A model towards helping students achieve their full potential Thank you for your article featuring the SEARCH Project launched by some distinguished old boys of Royal College. As one of the local contributors to this project, I found the children’s enthusiasm humbling and rewarding. This is an example of “leading without licence”. The pioneers hold [...]


Letters to the Editor


A model towards helping students achieve their full potential

Thank you for your article featuring the SEARCH Project launched by some distinguished old boys of Royal College. As one of the local contributors to this project, I found the children’s enthusiasm humbling and rewarding.

This is an example of “leading without licence”. The pioneers hold no positions in the school or the old boys’ union but have embarked on the project from the courage of their convictions. The numbers are expanding steadily with tutors volunteering from the USA, Britain and Australia.

I wish to bring to the notice of the public another initiative that might be of national interest. Bilingual education has been one of the boldest and most far-sighted moves instituted by a modern-day Sri Lankan government. The demand is growing, as evinced by the introduction of bilingual classes in government schools in the outstations and mushrooming of international schools all over the country. However, the availability of teachers who can teach in English has been a bottleneck. Even at Royal College, Colombo, although 300 applicants are expected for the bilingual stream,  there are places only for 180.

Royal College attracts students who score the highest marks at the Year 5 Scholarship examination. These are some of the brightest children in our country, some of whom have overcome massive odds to achieve their positions. We have a duty to ensure that they are given every opportunity to blossom into their fullest potential. Many choose to enter Royal College with the desire of receiving a bilingual education. We have heard heart-wrenching stories from parents of children who had this dream shattered due to the lack of places. Some of them say they would have had access to bilingual education in their original school had they continued there.

In yet another initiative demonstrating “leading without licence”, a group of alumni and parents have launched a campaign to ensure that no student who wishes to enter the bilingual stream is turned away due to lack of resources.

While the Ministry of Education and the current Principal Samantha Gunathilaka were mobilizing teachers within and outside the school, a group of volunteers collected over Rupees two million to fund recruitment of teachers on a contract basis to meet the shortfall. The project will be supervised by the Academic Standards Committee of the Royal College Union.

At present, children are enrolled to the bilingual stream after an aptitude test. Increasing the numbers may result in a higher number of students who would find receiving instructions in an alien language a challenge. From my experience as a student and later as a teacher at the Colombo Medical Faculty, when we entered as students, we had received our education entirely in our mother tongue. While I for one may be considered privileged to have been exposed to English to a fair extent, some of my colleagues found it hard to cope with receiving instructions in English. Just like the scholars who enter Royal College, these were the cream of our students. With constant usage, they overcame these difficulties and as we went along, many of them performed brilliantly.

Similarly, in the case of the children who may have had limited exposure to the English language, I believe that their ability and keenness will see them through.

I believe these projects are great examples of citizens taking the initiative to do things that would have a lasting impact.  However, we need to be cautious about sustainability of such projects and the quality of the lessons delivered. People embarking on such projects must build in appropriate checks and balances.

As beneficiaries of free education, we have a duty to give back to the system that gave us so much. This is only a small measure but the benefits of these initiatives to the students will be immeasurable. This model could serve as a template for other schools as well. It will contribute immensely towards helping every Sri Lankan child to achieve his or her full potential.


Hemantha Senanayake   Emeritus Professor, University of Colombo

Safeguarding Buddhist artefacts as the Taliban returns to power

One consequence of the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban that should concern Sri Lankans is the fate of the large number of Buddhist artefacts housed in the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. These include 2500 Buddha statues and ceramics originating in Hadda, a bustling Buddhist hub that existed in Afghanistan over 2000 years ago.

The Taliban destroyed the magnificent Bamiyan Buddha statues in March 2001 and a month earlier thousands of priceless artefacts, including Buddha statues, were destroyed in the museum itself. One of the museum’s most precious items is the near perfect statue of a seated Buddha in purple drapery, which had been buried sometime between the 3rd and 5th centuries BC and rediscovered in 2012. Other notable items include nine stunning terracotta Buddha heads which were returned in 2017 and a standing statue which was returned to the museum in 2012.

The future safety of these items is now in jeopardy and, when diplomatic relations are established with the new Afghan government, the Sri Lankan government should offer to remove any items which the Taliban do not wish to be kept in Afghanistan.


Dr R.P. Fernando,  Surrey, UK

Thank you for the great organisation, discipline and care at Vidyaloka vaccination centre

I am writing this in appreciation of some good work done at the COVID vaccination centre at Vidyaloka Mahavidyalaya, Kerawalapitiya, Hendela. I was there three times and was simply amazed at the level of organisation and discipline maintained.

The Doctors, medical staff, other officers, Police and Army personnel, Pradeshiya Sabha staff and everyone there were so courteous and did their utmost for the people. On the two occasions when we had to take my disabled aunt in a wheelchair, the Army officers and staff went out of their way to help carry her wheelchair up the stairs. On the second jab they kindly came up to the wheelchair outside to administer the shot.

When we went for my husband’s second jab, it was done very systematically with numbered tickets issued with a stipulated time.  No rush, no arguments, all seated or standing a metre apart.

Thanks to Chairman Pradeshiya Sabha Thiyaga de Alwis and his team, whose services always have been for the people, for a job well done.


Nelum De Mel  Hendala


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