Schools must produce individuals imbued with proper values


The 75th Anniversary Prize Giving of S. Thomas’ Preparatory School, Kollupitiya was held in the school hall on Friday, 12th July, 2013. Seen in the photo from left to right: R. N. Asirwatham, the manager of the school, the headmaster N. Y. Casie Chetty, the Chief Guest K. Kanag-Isvaran, President’s Counsel and eminent lawyer, and Rev. Sunil Ferdinando, the school chaplain.




N.Y. Casie Chetty’s speech

The year 2013 marks a significant milestone in the relatively brief history of S. Thomas’ Preparatory School, Kollupitiya with the school reaching its 75th Anniversary since it was founded by the late William Thomas Keble M.A. (Oxon.) on the 17th May, 1938. The school observed this landmark event with a Service of Thanksgiving held on Saturday 18th May, 2013 at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour, Colombo. In this historic year, we are indeed privileged and honoured to invite you (K. Kanag-Isvaran, PC) this evening as our Chief Guest at our Prize Giving, which is unquestionably the most important function in our annual calendar of events.

You are an alumnus of Jaffna Central College which is one of the oldest and most famous schools in Sri Lanka, being founded as far back as 1817 by the first British Methodist missionaries who arrived in the island on 29th June, 1814. You are thus a product of a Christian missionary school education, having received your secondary school education within the portals of this prestigious and renowned seat of learning and formation in the North.

Your late father, the late Senator S. R. Kanaganayagam, who served with great distinction in the Senate from 1949-57, in the embryonic years following the country’s independence in 1948, was a highly respected lawyer with a large and lucrative practice. In addition to his fame and reputation in the field of law, he was an individual who worked tirelessly and with great enthusiasm towards the promotion of Tamil culture and Saivite education, being the first President of the Ramanathan Trust and the Ramanathan Music Academy in Chunnakam.

It was your illustrious father who decided that a private fee levying missionary school education at Jaffna Central College which had as its motto "In gloriam Dei optima maximi" (Unto the glory of God, the best and the highest) would be the best possible education he could offer you, his son. A fleeting glance at the roll-call of alumni of Jaffna Central would reveal and explain the rationale underlying his decision. Rev. Dr. D. T. Niles, Sri Arumuga Naval, Prof. V. Appapillai, Prof. S. Arulkumaran, Prof. A. W. Mailvaganam and Justice H. W. Thambiah are just some of the famous products of this great centre of learning.

Having graduated in Law with your LL.B. obtained from the University of London, you were called to the Bar as a Barrister-at-Law of Lincoln’s Inn. Subsequently you took your oaths as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka at a time prior to the unification of the profession.

You are at present one of the leading President’s Counsel practising in the Appellate and Original Courts specialising in Commercial Law straddling abstruse areas such as Corporate, Intellectual Property, Banking, Finance, Insurance, Shipping, Admiralty, Telecommunication and Aviation Law with an extensive clientele.

You have over the years achieved such recognition in your chosen field of Commercial Law that you have been appointed by the Government not only as a Commissioner of the Law Commission of Sri Lanka, but also as the Chairman of the Advisory Commission on Intellectual Property responsible for drafting the Intellectual Property Act No. 36 of 2003, as Chairman of the Advisory Commission on Company Law which drafted the Companies Act No.7 of 2007 and as Chairman and Consultant of the Technical Groups on Drafting New Legislation on Commerce and Business which was a collaborative venture of the Ministry of Justice and the International Development Agency (IDA) as part of the Legal and Judicial Reforms Project. In addition, you have been engaged in several other related areas which are too numerous to mention.

Even though you have reached dizzying heights in the legal firmament, your simplicity, humility and self-effacing qualities continue to shine forth as a beacon of your personality. Throughout your years at Hulftsdorp, you have come to embody values such as integrity, independence and rectitude which have virtually become non-existent in an ever darkening and disturbing landscape. This depressing reality leads me to address the crucial issue of education and the formation of values.

Our school, which is in its 75th year, represents a truly pioneering venture in the history of education in our country, as it has the enviable honour of being the first Preparatory School modelled on English Public School lines in Sri Lanka. Over these past 75 years it has sought to provide a sound holistic education to boys of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. The fact that the student population is representative of diverse ethnic and religious traditions affords the school an unparalleled opportunity of playing a vibrant role in fashioning the aspirations and values of its students to meet the challenges that a fractured and divided nation faces in its post-independence development.

The primary objective of a successful school should be to produce individuals who are disciplined, balanced in their outlook to life and who are imbued with correct and proper values. This is a critical element in a heterogeneous society such as ours in Sri Lanka, where there is diversity and pluralism. If our nation is to progress and grow as a united and unified entity, it is indeed the need of the hour that its citizenry must not be bigoted, parochial or divisive in its attitude and thinking. It is in such a context that an effective secondary school can play a pivotal role in enabling the fashioning of correct ideas and proper values.

I am not for a moment devaluing the role of a school in pursuing such laudable objectives as the pursuit of academic excellence, the creation and engendering of a culture of learning, the fostering of the goal of achieving excellence in the field of sport, drama, dance, music, etc. All these manifold areas must be sustained and nourished in order to develop the total personality of the young student – that is simply not an issue. What is important in addition to all the areas just referred to by me, is to ensure that the student passing through our schools into adult life should be endowed in ample measure with those qualities and attributes of heart and mind which would reflect compassion, tolerance, respect for others with different views and ideals coupled with magnanimity and love.

It is indeed meet that there ought to be sober reflection and introspection, especially when a school marks a milestone in a jubilee year. I can with confidence assert that our school has not failed our nation, as we continue the challenging task of nurturing, training and equipping our students to face the multitudinous demands which they would be confronted with in a society which has been radically transformed from its relatively halcyon past. In this noble though arduous task of nation building, our school has throughout this enterprise been fortified and inspired by the motto of our school, "The Lord is my Shepherd"!

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