Musaeus College celebrates 120 years of excellence!

Rome was not built in a day

As Musaeus forges ahead, adding years gracefully to her life span, she leafs through 120 of her past history and smiles with pride and contentment at her epic journey as one of the pioneering educational institutions for Buddhist girls in Sri Lanka. Would she ever have envisaged then that this fledgling school comprising only twelve students, housed in a humble little mud hut, proudly called the “Mud Palace”, could now dwarf everything in her vicinity by her towering strength and might? Musaeus reminisces one by one every stage of her development as recorded in the annals of her history.

Musaeus College was founded in 1891 by the far-sighted German lady, Mrs. Marie Musaeus Higgins who had the great vision of establishing a premier educational institution for Buddhist girls.  Her vision came to fruition owing to the generous donation of half an acre of land in Cinnamon Gardens by Mr. William De Abrew, and on this half-acre of land and little wattle hut, with only 12 students on roll, began Musaeus’ career, with Mrs. Higgins as both Principal and sole teacher, and Mr. Peter De Abrew the elder son of Mr. William De Abrew, as the Manager. A small beginning indeed, but this was to be as the tiny grain of mustard seed that would grow into a plant and blossom forth profusely, its saffron flowers. Thus this new school grew rapidly, and a Good Samaritan by the name of Mr. Wilton Hack from West Australia, helped to replace the mud-hut with a small brick building in 1895.

This was soon followed by the establishment of the Musaeus Trust in 1896 ther by laying a firm foundation for the continuous and rapid development of the school. The results of all this hard work were indeed most rewarding and the school was able to record the first success at the Cambridge Junior Examination in 1897. Success after success followed this rapidly, and when Lucy De Abrew became the first Sinhalese female student to enter the Medical College in 1903, it was a moment of crowning glory for Musaeus. However, the ethical and religious education of the girls was always the forethought of these pioneering men and women.

The Shrine Room constructed in 1906 was not only  to commemorate 15 years of altruistic service rendered by Mrs. Higgins  in the cause of Buddhist women’s education, but also to acknowledge the importance of imbuing the girls with Buddhist principles and practices. Under Mrs. Higgins’s aegis considerable progress was achieved during the next few years with the establishment of the first ever Training School for Sinhala Buddhist women in 1908 with the approval of the Government, and in 1922 Mrs. A E Preston inaugurated the Musaeus Nursery School, fulfilling yet another vision of Mrs. Higgins.

It is with a profound sense of sadness and regret that Musaeus records the passing away of Mrs. Higgins on July 10, 1926. Thus the resplendent lamp that illuminated Musaeus for nearly four decades was finally extinguished and yet the strong foundation she did lay stood in good stead braving the storms of this tragic event. The next few decades witnessed a tremendous growth and development in Musaeus College, and the building programme continued; the old buildings making way for more modern buildings, in order to provide greater facilities to students.

The mud-hut in 1891 is today substituted by many multi-storeyed buildings housing a population of nearly 6,500 students. Though a school is not measured by its buildings, as the saying goes, the imposing and elegant buildings of Musaeus have enabled the school authorities to increase the admissions to meet the growing demand, while providing the best facilities for her students to ensure academic excellence. At this moment when Musaeus College celebrates 120 years of existence, the College has realized a major development plan which has culminated in the construction of a new ultra-modern building complex. This comprises a state-of-the-art hall with a seating capacity of over 1,500 and a swimming pool, both of which have been long-felt needs of the school. The successful completion of this long-envisioned dream owes much to the far-sighted dedication of the Board of Trustees, headed by the Chairman Mr. Ajita de Zoysa.

Today, Musaeus can boast of a school hall or auditorium not second to the best auditoriums in the island. Rome was not built in a day, nor was Musaeus. The present glory Musaeus basks in as the premier Buddhist school in the country, bears testimony to the selfless sacrifice and the whole hearted devotion of its founder duo - Mrs. Higgins and Mr. Peter De Abrew, and the magnanimous services rendered by all its succession of Trustees, Principals, teachers, well-wishers, parents, past pupils and many others who are too many to be mentioned here. It is indeed a wonderful and unique experience to belong to this prestigious school. It has classes from Lower Nursery to GCE A/L, in both media – Sinhala and English, along with local and London O/L and A/L classes, with a student population of 6,500 and a highly qualified academic staff consisting of over 325 teachers. While the school has continued to produce remarkable academic results, it has also managed to excel in extra and co-curricular activities, whether it be sports, drama, or music - all that is necessary to impart a wholesome educationthat would enable its students to emerge as fully developed individuals.

Since its inception, tens of thousands of students have walked in and out of its portals, all of whom have left their indelible mark on the school.  Musaeus also boasts of a long line of altruistic volunteers who have supported the school in many ways and have contributed to the life of the school. Though many changes are made and many enhancements achieved, some things, however, never change, and the ethos of the school is one such thing. Especially noteworthy is the school’s adherence to its founding mission - to mould girls in the best traditions of our culture, and the noble virtues and moral conduct laid down in the teachings of the Buddha, while continually adapting to the realities of girls’ education in a changing world.

As the school celebrates its 120 years of excellence, it acknowledges with gratitude, the present Chairman Mr. Ajita De Zoysa and the Board of Trustees for whom Musaeus is and had always been the first call in their very busy schedule. They are the pillars of strength behind its success.

It is indeed an honour to have been a part of this wonderful institution for almost half-a century and to be able to serve Musaeus College as the Principal, especially when it has reached the glorious milestone of 120 years of existence. As Musaeus celebrates this glorious occasion, I wish the school with its resplendent past, a future even more glorious, always guided by that inspiring motto “Follow the Light”. In the last 120 years, Musaeus College has expanded not only horizontally filling the available space with many storeyed buildings with the best infrastructure facilities conducive to good teaching and learning, but is also growing vertically reaching out to the sky, evolving steadily. The ‘Sky is the Limit’ for Musaeus College! S Dandeniya Principal Musaeus College

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