sirs’ promoting their specialty subject for a fee. The Sri Lankan Education system promotes tuition in a way that it has become an unregulated business venture. The Parliament is not interested in bringing any regulations with regards to the tuition classes. In developed countries, they teach skills to children whereas we get stuck in O/Ls and A/Ls. Tuition is indeed helping students with the subjects that they are weak in. I would think that someone helping students on a one to one basis for a short period would be tuition. But what we have today is tuition classes which are catering to thousands of students in one go. When 40 students in a classroom is over-crowding and not a conducive environment for teaching and learning, what can one say about tuition classes which has over thousand students?
It is indeed an honour to appreciate a teacher who has lived a simple but exemplary life. For all the teaching and guidance he has given us I cannot thank him enough. This unparalleled educator made our childhood and our school days more memorable and colourful.
May our noble sir attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.