Entrance to the Training College was through a competitive examination known as the Government Teachers’ Training College Entrance Examination. I sat for the examination and was successful and after being interviewed by the Principal, Mr. S.F.de Silva, I was selected. The training course was for a period of two years.
It was in February, 1952 that I walked in through the famous portals of the Government Training College, Maharagama to start my teaching career as a trained teacher. There were about 125 students in my batch, both males and females. The Men’s as well as the Women’s hostel were on the same premises, separated by a barbed wire fence.
The very next day after the new batch arrived, we were ‘ragged’. It was all done in pure fun, with no malice whatsoever. It was more or less, the second year students, trying to get acquainted with the newcomers. I remember we had a Beauty Parade, refreshments consisting of grass- filled sandwiches and sweets made of poonac. A few of the newcomers developed stomach pains, after partaking of these delicacies. Eventually, it forged a great camaraderie between the second years and the freshers.
Our lecturers were a class by themselves. Almost all of them have gone to their eternal reward. It’s not surprising, since the students they lectured to at GTC are all octogenarians or nonagenarians themselves now- most of them have reached their journey’s end
Our lecturers were a class by themselves. Almost all of them have gone to their eternal reward. It’s not surprising, since the students they lectured to at GTC are all octogenarians or nonagenarians themselves now- most of them have reached their journey’s end. We had many outstanding lecturers. Some of the names that come to my mind are Mr. S.F. de Silva, who was the Principal and Mr. C.N.C. Jayawardena, Vice Principal, Mr. D.G. Sugathadasa, Mr. W.M.A. Warnasuriya, Mr. S. Wanigatunga, Mr. R. Thenabadu, Mr. Douglas Walatara, Mr. Wijewardena, Mr. Abegunasekera, Mr. Thangarajah, Mr. Karalakulasingham, Mr. Tambimuttu, Mr. Duncan White, Mr. Saranagupta Amerasinghe, Miss. Damayanthi Dunuwille, Mr. T.U.de Silva, Mr. Leslie Handunge, Mrs. Geddes, Mrs. Snell, Mrs. De Mel, Mrs. Pate, Miss. O. Perera, Miss. Davidson and Mr. Edwards. Our Hostel Superintendent was Mrs. Weerasinghe ably assisted by Mrs. Thalgodapitiya.
The students were a harmonious mixture of all nationalities. Looking back on those far-off days one remembers not so much the lectures and the routine work, but the little pranks and escapades-like a few of us cutting lectures to go and watch a movie. These may sound silly and school girlish today but in the context of 66 years ago, they were most daring as well as enjoyable. Life at GTC was full of fun, frolic and study. The teaching methods then were quite different from those that apply today. We had a Dieting Committee consisting of both male and female students. The committee had to do the marketing and they provided us with all the meals. We paid. Rs.30/= per month which was a big amount 66 years ago. I don’t think you can get a cup of milk tea for Rs.30/= now.
I made many close friends during the 2 years at GTC. Kusuma Alles, Catherine Amerasinghe and Chandra Peiris were my bosom pals. Only Catherine and I are left out of the Quartet. Many romances blossomed in the college. Some lasted a short time, while others lasted till they left college and got married. The A1 classroom and the Catchment Area were the usual haunts of the courting couples.
I have vivid memories of those GTC days. We went on many educational tours, including the 7 days All island trip. The year 1952 turned out to be a very eventful one GTC celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a number of activities. There was a grand educational exhibition. The celebrations began with a ceremonial procession. If I remember right, Minister P.B.G. Kalugalle was the Chief Guest at the ceremony. It was just after I joined GTC, that King George VI died and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth was held on February 6.
All too soon, the year 1952 drew to an end. The second years were leaving GTC and there were many sad farewell. Parting was such sweet sorrow, especially for the lovelorn couples.
In February 1953 the Freshers arrived and the usual rag was held. It is with nostalgic memories that I recall the halcyon days and the wonderful times, we had at GTC. We, as secondary trained teachers were able to maintain the high standards we imbibed at GTC over six and a half decades ago. The secondary trained teachers who passed out of GTC were an indispensable, capable group of teachers, who were not confined only to classroom work, but they were also the backbone of Maha Vidyalayas and Madhya Maha Vidyalayas, where they were in charge of Cadetting, Scouting, Guiding, Athletics, Cricket, Football, Netball and other activities, like drawing up timetables, working in the library etc.
Because of the all-round capabilities of the secondary trained teachers, they were appointed as Supervisors at the GCE examinations and also as Marking examiners. They were competent to teach English as well as subjects like Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Advanced Maths and Applied Maths in Sinhala, for the first time.
Alas! The Government Teachers’ Training College, Maharagama is no more. It has been relegated to history and secondary trained teachers trained at Maharagama GTC are a vanishing tribe. Those halcyon days will never come back and only nostalgic memories of those good, old days remain fresh in our minds.