ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32

She will never leave us

~ Sirancee Gunawardena

As a student, then as a teacher and as a friend, it was a pleasure to have known Mrs. G. as we affectionately called Sirancee Gunawardena.

Mrs. G. will never know how much she touched the lives of students and teachers at Ladies’ College. She gave us confidence by having faith in us. She was always there in case we fell by the way side with a problem. She trusted us. We had trust in her. She built confidence in everyone helping them to achieve their best in any field. The doors of her little room were always open for anyone to go in at any time. She would stop what she was working on to listen to what we had to say.

The little children used to come to her with their birthday cakes, senior children to get permission for an activity, to express their ideas and find solutions to their problems, teachers to sort out their own problems or to propose new activities like social service projects or production of a new play or musical. She was open to new ideas. The children often wanted to show off their talent in producing musicals, plays and musical evenings. She was willing to listen to them and let them express themselves.

I joined Ladies’ College as a teacher accidentally. In 1974, I went to school to check at what age the school would admit my twins. I met Mrs. Nagendiram who asked me whether I would like to teach English. Over the next 24 years, every time I returned to Sri Lanka, Mrs. Gunawardena had a place for me in the school to teach English.

I returned to Sri Lanka five times and taught at Ladies’ four times. It was always so wonderful to come back to LC to teach. Mrs. G. wanted us to be able to teach children of all ages. At the beginning, Rehana and I used to share classes from grade 6 - grade 12. We discovered that it was a great pleasure to teach children of all ages.

Although I preferred at first to be a part -time teacher with less responsibilities, she made me a class teacher with a full time table holding me responsible for the behaviour of my class children.

The children given responsibility did well in activities such as fund raising and organising trips. At the beginning I had nightmares planning these activities but discovered Mrs. G’s art of making students responsible worked wonders.

Mrs. G. was always open to new ideas, encouraging teachers to go on short courses overseas to universities, since she felt that we benefited by it. She would listen to our opinion on texts for our classes.

She encouraged us to be involved in theatre productions in all three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English. She was knowledgeable about the culture of Sri Lanka. It was such a pleasure to go to her room and talk to her frankly about George Keyt paintings, Ena’s latest exhibition, an Ola manuscript found in a Matara temple or the latest Booker prize winner. She was interested in foreign affairs too and often wanted to know Sri Lanka’s stand on different issues.

She had a multicultural vision for the school and encouraged our diversity to be accepted by all. The school children became aware of all three cultures, Sinhala, Tamil and English and her vision was that we should be bound by all three. Her vision for the school was to produce high achievers, who were confident, cultured and able to manage anywhere in the world.

Mrs. G. was born gracious and charming. Once when one of our ambassadors was treated rudely by someone in the office, she made a point to greet him at the door when he returned a second time and to escort him to his car. She could easily smooth ruffled feelings with her charm and smile. I know of several ministers who used to wait quietly and patiently to meet her and she was gracious and kind to anyone who came to meet her including the ones who maligned her.

Last year I visited the school after a few years abroad and was happy to see Nirmalie and Manisha continuing the Mrs. G. tradition. I walked around the school, saw the new buildings and sat in their offices and had tea provided by Pakiamuttu. It was a coming home to me. They had paid the greatest tribute to Mrs. G. by continuing her tradition of openness and Sri Lanka’s multi culturalism.

As a child said :“Mrs. G. will never leave us and she will remain a part of us and we will always remember her with grateful thanks.”

By Chitra Rodrigo

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.