Under the Southern Development Plan the government has earmarked Galle as a tourist hotspot. The Mattala and Katunayake airports would prove to be great assets to this development programme and the government intends to launch the programme during the forthcoming year, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at a function held at Colombo Hilton to celebrate the centenary of the Colombo branch of the Richmond College Old Boys’ Association (OBA).
“Richmond, Mahinda, Sangamiththa and Southland colleges should take a leading role in promoting education in the South,” said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. The inaugural meeting of the OBA was held at Harward Settlement on December 11, 1916 presided by CL Wickramasinghe who happened to be the grandfather of the present Premier Wickremesinghe. To mark this event a commemorative stamp was issued. The Prime Minister specially praised the senior members of the OBA for their dedicated service to make Richmond a leading college.
“I have a soft spot for the Richmond College as my grandfather received his education at Richmond College. Richmond College became a beacon in the education sphere due to the unwavering dedication of its founding principals and the success of the past pupils. It was the principal educational centre in the South and the first college to introduce education in the English medium.
“Richmond College is situated in a scenic location. This college claims to a great history. Those studied at the college became prominent personalities in many fields. That is the reason why it became a reputed school like the Royal College which is my alma mater. Mainly after 1960s due to political pressure the administration of some schools were in doldrums and their progress was severely hampered. Fortunately, the Royal and Richmond colleges never bowed down to such political pressure and could progress well,” he further added.
“When incompetent principals are appointed to education institutes, pupils don’t receive a sound education and face many a problem when they reach adulthood. As the first step to correct this anomaly we decided to promote competent and dedicated teachers as principals. Within the next five years we will launch a programme to enhance the teaching skills of teachers especially in science and math streams,” the Premier opined.
“At present the education minister is conducting dialogues with old boys and parents of schools to improve the education system, but without interrupting normal school work. When we attempt to introduce innovative and progressive reforms, some make baseless allegations that we are trying to privatize education. Among the main reforms we envisage in the next year, the first is to make education compulsory for thirteen years and the other is to provide vocational training for every student,” premier further elaborated.
The current President of the OBA, CEO of Certis Lanka Ltd, Vipul Hettige donated five million rupees worth of scholarships to the college on this occasion.
The current president of the Colombo branch of OBA, Vipul Hettige, making the welcome speech thanked the Prime Minister taking time off his busy schedule to attend the ceremony. He further said, “CL Wickramasinghe was the founder president of the Colombo branch of OBA whose contribution was immense to the furtherance of the association. Special thanks should be extended to the present principal and the past principals, former presidents for dedication to improve the standing of the college.
All the stakeholders of the association should give their fullest cooperation for the development of the college. This year Richmond College reaches a milestone, it celebrates 140 years of existence. We are greatly happy to learn our students’ impressive achievements in education and extracurricular activities. Our ultimate hope is to see Richmondites becoming great citizens in future.”
Present Governor of the Eastern Province, Austin Fernando, an old Richmondite addressing the gathering said, “In 2002, when the Cease Fire Agreement was drafted I was able to work very closely with Ranil Wickremesinghe who then held the premiership. When Mr. Wickremesinghe was the Education Minister he had a great vision for education and realized the importance of a quality education. He worked above politics and always stood for fair play and humanity. His presence on this occasion is a great prestige for us.”
The present principal of the college, Sampath Weragoda, in his speech made a glowing tribute to the members of the OBA for their unwavering support to the college. “I commend the OBA’s commitment for the betterment of the college. I would frankly say they never interfered in the affairs of the college.”
Education Minister, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, past principals, former OBA presidents, old boys and many well-wishers participated at the event.
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)| (Pics by Musthaq Tasleem)