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22nd November 1998

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Trinity campus in the Pallekelle hills

By Carl Muller

The short swift way to the Tennekumbura bridge is no longer, thanks to the heavy security concerns that have marred the beauty of the city. The most "pleasing prospects" of Temple and Lake have been cut off, and to travellers out of Kandy.... (like that old song).. it's "Come on, baby, let's twist again."

So twist again it is - around the lake: five-sixths around - always most annoying, until you can point your nose towards the Lewella road junction and savour the pleasure of the beautiful drive to Kandy's industrial park, past the many Army institutions and a countryside as green and as happy as Kandy is sour-faced and labouring under a deep sense of barricaded dejection.

Tyres whisper on the broad road and the morning air is like fresh toddy bubbles, and set deep in the Industrial Park is the old Trinity College Agricultural Institute complex, now discarding its old kimono of neglect, busy dressing itself in fresh new clothes. By the end of this year, it will emerge, a bright new butterfly, to be the Trinity-Western Michigan Institution of Higher Education, a commitment to quality academic programmes and facilities, creating new tertiary opportunities in the Central Province.

The unemployed graduate is today a new and sorry class. The system has stuffed their heads with non-applicables and the extraneous. Like snails on lettuce, they get nowhere, very slowly. For some time, the Board of Governors of Trinity College, Kandy, had acknowledged this. There was an urgent need for better - no, the best - provision of tertiary education opportunities in the Central Province. No one will gainsay the University system here. We have Peradeniya and the Open university as well as certain technical facilities. Yes, the "climate" of education wafts the hills. Yet, why then should the mood of disgruntlement prevail? Why must so many A' Level students find so many hurdles in their path?

It was some time ago that the Trinity Board decided to tackle this issue... and the sanest way was to ensure that talented young people be given the opportunity to forge ahead.They needed an environment that reflects the commitment to education of the type that would offer -

  • Openness and personal attention;
  • A high calibre of faculty;
  • A focusing on the future;
  • The making of citizens who would carry this country forward - key players who will contribute to national growth and wellbeing.

I stood at the large stone at the entrance to the Trinity Agricultural Institute. Babblers broke out of the scrub like awkward, big-bellied bombers, to regather on a slope and wax indignant. Abey Ekanayake, that wonder-man when it comes to "all things bright and beautiful", manages much of the land here. He's a tree lover, nature lover, environmentalist and is now tied in with the Lanka Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Research (Pvt) Ltd., ready to lay down many medicinal trees, plants and herbs. He is doing the landscaping, clearing the scrub, attending to the necessary landfills and, as he says, will soon be fencing the extent of his operations that has given to the Trinity-Western Michigan Institute of Higher Education eight acres of lush parkland, shaded walks, the true embrace of nature that will be as a spiritual balm to glowing minds. I stood with the "movers" - the men who are working with a will to get it all into shape. Durand Gunatilleke is the electrical wizard, Sherard Mendis, Secretary, Trinity's Board of Governors nods and nods and takes notes. He's the "Thy will be done" man. Others are project supervisors and overseers, suppliers, and of course, there is Bill Campbell who can best be called the 'make it all happen" man.

As Bill showed me around, I could envision what 1999 could bring. The Institution will open with the Western Michigan BBA programme - a degree course. Also, it will offer a one-year Diploma Course in Computer Studies and a preparatory programme for the WMU degree for those who wish to upgrade their competency in English and get in line for the degree course. This latter programme is up to two years but flexible, taking student performance into account.

It is easy to see why Western Michigan University was found ideal for the "true twinning" concept. The very pith of WMU's programmes can be judged from its "manifesto":

  • To discover, disseminate, extend and preserve knowledge;
  • To generate new ideas and to address social needs and concerns;
  • To create opportunities for learning; living, leading and friendship;
  • To nourish creativity, to foster excellence across a spectrum of endeavours;
  • To be more than a university - to be a community;
  • To seek meaningful exchange, to prize diversity and strive for a global perspective.

WMU is ranked among the best 100 national universities in the USA and among the top 100 "best buys" in American public higher education. Also, it is the only Doctoral 1 institution in the State of Michigan. As I learnt, the first two years of the WMU curriculum will be conducted here followed by the next two years on the WMU campus in Michigan.

The Institution will be co-educational and non-residential. Just the year-end to see through. And for the 'movers' there is much to do. And it will be done, however high the investment. It is a Trinity pledge to offer real-term education for a country that needs the best human material ever for the 21st century. Here, in this wonderfully natural place, kissed on one side by the waters of the Kundasale section of Victoria, where the mornings are misty and the birds sing with vigorous delight, will a new breed of young men and women move in, then go forth, then return to give to this country its muscle for the future!

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