Vivekananda College celebrates its 95th anniversary on March 24
There are few things nobler than teaching children the necessary skills and inculcating in them the values that will make them useful and responsible citizens. This is why when an institution dedicated to moulding such citizens has done so for almost a century it is something that all citizens can and should celebrate, whether or not they attended the particular school.
The Vivekananda College founded 95 years ago and during British Rule, was the first Hindu school that was set up in Colombo with the purpose of uplifting education in the island.
It was birthed thanks to the efforts of Swami Vipulanandar and Swami Sachithanandan on the 24th of March 1926 and drew its Principal inspiration from the historic visit to the island by that great spiritual leader of India, Swami Vivekananda in 1897.
The first Principal of the school was K. Arunachalam and the first manager of the school was Arunachalam Mahadeva.
Swami Vivekananda’s views on education can be encapsulated by the dictum, ‘become a good human being – make a good human being’. The motto of the school (“Be and Make”) drew from this thought while the school song, authored by Ponnambalam speaks of bringing together energy, education and wisdom.
The school admitted both girls and boys from its inception. In 1953 and 1963 the school began preparing students for the O/L and A/L exams respectively. Shortly afterwards, i.e. in 1967, the school was able to produce its first university entrant. All this, it must be remembered, happened at a time when the school was relatively impoverished in terms of physical facilities. The lack of classrooms was a major problem.
However, undeterred by this, the students and teachers decided to have classes in the evenings as well in order to circumvent this problem. These evening classes, which commenced in 1954, were an integral part of the educational programme until very recently.
In recent years problems such as the lack of electricity and buildings were resolved. However, it is interesting that the school recorded what is widely held as its Golden Age (1972 to 1983) amidst these problems. That was the time of Principal Maheshan. He dedicated himself to the development of the school. He worked tirelessly, day and night, and also obtained the help of people in the neighbourhood, even going on house-to-house campaigns on occasion.
The school formed an Eastern Girls’ Band in 1978. The band distinguished itself and brought much honour to the school at the World Hindu Congress held in Sri Lanka and when the King of Nepal visited the island. This was also the only girls’ band representing Tamil schools during ceremonies to fete Queen Elizabeth when she visited Sri Lanka in 1981.
It was in 1990 that a temple dedicated to God Ganesh was built in the school premises with the intention of creating an environment that was conducive to religious activity. One of the most significant developments as far as the school is concerned was it being recognized as a ‘National School’ in the year 1996.
In this school where Sinhala and Muslim teachers share the staff room with their Tamil colleagues, there is was one exceptional educator. W.C. Fernando who joined the tutorial staff of the school in the early eighties retired as a Deputy Principal, a unique distinction for a Sinhala teacher in a Tamil school.
Today under the leadership of Principal Chandrasekar Ravichandrika the school has a student population of 2,200. There are 103 teachers. There are both Tamil as well as English medium classes in all grades. Those who perform best at examinations in all subjects in all grades are rewarded at the Annual Prize Giving and this has been a great incentive that has spurred all students to constantly strive to do better in their studies.Finally, let me add, on a personal note, that as a child of Vivekananda College it is a matter of great pride for me to pen these lines about my alma mater as she celebrates 95 years.
-Suresh Kumar Pena (Past Pupil)