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20th June 1999

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  • A teacher and ninety kids
  • Mayumi helps children
  • Bring jumbo pictures
  • A teacher and ninety kids

    By Roshan Peiris

    Anne WijesingheAnne Wijesinghe is an ebullient person but behind her obvious bonhomie she carries out arduous duties as Principal of the Anne Wijesinghe School of English Language, Speech and Drama at Nugegoda.

    "I am principal, peon and teacher all rolled into one. It sounds an intimidating proposition to teach ninety children of all grades. I have no teachers since I like to have a degree of uniformity in the methods of teaching and in handling pupils," she says.

    "How do I do it? Well by having several sessions of school for the different grades in the course of the day. As a teaching experience it is very rewarding," she said.

    Anne's day is full of action and acting, naturally with her ninety pupils.

    "Since I was a child I liked the idea of acting. I took part in plays when I was in the montessori and nursery but since my father, a doctor wanted me to do science I had to give drama a second place in my life until I finished my 'A' Levels.

    I did act in school plays, though."

    After her 'A' Levels, Anne married Anil Wijesinghe, now Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Gestetner Ceylon Limited.

    "My husband was most supportive of my love for drama and there was scope for my dramatic abilities to take shape.

    It was he who encouraged me a great deal in the production of plays such as Wings and Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Lionel Wendt with my pupils.

    "I am most happy now since I am free to do my drama, though my husband would have been happier if I had joined him in business," she says.

    "In school I was known also as a writer of sorts.

    So it was only natural with my bent for the arts that I began doing exams of the Trinity College, London," she says.

    Anne has the distinction, though she does not like talking about it, of being a Fellow of the Trinity College of Speech and Drama.

    The Trinity College Fellowship in Speech and Drama in Sri Lanka was last awarded in 1985, fourteen years ago.

    The Fellowship in the academic field is looked upon with awe and respect. A thesis of 5,000 words is a requirement plus a practical examination for which the examiner flies over to the required country.

    Trinity College, London can boast of being a leading international board in both performing and communicative arts.

    Personal assessments of pupils are conducted by qualified examiners. It is a non-profit making organisation, the surplus income being utilised to support and develop skills in music, speech, drama and in teaching of English.

    So it is no mean achievement for Anne to have got her Fellowship what with running her school, and looking after a son and daughter. Trinity College, London which began in 1876 held its first exam here in 1881.

    The late Yolande Abeyweera and the late Wendy Whatmore received this prestigious Fellowship together with the equally well-known and much loved teacher Irene Wanigaratne.

    Anne learnt her speech and drama under Nirmali Hettiarachchi who is also a Fellow of the Trinity College.

    "My daughter shows talent in singing and is now a pupil of Maryanne David. I too love to sing, listen to music and read.

    "Oh, I love both classical and modern music," confessed Anne.

    Anne Wijesinghe leads a full life. Modest about her own qualifications, she is able to communicate easily with children of all ages.

    This seems to be the secret and strength of Anne Wijesinghe's success.

    Mayumi helps children

    Music is an universal language. One need not be a maestro in order to feel, to respond. Yet the musician needs to be well versed in the language to give understanding, and stimulate emotion. Japanese singer Mayumi, is one who has learnt this language.

    Mayumi who spoke to The Sunday Times last week while on a visit to Colombo, has been singing for almost 20 years. Unlike some who use their talents to open avenues for themselves, Mayumi explores her talents in order to open avenues for others.

    The Mayumi Trust Fund in Japan, a non profit organisation helps handicapped children. Mayumi is keen that handicapped children from here be sent to Japan for treatment. The first to be chosen is Firzan Ali, - a young O/Level student from Zahira College - who lost a leg in a train accident. Not only do they hope to help him medically but also to train him in some skills as well.

    Mayumi and her trainer Mozu Shohei together with Lanka Shrike Overseas (Pvt.) Ltd seek to introduce Sri Lankan music into Japan and vice versa. She has done similar projects in China and Vietnam. In 1994 she visited Sri Lanka to launch such a project and in the last five years has visited Sri Lanka periodically. Having been trained under Mozu Shohei - a reputed Japanese song writer who fell in love with Sri Lanka, she has inherited the same passion for our country.

    The Mayumi Karaoke Lounge at the Galadari Hotel was opened in 1996. Not only is she the only foreigner who entertains crowds singing Sinhala songs but she is also the first person to introduce Sri Lankan songs into Karaoke. What is creditable about this effort is that Mayumi is fluent only in Japanese so much so that in this interview she had to be assisted by Mr. Ansary, co-ordinating producer and director of Lanka Shrike Overseas (Pvt.) Ltd. Learning Sinhala songs was an uphill task but she hopes to start singing some of her original numbers in Tamil as well.

    The Mayumi Karaoke Lounge was destroyed in the bomb blast in 1997, but has since been rebuilt. She will return to Sri Lanka shortly to open the Karaoke Lounge.

    Mayumi has been chosen to sing the introductory song, at the 2008 Olympics. To her it is a chance to bring to life the dreams of a nation.

    Bring jumbo pictures

    The Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust of Sri Lanka have come up with a novel way of monitoring elephant movement and habitat in a bid to further the conservation and management of these large pachyderms.

    According to the Trust, some of the basic requirements of proper elephant management planning is obtaining reliable information of their populations, home ranges, and seasonal movements.

    And an effective low cost method of doing this is to maintain a photo catalogue of elephants. This photo-catalogue will allow them to identify individual elephants on the basis of their unique markings

    The trustees invite all enthusiasts who photograph elephants to assist them in this research programme by providing them with information and photographs. The requirements include that all photographs be identified by date and location.

    A short workshop will be held to initiate all those interested in photo-catalogueing elephants.

    All interested persons could contact Jayantha Jayawardene at 615/32 Rajagiriya Gardens, Nawala Road Rajagiriya or on Tel: 867902.

    Photographs could also be sent to Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando and Ms. Manori Gunawardene who maintain the main photo- catalogues.

    Ms. Gunawardena could be contacted on e-mail at

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