Monday, December 2, 2013

Alles’s DS

Shortly after Mr. R.I.T. Alles was dismissed from the school he founded, the old boys had a felicitation ceremony at the school in his honor. There he asked those who gathered, to some people’s bewilderment, why he is being treated as if he was some kind of a god.  I am sure he had an answer. Of course not everyone treated him that way but no one would argue that Mr. Alles ran D. S. Senennayake MV like a god. He commanded respect, was immensely inspirational and for the most part his students, parents and teachers gleefully let them be led by him. DS was Alles’s. 

It is amazing to think that he was only in his mid thirties when he took upon the job as the school’s founding principal and yet DS became the focus of admiration for many in the business of education in the country in the next decade. DS’s, and by extension his meteoric rise was due to one thing: the mutual relationship that was formed between teachers, parents and students. This relationship did not happen spontaneously although it seemed only logical. Mr. Alles ingeniously crafted it by making it his policy to address his students as Sons (putha). His teachers, most of whom would have been young parents themselves, followed suit and that stuck a nerve with the patents and the students, and a unique relationship was formed between these three entities that lasted as long as I was a student there. This in my opinion was the foundation for all the good things that came DS’s way.

The unique mutual relationship between the parents, students and the teachers at DS made it possible for Mr. Alles to inspire his students. For instance when he told us that we must put country before self, which happened to be our school’s motto, to us it was not some abstract rhetoric for we were able to see the country through our teachers and parents. Although now as a father and a middle age man I can only admire and respect those who put the country before one’s self, as a teenager it was the way to be, without a doubt. I am sure I wasn’t the only one who was inspired.

In one morning assembly I remember Mr. Alles proudly proclaiming the good deeds of one of his sons. The senior student had left the country on a scholarship and on the eve of his departure, he had come to see Mr. Alles and demanded to see the national flag in his office and be allowed to pay respect to it before he left shores. So he did, raising the standard by which patriotism was measured at DS. If I am not mistaken I believe the hero that day was Mr. K. Siriparam, who went on to serve the country. This story tells as much about Mr. Siriparam as a young teenager as much as it does about Mr. Alles. Mr Alles had the capacity to inspire his underlings. He was not talking in abstract. There existed a bond between parents students and teachers that gave substance to what he preached. May he attain Nibbana.

For centuries we must have had a guru-gola-mawpiya relationship in our country’s temple based education system. Sadly it does not exist any more. Even during Mr. Alles’s time it was a rarity and now of course with education being bought and sold like a commodity there is no place for such “trivial sentimentalities”. But that is exactly what is missing from our schools and especially from our so called higher education system. Contrary to our cultural norms, in our universities golayas are isolated not only from the guras but from the whole society as well; by design (Ivor Jennings’s).

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