Sri Sumangala College, Panadura, 101 years old

The crying need for a Sinhala Buddhist School at Panadura was noted by the people of Panadura in the early part of the first decade of the last century.

However, the issue was first raised by the late Rev. Panadure Gnanavimalatissa Thera, the then chief incumbent of the Panadura Rankoth Viharaya, who was instrumental in founding a school on March 3, 1909, at the Viharaya premises.

This Alma Mater, started with 77 children, was named Sri Sumangala after the late Rt. Rev Sasanavansalankara Kavidhaja Vinayachariya Weligama Sri Sumangala, the chief of the Amarapura sect.

The old building by the side of the Rankoth Viharaya, which housed this college up to the day that it was shifted to Nalluruwa premises was erected on the initiative and generosity of the late M. Mathes Salgado, and Lewis Dias, with the cooperation of M. C. Perera, P. Domingo Dias, P. C. H. Dias and Mudliyar Thomas Rodrigo.

The first Principal was Thomas E. Gooneratne. When the College was registered as an assisted school on May 16, 1911, the number of students had risen to 325. The following year Thomas E. Gooneratne was succeeded by W. Charles de Silva.

A pioneer in Buddhist eduction P. de S. Kulartne was its manager in 1943; it was the golden era of the College. The Alma Mater nurtured and moulded thousands of excellent citizens, such as, Prof. S. A. Kulasuriya, Prof. P. A. de Silva, Sir Isaac Fernando, Neol T. Mendis, D. W. J. Perera, Linton Wijenayake, A. P. Jayasuriya, Sir Ukwatte Jayasundera, Dr. Linton Salgado, Prof. P. E. E. Fernando, Prof. Raja de Fonseka, Prof. Ranjith Ruberu, Dr. Neville Fernando, Dr. Malinga Fernando, Alec Robertson, Walter Salgado, Richard Salgado, Solwyn de Fonseka, Meryl Kariyawsam, T. Jason Peiris, Jagath Angage, N. Q. Dias, Padma Sri Pandit W. D. Amaradewa, Dr. Premasiri Khemadasa, Dick H. Dias, Jayantha Koliyawansa and Sarath Rodrigo, to mention a few.

On the March 24,1940, P. de S. Kularatne laid the foundation stone on the block of land at Nalluruwa, presented by Walter Salgado and Mudliyar Thomas Rodrigo. In addition to this land, Mrs. Ceciliya Perera presented two and a half acres of land, Sir Leo Fernando, the then chairman of the Panadura Urban Council, as well as the owner of the Panadura Motor Transit Bus Company, an old boy of the College, erected the Assembly Hall at his own expense. Mrs. P. C. H. Dias presented a well equipped laboratory block in memory of her son. A sum of Rs. 16,000 was collected for a new building for the College.

The adjoining land of two and half acres which was donated by M. D. Fernando has been turned into the playground of the College. The public of the area, especially of Panadura, contributed towards the construction of the buildings.

On August 7, 1942, all the students between 7th standard up to the H.S.C. were shifted to the buildings constructed at Nalluruwa and ceremonially opened my M. B. Nihill, the Legal Secretory to the then Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott, who graced the occasion on behalf of the Governor.

The students of Sri Sumangala Girls' School used the laboratory of the College for their higher studies in H. S. C. classes at the initial stage.

At the time P. J. Fernando was the Principal of the College, A. C. Morawaka, a tough disciplinarian was the Head Master of the Primary classes, from the Kindergarten to the sixth standard, which has been retained at the town branch adjoining Rankoth Viharaya.

It is very important to note here that P. de S. Kularatne took up the appointment of Principal, succeeding P. J. Fernando on July 15, 1945. From January 1, 1955, Sri Sumangala College was elevated to Grade 1 class.

On boxing day of 2004, the tsunami struck the main building of the College at Nalluruwa and was it submerged in sea water of more than four feet. All the buildings as well as almost all the equipment inside them were badly damaged.

However, two years later on September 27, the College was ceremonially reopened at the buildings erected at Wekada on the Panadura-Ratnapura road with the funds donated by Japan. The occasion was graced by the Japanese ambassador Kiyoshi Araki, followed by the Principal of the College, L. W. Somathilaka, the Minister of Education, the Chief Minister of the Western Province and Sarath Rodrigo, the president of the Old Boys' association.

It is much appreciated that the old boys, the present tutorial staff and the present student population, counting approximately 3,650, did not forget their old and original school place at Rankoth Viharaya, so much so that they marched from there to the new building site for the ceremonial opening.

The first two to enrol as students were the two brothers, Walter Salgado and Richard, the sons of Mathes Salgado, one of the six founders of the College. The children of the other founders also followed suit.

The late W. S. M. Wijenayake (village headman of Pohaddaramulla, Wadduwa) was also a student with Walter and Richard Salagado, Sir U. A. Jayasundera, Sir Leo Fernando and Cyril de Silva, when Thomas E, Gunaratne was the Principal, succeeded by W. Charles de Silva. His sons, myself, Walter, Sylvester, Llevellyn and Linto Wijenayake, were also students when A. C. Morawaka was the head master and A. J. Fernando was the Principal, succeeded by K. L. V. Alagiyawanna.

Further, one of my grandsons, Geetham Wijenayake, was also admitted to the College - Grade 1 as a fresher, last month.

The College as a national institution is part of our national heritage and it has a powerful Old Boys' association presided over by Sarath Rodrigo, for 30 consecutive years, an asset to the Alma Mater.

Some of the devoted eminent past Principals were, Thomas E. Runaratne, R. S. S. Gunawardena, P. de S. Kularatne, M. W. Karunananda, A. J. Fernando, Abhayaseela Ginige and K. L. V. Alagiyawanna.

The present Principal of the College is L. W. Somathilaka, from Nov. 25,2002.

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