Consequently, on September 14, 1876, Sir William Gregory, the Governor of Sri Lanka, graced the occasion by officially opening the new seats of learning on a picturesque 15 acre land facing the Galle Road on one side and bordering the Lunawa lagoon on the other.
As a mark of commemoration of his great service, March 3 has been named as PWC Founder’s Day (Flag Day) where students in pairs went around Moratuwa town selling flags, proceeds of which went towards the building fund of the College.
It was the time when the late A.P.M. Peiris, was our Middle School Head Master, who called boys in pairs to his office and allocated tills to collect money out of the flag sales with instructions to return the collection on the following morning.
I was paired up with a classmate and I had to be accountable for the ‘filled up’ till at the end of the day. After a full day’s roaming on the streets and being exhausted, I went home entrusting my mate to bring the sealed container with the day’s collection to school on the following morning which he completely ‘forgot’! This naturally forced me into an embarrassing situation to face the Head Master.
Being a nervous wreck I avoided the Head Master for a week while exerting pressure on my ‘partner’ to return the till but to no avail!
To cut a long story short, that collection never reached the headmaster or me, and I continued to shiver with a self-reproach. Head Master may have known that some ‘hanky panky’ had taken place but never made an issue out of it so as to embarrass me, yet I had to live with the guilt ever since. To this day, I am bamboozled to find out what on earth happened to the missing till! Did my classmate actually forget every time I pressurised him to bring it back……? Or was it a case of procrastination which led to an embarrassing stage where it became too late to return…….? Or did he really play foul remained, a mystery!
English medium class
Even after I left College, the sequence of numerous activities seemed to have continued for a while as the teachers remained the same despite rotation of students.
An Old Cambrian who happened to be in the final English medium class, now living abroad, recollects how they were extremely happy, ‘under duress of language barrier’, to see a Sinhala teacher among several Indian Science teachers in the O/L class who could not utter a word in Sinhala, after the English education system took a nosedive in 1960.
This had affected a section of students who were caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea, especially those who had followed a Sinhala syllabus in Grade Eight having to switch over to Science in English overnight. Despite the Indian staff who could not speak Sinhala and the only Sinhala teacher who was fluent in English and Sinhala both deciding to follow suit had apparently pushed some of the students into the deep end of the education pool.
However, looking back at that era some would admit today that it was in fact a blessing in disguise and praise the Sinhala teacher’s stance at that time because, although it was hard and strenuous to cope at first, they had managed to come to grips with the English language within three months.
It is with such memories that some of the old Cambrians today pay tribute to that Sinhala teacher for taking a firm stand however ‘unpalatable’ it appeared then.
An old Cambrian praising the Sinhala teacher, reminisces how on the very first day the Zoology master walked into the classroom and wrote a sentence on the blackboard (‘Characteristics of living things’) which sent many to the ‘orbit’. The full-size word ‘Characteristics’ had appeared completely foreign to the class! Those students who were in that particular Zoology class, who are well to do professionals today and leading comfortable lives while working abroad, are able to say, “Thank you Sir, for everything we learnt from you both in Zoology and everything outside the perimeters of the classroom”.
A lecturer’s ability to part with his/her vast knowledge to students on the subject he teaches depends not only on his academic skills and qualifications alone, but to a greater extent vibrant personality of the lecturer helps to hold a whole class glued to his tutoring. In this respect some of our favourite teachers have been able to achieve their aim by garnishing lectures with a bit of wit and humour to make any important area or a lesson glued to the grey matter in students heads with jokey illustrations.
The most popular teacher happened to be a bachelor who was a thorough gentleman, always smartly dressed in immaculate white. His lectures were effective and entertaining. Most of the time he had a habit of facing the blackboard and scratching his shirt and laughing by himself even while demonstrating something on the blackboard.
Of all Science subjects Zoology lessons appealed to the pubertal lot, especially when the area of reproduction was explained – from Amoeba to the human. It was in such an occasion that the Zoology master managed to lift students’ hormones to a pitch when he touched on the subject of mammary glands of females.
The teacher gracefully accommodated any related question pertaining to the subject matter in a professional manner without making it either too serious or a joke. Such skills and qualities appealed to students which made him as an extremely popular lecturer – that is the reason why we talk about him even today!
Either being completely naive about the structure, development and its functions other than feeding milk by mothers to offspring, one pupil exceeded the limits of his enquiry by trying to be over dramatic when the Zoology teacher shut him up with his usual smile: ‘Get hold of a good looking female and examine!”.
A roar of laughter put an end to any further questioning!