Plus - Appreciation

Moral values and discipline came first for exemplary teacher Sam

Dehiwala Rajapakse Lekamalage Samararatne

D. R. L. Samararatne passed away after a brief illness on January 11, 2010, at the age of 83. He hailed from Malpitiya, Kurunegala, his mother’s hometown. He married Nanda Wickremasinghe, a school teacher he met in Kurunegala. Mr. Samararatne was then a teacher at St. Anne’s College, Kurunegala, where he served for many years. Nanda Wickremasinghe taught at Maliyadeva Girls’ College, Kurunegala. They were a very happy couple who lived in harmony all their lives.

In the early years of their married life, they had the good fortune of winning a prize in the Hospital Sweep Lottery. The house they built at Malpitiya was named “Samanda”, a combination of Sam (short for Samaratne) and Nanda.

Friends and colleagues fondly called him “Sam”. Sam had a great sense of humour and a wide circle of friends. Mr. Samararatne was an English trained teacher from the Maharagama Specialist Teachers’ Training College, the premier teacher training institute at the time. He taught English Language and Literature at St. Anne’s. He also taught Geography and Government (later called Political Science) to HSC students.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, not many working class people could afford a car, especially those in the teaching profession or in government service. Mr. Samararatne was one of the few to own a good car, which he used to travel to school throughout his career at St. Anne’s.

Mr. Samararatne was one of the most respected senior teachers in Kurunegala. His commitment to the school was unparalleled. He was loved and admired by the students as well as by Rev. Bro. Directors, Alban Patrick and Rev. Brother Lawrence Justinian.

He was also a cadet master and, along with the late George Seneviratne, trained the junior and senior cadet platoons for many years. He was an exceptional orator and debater in English. It was a treat to listen to him speak at school events. He also trained students in elocution and organised Shakespeare stage plays for the college concerts.

He and the late Dr. Riley Fernando conducted the inter-school “Do You Know” contest, the first of its kind in Kurunegala. Mr. Samararatne was an active Lion and took part in many service projects. He held many positions in the Lions District 308 A, and ended up as Deputy District Governor.

Mr. Samararatne was a man of unquestionable personal and professional integrity. He was also a sensitive and gentle person. A strict disciplinarian, he considered instilling discipline and moral values in students of greater importance than imparting textbook knowledge.

His personal appearance was one of the things you remembered about him. He did not wear expensive clothes, but he wore spotlessly clean trousers and shirts and well-polished shoes. You rarely saw him in casual outfits.

His long and illustrious career as a teacher culminated in his being appointed principal of a government school. When St. Anne’s continued as a private school after the schools takeover by the government in 1960, Mr. Samararatne was made principal of Pilessa Maha Vidyalaya. At the time, this was a rather backward school, in the outskirts of Kurunegala.

Within a few years, he had raised Pilessa Maha Vidyalaya to the level of any well-known school in Kurunegala. The school showed good results at public examinations, and some of the students entered university. We believe his stint at Pilessa Maha Vidayalaya was one of the greatest achievements in his teaching career.

Later, he was made an Inspector of Schools in Galle. He spent a year at Leeds University, in Britain, on a scholarship, and obtained a diploma in the teaching of English.

When he retired from government service, he was head of the Colombo Region at the Ministry of Education. Even though he left St. Anne’s College as far back as 1960, he kept in touch with the school, and offered support whenever he had the time. He helped set up the Colombo branch of St. Anne’s College OBA.

Along with the late Wijenayake Tennakoon and Lakshman Liyanaarachchi, Mr. Samararatne set up the Colombo branch in 1982. Mr. Samararatne was the founder president and served in this capacity for over a decade. It is to his credit that the OBA has grown from strength to strength and now has more than 300 members in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia.

He leaves behind his beloved wife Nanda, a loving daughter and son, and grandchildren.
May he rest in peace.

Bandula de Silva and Bandula Weerasekera

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