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SJC marks 125 years of excellence

24 September 2020 01:21 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In the 19th century, when colonialism shaped Sri Lanka’s education sector, the then Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Dr. Christopher Bonjean developed the idea of establishing a Catholic educational institution in Colombo. 

 

However the Archbishop couldn’t see his idea become a reality as he passed away before construction work of the institute concluded. But Rev. Frs. Charles Collin and Charles Lyntten ensured this idea turned into a reality in 1896. Thus St. Joseph’s College (SJC) was born and has gone on strong for 125 years; gifting Sri Lanka a large number of products to be proud of.


The school principal, or Rector of the College, Rev. Fr. Ranjith Andradi announced at a press conference recently that SJC had already commenced its 125th anniversary celebrations. “We would have begun the anniversary celebrations earlier, but COVID-19 made us remain silent,” Fr. Andradi said.


Fr. Andradi said that SJC had undertaken some unique projects to mark its 125th year. “The school has decided to document its history and heritage. For this we have commissioned lawyer and a distinguished old boy Neil Wijeratne who is a writer of repute. This piece of literature is expected to be completed in 2021,”Fr. Andradi said.


The other projects that have been earmarked to enhance the 125th anniversary celebrations include the construction of a four-storey building which will be named the ‘Legoc Peter Pillai Complex’, the introduction of smart boards to Grades 11 and 12, the restoration of the college chapel back to its former glory, refurbishing the clock tower building which is the first building in the college, modernising the middle and upper school libraries, the construction of a new scout den and the painting of all school buildings. According to Fr. Andradi the new four-storey building would include indoor cricket nets and lodging facilities for children visiting from outside Colombo.


Having opened in March 1896, a new building was set up in the school in 1933. In the 1930s science subjects were introduced to the curriculum. The college buildings were taken over by the military in 1940 with the outbreak of World War II. However the school continued to function with branches in Homagama, Kelaniya, Gampaha and Borella. On 30 July 1952 the swimming pool was opened by then Governor General Lord Soulbury. 


The school went through some uncertainty with the government’s schools takeover, and became a private non fee-levying school. This was a challenging time, and then Rector Fr. Don Peter founded the school welfare association. In 1979 a scheme was begun to pay incentives to teachers based on punctuality, attendance and good teaching. The institution flourished over the years and ended up having branches in Negombo and Enderamulla.


Throughout its 125 year history SJC has produced eminent personalities locally and globally. These include the late Cardinal Thomas Cooray the first Sri Lankan Cardinal, Member of the European Parliament and House of Commons Niranjan Devaditiya, Archbishop Oswald Gomis, lyricist and artiste and Ramon Magsay prize-winner the late Fr. Marcelline Jayakody. SJC also produced the second Executive President of Sri Lanka the late Ranasinghe Premadasa and other politicians like John Amaratunga, Harin Fernando, the late K. W. Devanyagam and Neomal Perera. It has produced legal personalities like former Chief Justice Priyasad Dep and sportsmen like Chaminda Vaas, Angelo Mathews, Tisara Perera, Iran Daniels, Michael Vandort, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Roshen Silva. The school boasts of former Rectors like the late Fr. Maurice Legoc a renowned botanist of yesteryear who was able to save the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi in Anurdhapura from dying and  the  late Fr. Don Peter who had penned several children’s books and late Fr. Peter A. Pillai.

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