French Ambassador Eric Lavertu awarded Chevalier to Prof. Gunasekera
Niroshini Gunasekera, the Professor of French at the Department of Modern Languages of the University of Kelaniya, was awarded the Chevalier title by the French Government in April 2019.
The French Government, through the French Embassy in Sri Lanka, awarded Niroshini the Knighthood: Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques, which is an academic distinction for the services rendered to French language and culture. Niroshini developed a love for French at the age of 14 when she got a French-English-French Dictionary from a friend of her father’s.
Her mother spoke to the then Principal of Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo where Niroshini was a student and suggested to the Principal, Madam Kalyani de Soyza that she could find a French teacher for the school if she agreed to have a Languages stream in school.
The Principal readily agreed and that was how, Devi Balika Vidyalaya started having a Languages Stream with 7 girls.
Niroshini then entered the University of Kelaniya and studied French. Parallely, she also learnt French at Alliance française de Colombo which was then situated at Ward Place, Colombo 7.
When she graduated in 1990, the Head of the Department of that time, Professor Sarath Amunugama, based on the final examination results that she obtained, requested her to join the academic staff as a temporary lecturer. That was the beginning of a long career.
She says that when she sees her former students excelling in their career as French teachers, she feels like a grand-mother. “At the University, I am teaching the students of my former students who are teachers today”. “I get on fine with the young crowd. I think, teaching at a university keeps you young, because I feel quite young,” she said with a laugh.
Niroshini says that there are a few people that she should thank, thanks to whom she is what she is today: her parents who guided her, her brother Thusitha, her husband Janaka, her two children, Chamath and Tharu, Professor Amunugama and France.
“Every time I go to France, it’s a new experience to me. I always take a photo of the board, ‘Les aéroports de Paris vous souhaitent le Bienvenu (Paris Airports Welcome You).”