Sewing the canvas of lifeSewing the canvas of lifeJuly 14, 2012, 3:36 pm
By Maheen Senanayake
Pictures by Thanuja Amendra
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men…"
One great philosopher after another had said this one way or the other. Whilst many have indeed followed these words, few organizations if at all have. Singer is one that has. Established as early as 1955, the Singer Sewing School as it was known then has trained many individuals who have gone on to establish themselves a livelihood supporting many members of or entire families. Charging nominally and offering scholarships to the needy, this school has been a fountain of help.
As Thanuja and I entered their school on W. A. de Silva Mawatha, and found our way through its stairway and corridors, the smell of oven fresh pastries permeated the air. We found our lady – Ms Rajapaksha, sewing instructress, at the school. Herself a graduate of the school she took us through the history of the academy.
"What we try to do here is provide an all-round education in sewing and now fashion. Individuals may choose stand alone programs or diploma level courses based on their needs". I took a look at the range of programs and found many that interested me. Because the school is flexible and attention is individual, students schedule their studies during any part of the day in consultation with the teachers and instructresses who themselves have graduated top of the class in the same program.
There were many students from many programs in the school on the day we visited and the caring touch, and the spirit of teaching was definitely in the air. In fact several Sri Lankans on brief holidays in the island were also present that day.
The school which now has approximately 70 branches around the island is extending its reach annually with the latest being opened in Neluwa, Baddegama and Hambantota. The curriculum provides flexibility and modularity so that students can choose the depth to which they want to study. The staff is always at your service and their dedication to their profession is apparent to anyone who spends a few minutes with them.
The instructresses teach with nothing held back; their prime aim, the teaching and imparting of knowledge and skill. The school has not forgotten to stay relevant to the times. Speaking to us on the subject Mr. Kumara Samarasinghe, Director Sales of Singer who has overseen the operation of the Fashion Academy over the years noted "Sewing education has been a life line for many people, but Singer is an institution that stays relevant by reinventing ourselves. In this respect we have set up an IT Academy that runs parallel to the Fashion Academy. Those days, mere ability to read and write was sufficient. But now literacy demands a knowledge of computing and Information Technology. This school is committed to providing that knowledge."
The programs are flexible and students can again chose what to learn, to what depth and how fast. The program list is very long but we give you a few here. For instance during the first month of a Diploma program you could learn to tailor a shirt or blouse with a sides slit, or a half flared skirt, among other things while in the second month you would graduate to more advanced work. The six month program that is constructed of 52 lessons will turn you into a tailor in small steps. Singer’s time immemorial principle of making education accessible has seen the programs being offered on easy payment schemes. As little as 600 rupees for a month can get you on a program.
The program also provides two sewing machines free of charge to its two best students and offers a 10% discount to any of the others. On the other hand if you purchase a machine, there is a free demonstration for the owner. The school also provides complete scholarships to the needy on a case by case basis.
Talking about the shift from the sewing school to the fashion academy, Ms. Rajapaksha spoke of the improvement in the quality and the design features that have been incorporated into the curriculum. Singer’s proposition of trusted excellence is not to be taken lightly. The Singer Sewing School first and now the Fashion Academy has in the best and right spirit providing yeoman service.
We wish the school and its staff many more years of teaching. There are many out there who support yet many others because Singer decided to teach them sewing. In a day and age when help is rare, Singer has helped many chart their own destinies by simply stitching the canvas of their very own lives.
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Last Updated May 23 2013 | 10:49 pm