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This account reminds me that I had still to work on the promotion of English writing by Sri Lankans, as to which Anne Ranasinghe had been an able successor with regard to Channels, the journal we established when the English Writers Cooperative was set up. The picture is of illustrations which I found great fun for the Health component of the English medium materials we developed for Grade 6.

Books of all sorts

Back at home I edited the health text, for the team we had set up under Nirmali to start translating the textbooks was working apace, and with delightful illustrations added. I prepared my articles that night, and then went to the Ministry next day but found the meeting of Zonal Directors had been cancelled. I worked there all day, ending with a meeting of the Advisory Committee we had set up, and got home with Nirmali who was on it.

I had dinner at Jeevan’s that night and next morning went to the Ministry for a meeting of the Trainer Trainers we had got together, and then went to the cottage where I marked papers after which Peter joined me for dinner, having brought a picnic himself. I marked papers there net day and then got to Colombo for the birthday party of my niece.

I was at the Ministry next morning, and then met the Cambridge University Press people at home with Nirmali, whom they already knew well. It was then I think that she introduced me to their Sri Lanka representative, Mr Govindan, who became a great friend and published a lot of my work over the next few years, including the Handbook of English Grammar which they got some Indian universities too to prescribe.

We had lunch at the Cricket Club, and then I went to the World Bank to meet their international education expert, and then produced memos to make the Colleges and the RESCs more productive. Next morning I went to the Ministry where my university students also turned up to badger me more, and then I marked SLMA projects after lunch and went in the night for an FNS dinner at the Oberoi. I worked at home the next day, a poya, with an EWC meeting in the evening at Anne Ranasinghe’s and drinks at Peter’s before getting home to write my article.

Next morning I was again at the Ministry, where we finally got formal acceptances from the World Bank of our project proposals, and then after a meeting of the unit I had set up I went to the cottage, collecting materials from Ingiriya on the way. Next morning I went to the university and was delighted to find that IK had received his appointment, though it was only after I had badgered Tara, who had become Secretary of Higher Education too when the cabinet was reshuffled. I therefore agreed to take on the Dean’s post, and then I went with Chandra and Dr Wickremaratne, who had replaced IK as our science representative for the Study Board at the Academy.

I relate here how, in the midst of my English medium work, I had to take on more responsibilities at the university too. I was flattered when students asking me to be Dean again said, when I told them it could only be part time, that part of my time was worth all of anyone else’s. So I became Acting Dean for a three year period.

The picture is of I K Perera, who was finally appointed Vice-Chancellor in the face of much underhand intrigue against him.

Taking on the Deanship at Sabaragamuwa

Next morning was EASL and CLD work and the World Bank, which wanted some adjustments which I did after lunch, and then went to the Ministry, dropping in after that at the hospital and SLCDF and the accountant and the World Bank.

I worked at home next day but had a Liberal meeting and Peter came round for tea and I went to Nirmali’s for dinner. Next day I worked on my articles and sorted out my files, which were multiplying, in all directions as it were. Then on Monday I went to the Ministry and also the Vocational Training Ministry for they too wanted English inputs, and then in the afternoon I dropped in at USJP to see Paru, who was one of those I was principally relying on for my teacher,  training proghramme and also saw Vijita at the NIE before getting to the cottage for the night.

Early next morning I went to the Academy and took several classes beforbe going to the university where I saw IK whose appointment as Vice-Chancellor the UGC was delaying. I taught all day there on the Wednesday and then went to the cottage, saw the roof that had come up, and then went home and to the airport. I went to Thailand, Germany and Belgium, and got ack only on the night of Sunday October 21st.

Next morning I was at the Ministry and then went after lunch to the cottage and marked Academy projects. Next morning I went there for classes, and then got to the university where the students tried to persuade me to take on the Dean’s post again. I told them that I had far too much to do elsewhere, but having thought about it they told me that even two days of my time was worth more than a week of anyone else’s – they had found Chandra both unsympathetic and inefficient, but thankfully she was now retiring – and in the end, after IK had been duly appointed Vice-Chancellor, I took on the position of Acting Dean, and served satisfactorily I think for over three years.

I taught there next day and got to the cottage for the night and to the Ministry next morning, where I met several Indian publishers. It was around then I think that one of them told me they had been threatened by Sri Lankan booksellers that, if they entered our market actively, their books would be boycotted, and in the end none of them would get involved in Tara’s multiple book option which was then taken over by cartels set up by the NIE, which defeated the entire purpose of textbooks on a par with international ones. But the depths of the corruption in this regard became clear to me only later.

What seemed a routine post was saddened when I found, looking him up, that Giyan Kiriella had died last month in Australia. There was a picture of him looking just as he did at school except for the grey hair. And I recalled seeing this his whimsical conversation when he saw me at the cottage over two decades back, three decades after I knew him in school.

An old friend

I had to be at the Ministry again on the Sunday to meet Regional staff, and then I left for the cottage after lunch, where I was visited by Giyan Kiriella whom I had known at S. Thomas’, whose mother still lived in the walauwe in Kiriella, and with whom he was staying, having left his wife in Australia.

Monday morning I was off again to the Academy to teach for two days, getting to the university for a Senate meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and then going on to the cottage. I looked into wood supplies next morning and then went to the NIE and after lunch to the Ministry, to see Harsha, and worked further on the Bank proposals that night. I had to see a doctor next morning and take a liver test, and then I met the British High Commissioner, who was of course interested in the English medium programme. Then it was the Ministry for several meetings, while I was able to work on my media articles that night, and next morning. I then had another test and then went to the Ministry but got back for lunch, wrote another article and tried to finalize the World Bank funding.

Next morning, Saturday September 22nd, I went to the Ministry and then loaded wood I presume to take to the cottage. I worked there on SLMA papers and Bank proposals over the weekend, as well as house accounts, and then went early on Monday to the Academy for two days of lectures. There was a Faculty meeting at the university on Tuesday afternoon and then I went to the cottage, met the carpenter and the builders next morning and then got to the Ministry. I worked there that day and also at home in the night on the programme, and was back there for the whole of the next day too, with dinner that night at Peter’s. Then on Thursday we had a CLD seminar at the USIS, and then after working at the Ministry after lunch I went to Nainamadama where I had agreed to attend the prize giving of an international school, I think because one of my mother’s former guiders whom I had liked, Therese Fernando, was involved with it.

I worked at home over the weekend, including on school achievement levels and university and academy papers, and was at the Ministry and the NIE the next day, and then bought tiles in Ingiriya before getting to the cottage for the night. On Tuesday morning I went south, took classes at the Radiant and had lunch with my uncle and then did accounts with Shantha and had tea with Nimalka and then got to the university. Term must have started again for I taught next day and then went to the cottage to see the workers, and stayed the night and got to the NIE next morning and then dropped in at the Open University en route to the Ministry, to see Divisional Directors of Education.

This post covers the strange tale of Colonel Ananda de Alwis and his anonymous letter when I was coordinating the new degree programme at the Sri Lanka Military Academy. He was a most peculiar man, who had a sinecure there with lots of privileges but did little work, and resented my efforts to actually ensure that the students could communicate in English, rather than just sing childish songs.

But I was honoured by the manner in which the then Commandant, Niranjan Ranasinghe, stood firmly by me, and then ensured that I had excellent support in the form of Dayan Athukoralage who became Academic Coordinator at the Academy. The pictures are of the Colonel and then of the Commandant, when he was our High Commissioner in I think Pakistan.

Shenanigans at the Military Academy

In addition to teaching the cadets, I also lectured to an officers’ course on the evening of Monday September 10th and then on the Wednesday morning I had the most extraordinary experience in that I found that Colonel Alwis had prepared a nasty anonymous letter about me.

We had not been getting on for I had realized that he knew nothing about teaching adults since his experience had been at primary level. And the instructors ran circles around him, joining classes together so they could have more leisure and not following the curriculum but engaging in whatever they wanted to do. He had also been useless as the Academy Academic Coordinator and the shrewd Commandant had begun to rely instead on Major Athukoralage, a thoughtful and committed former bank manager who had now been mobilized for decades. We got on well, and Alwis, determined to created trouble, had prepared a very nasty letter, but then gave me a file about the English programme where it was sitting on top.

When I read it and asked him what it was he snatched it back and said he had received it but it was clear that he had in fact prepared it for distribution. That discovery put paid to his plot, and when I mentioned at the Study Board that there had been a problem, the Commandant said there, whereas there was a principle in the army that no one was indispensable, it was clear to him that I was indispensable for the success of the Degree programme. Shortly afterwards Alwis left – he had previously fallen out with Derrick who described him as a schemer – and Dayan took over and we worked together very happily over the next six years.

After the Study Board on Wednesday I went to the cottage, and saw the carpenter next morning and the builders and paid them. Then it was to the NIE and then the Ministry to see the World Bank education specialist Harsha Athurupane, and again the next day I was there for a Primary meeting. In the afternoon I went to Nirmali’s to work on the Colleges drafts and then on Saturday I had to go to an Information Studies workshop at the NIE and then after lunch I discussed the Colleges proposals with Vijita. Peter came over for dinner that evening, and then I worked on the World Bank proposal.

This post covers a range of material, including the ancillary responsibilities I took on with the English medium task, for Tara expected me to set right problems with regard to English Teacher Training in the system. It was astonishing how the in theory professional educationists at the NIE in their devotion to theory never bothered to think about the practical applications of this, developing ever more complicated curricula in which experts sought to create experts whereas it was only general awareness that was needed.

I note too here work on the new house I was building for Kithsiri and his family next to my cottage, and also meetings with publishers for Tara was trying to change the system of book production which Ministry officials had converted into an instrument of rent seeking.

But I also note the relaxation afforded me by the cottage, where I had many happy evenings after work, and also by Peter Rowe’s generous hospitality.  

The first picture is of my contact at CUP India, Mr Govindan, but taken years later when he had become Managing Director, and there follows Prasanna my former CAT, now a distinguished architect.

Ancillary responsibilities in connection with English

I went to the NIE for a meeting about the Ordinary Level English syllabus, and then a discussion with Ginige about the Colleges of Education syllabuses. These were nonsensical by now, for all components were treated as equally important, and expert knowledge was demanded in the general subjects, quite unnecessarily and woefully burdening the students. Trying to make the decision makers see sense was however difficult, for the philosophy was to keep everyone happy, and so the demands of each subject were satisfied with no concern for the needs of the students.

I saw Nirmali that evening about what could be done to remedy matters, and then next morning I prepared the EASL accounts with our accountant, working on the Amity Schools project in the afternoon before dinner with Peter. Next day we took Prasanna again to the site, for the layout of the rooms, and I stayed on while Kithsiri took Prasanna back and came back with dinner. Next morning I went to the Academy for two days of classes, getting back to the cottage on Tuesday evening to cook dinner.

After seeing the workmen next morning I went to the Ministry, leaving in the afternoon to meet the EASL accountant with the treasurer, Next morning I was back at the Ministry for a meeting about the Colleges of Education, and then meetings with two Indian publishers, followed by discussions about the syllabus at the Colleges. Then on Friday I went with Nirmali to Pasdunrata, to take classes, and after lunch we discussed the curriculum with the students. Nirmali then went home with the NIE staff who had joined us, and I went on to the cottage but I seem to have got back to Colombo next morning for a Liberal Party meeting, and to work on memos for the Ministry and on the Colleges curriculum, before dropping in on my sister and then having dinner at Peter’s.

On the Sunday I went to the cottage to check on the carpentry work, and stayed over that night, going early next morning to the Academy for three days of teaching.

A lot of different work is covered in this post, most notably about the problems within the system that made the reintroduction of English medium so difficult. The picture here is of Dr Ginige, who was perhaps the biggest stumbling block, a problem that became more serious when Ranil got rid of me and she in essence took over the training, which was formulaic and unproductive.

But I could not find a picture of Jolly Somasundaram who in efffect destroyed the CLD training programme Jeevan had initiated, for able though Jolly was, and wonderful when he actually functioned, he tended to go walkabout.

Coping with the NIE

I prepared a report on the Colleges of Education next morning and identified achievement levels for trainees in both language and literature, and in the evening prepared another proposal, for the Australians, and also an article on the Amity School idea. Then on Monday I was at the Ministry, and sent of the project proposals, and in the afternoon had to go to the Open University to select a new English Professor. I was at the cottage that night, to cook dinner, and then went to the Academy next morning for three days of classes, getting back to Colombo on the Thursday via the university and the cottage.

Friday I was at the Ministry with a meeting on the Primary English Project at the Oberoi that afternoon, and then on Saturday I went to Getamanna where we seem to have had Sabaragamuwa students for training. After I spoke to them and did accounts with Shantha I had a class at the Radiant and saw my uncle and aunt before getting back to Madola for lunch. And then we drove allt the way to Aluwihare for the night.

That was to get to the Mahaweli College for a workshop the next day when Nirmali also joined me, along with old colleagues from the NIE Department of English Education. We taught all day, and then I took Nirmali and my former Peradeniya student Vijita who now headed the DEE to Aluwihare where we had tea and then dinner on the lawn. Next morning we left after breakfast for another full day of training, after which I went to the Academy for two days of classes. And again it was the university on the way back on Wednesday to the cottage,.

Next morning I checked the work and paid the workmen and then went home and on to the Ministry. That day I had to deal with the appalling head of training at the NIE, a lady called Ginige, who was nothing like her able sister Geetha Premaratne who had worked with me on the AUC English programme before emigrating to Australia. I got home exhausted, but was delighted that we had Derrick staying, and we relaxed over a drink before dinner, and then my newspaper and internet articles.

And next morning I had to make lots of calls about the CLD programme, for Jolly was relapsing into lethargy.

I return after ten posts of earlier travels after I returned to the university system to the new century when reintroducing English medium was the most important of the many tasks I was engaged in. But while this post records much work in this regard, including a workshop at the Mahaweli College of Education, which had overtaken Pasdunrata as the best College of Education for English, there is also a valedictory note. I knew that soon Peter Rowe, who had been a great companion over the previous three years, was leaving, and I record too here the earlier death of an old family friend whom I had not seen for years but who had been part and parcel of our lives in the early sixties. And I note too a visit to Lorna Wright, the first time I think I saw her after I came across her in Prague in 1971.

The pictures are of C Q Perera second from left, between my aunt Lakshmi and my cousin Tekla, with Neville Kanakaratne and my cousin Ayra Perera further on, then of Lorna Wright, and finally of Peter Rowe at my cottage when he was back for my 60th birthday in 2014.

New work and old friends.

I went to the Ministry then, and established targets for the month, and then went to a Swiss Party and Peter’s before getting home for a dinner my father was giving. The next day again was at the Ministry, but in the evening Kithsiri and I picked up Ena and then Shirley Perera to go down to Yala for three splendid days. On the way back, on Sunday August 6th, I went to Nimalka’s and then took a lass at the Radiant, lunched with my uncle and then took another class at the Project and did accounts with Shantha before going on to the university. But next morning I went to the Academy for a day of classes before getting back to the university for the Senate, and then went back to the Academy for the night and two days of classes. I went, via the university on the Wednesday afternoon to finalize our external results, to the cottage, and got some bamboos, and then must have gone home because next morning I went to the Ministry for the day.

On the Friday I picked up Paru and Chitra Wickramasuriya and took them to the Mahaweli College, where we found the accommodation arranged for us so dirty that alternative arrangements had to be made. After a full day of training I dropped Paru at Codipilly’s Kandy hotel – Chitra I assume had gone home – and stayed myself with Derrick. We trained the next day too, and then I think Paru went back to Colombo while I went to Ena’s for two nights, going on Monday morning to Diyatalawa to teach after lunch and over the next two days. After a Study Board that afternoon I went via the university to the cottage, met the workmen next morning and paid them and then went back home, getting later that morning to the Ministry. But after lunch I went to see Lorna Wright in the home she was in at Mutwal, why I do not know, but it was a lovely meeting. We had first met in Prague in 1971 and though I had not seen her since, I recalled her ebullience and found her unchanged despite advancing years.

I was at the Ministry next day and at the NIE on the Saturday morning, having prepared a proposal the previous evening for the Swedes. On Saturday evening I went to the reception of the child of my uncle’s great friend C Q Perera, who had died a few years back, his wife having predeceased him. And that evening it was dinner at Peter’s, both of us aware that there would not be many more such meetings for he was due to leave at the end of the year.

This post describes the beginning of problems at Jayewardenepura for Dorakumbura no longer supported my initiatives. He was also now a great influence at the UGC for the new regime knew nothing about the AUCs and considered him their expert on the subject.

Problems with Dorakumbura

Next morning I was at USJP, where I have noted that Paru spoke to me about Rahangala though I think it was only later that Dorakumbura proved determined to appoint her to coordinat the Diploma course there. In the afternoon I went to the UGC, to send out letters to coordinators for the new course, and finalize our budget, working on that again next morning. That evening Marasinghe had a book launch where I was delighted to see Palihawadana again.

Next morning I went to USJP where there was a meeting for the new students and I spoke to Wilson about the External Degree proposal, before getting to the UGC to get budget approval, after which I finalized the English Every Day book. Next morning we had the test for freshers at USJP, with the ragging worse this year than it had been the previous year, and I had to speak again to all the faculties and participate in interview of Arts students. That afternoon I slept before putting together papers for the first years at Belihuloya.

On the Saturday and the Sunday I worked at Nirmali’s, and then on Monday it was USJP for timetables and the UGC to explain again to Ratnasiri about the need for books, because once again there were rumblings about our insistence that students buy books. In the afternoon EASL met at the Council, and we had dinner at Raji’s, Ena’s nephew.

I was at USJP every morning for the rest of that week, meeting our new students and starting on classes on Thursday and Friday. Every afternoon was at the UGC, with meetings also at the NIE and the Council, while I was also putting together another reader on Myths and Legends. Then on Friday, after seeing the Chairman and Ratnasiri about our budget I went to Aluwihare via Kurunagala for Palapathwala. But I had just the night there for I went on next morning to Girandurukotte to see classes by our four teachers. I stayed that night at the Mahiyangana Resthouse which I loved, the new one on the bank of the Mahaweli, and then was back at the Mahaweli Centre next morning and helped with classes, before heading back to Colombo in the afternoon with Rapthi and Dinali.

Next morning, Monday March 7th I was at USJP and the UGC, where it seems Dorakumbura was present in a big way, having been asked by the new regime to advise on AUCs since they knew nothing about them. And the next day I find a note saying the second years spoke to me ‘re VC’s refusal’, which I cannot recall, but I believe they too realized that he was gunning for me. Perhaps it had become clear that he had no intention of allowing this batch to proceed to a Special Degree in English, even though this had obtained the initial approvals.

This describes more training and also the commencement of the Mahaweli programme, for which Nirmali Hettiarachchi came with me. She was excellent with youngsters, so also worked on the project we continued with at the Buttala College, to bring together students from different communities for English camps.

I have shown pictures of our reunion already, so these of Dinali and Rapti are from different occasions, preceded by one of Desmond Fernando in his youth.

Training and projects with Nirmali Hettiarachchi

Next day, after seeing Gillian at home regarding invitations and then preparing questions for Anuradhapura I went to the UGC to decide on coordinators with Oranee, and then went to USJP to meet staff and for a Faculty meeting. That evening the judges presented the Gratiaen Award shortlist at the Council, while I also took delivery that day of English for Business and Administration.

I was at the council and Nirmali’s and the Mahaweli Centre next morning, before a meeting at the UGC which Ratnasiri had set up with University ELTUs, and Oranee and I then worked on the next GELT course, after which I saw Chanaka about future CLD work. Next morning I saw Ratnasiri with our new proposals, and then we had a CLD meeting with Desmond Fernando, who was its President, and then I was at the UGC again. I then had to see Dinali about an exam, after which I had a relaxing evening at dinner at Shanthi’s after which like children we went to Carnival for ice cream.

On the Saturday I saw the Coordinator at the Valaichenai GELT Centre, one I had not been able to visit given that it was in LTTE controlled territory, and then I worked at Nrmali’s and then saw Nihal Cooray for approvals for projects for which Ministry blessings were desirable. The Culture and Society book was then sent to press, and then on the Sunday, after more work on question papers I summed up at the CALD seminar at the Oberoi.

I was at USJP on Monday morning and marked some papers after seeing the administrators at different levels, and then I went to the UGC before work at Nirmali’s. It was again USJP next morning and then I went to the Australian High Commission before work at the UGC. Next morning I set off with Nirmali and Rapthi and Dinali, driven by Sarath, to drop books and visit the Belihuloya AUC and the Bandarawela Education Office. I doppped them at the Buttala AUC and stayed the night at the Moneragala Resthouse, going on to Amparai next morning, to talk to students at the Samanthurai AUC before going to the Kalmunai and Amparai Education offices and Carmel Fatima and the Muslim School where we had another GELT.

That night I was back at the Moneragala Resthouse and then went to Buttala next morning for a session with the schoolchildren on the weekend camp before the Board of Study. Then it was on to Girandurukotte where we stayed at the Agriculture Circuit Bungalow, a very pleasant place, starting the classes the next morning. That was Saturdy and classes continued on Sunday, after which we went to Ena’s at Aluwihare, taking the lovely roads that ran alongside the dams.

We had a look at Ena’s workshops next morning and then visited the Matale and Kandy RESCs and the Polgolla AUC before returning to Colombo.

This notes my disappointment with the new Vice-Chairman who was not a patch on the hard-working Prof Balasuriya, and then describes a long journey north which involved a variety of training.

More training as support faded

I went to the UGC next morning to see Ratnasiri who wanted to talk endlessly though she did little, and then I prepared project reports and discussed the forthcoming Culture book with Madhubhashini Dissanayake whom I had roped in to assist, wanting to use her enormous capacity after I had not been permitted to recruit her to our staff at USJP.

We had an EASL committee that afternoon, and next morning, after seeing Richard’s mother, I went to USJP and then to the NIE before marking papers and then attending a Liberal Party meeting and finalizing the Ordinary Level Guide. Next morning I went with Gillian to Grindlay’s, which was sponsoring our event, and then after the UGC and Punyakanthe’s to check on the judging I went to Nirmali’s to finalize our External degree proposals. I also worked on the book on Literature and Society which was another language teaching text at senior level, based on the material Ranjith Goonewardena had put together.

Next morning I went with Paru and the other new recruit at USJP whom Paru felt we should involve in our extension work, driven by Sarath, to Kurunagala where we met Palapathwala and then went to the RESC, after which we went on to Anuradhapura where I visited the GELT Centre there as well as the one at Kekirawa. We then had a Board of Study meeting after which we went to Vavuniya where we were booked into the Circuit Bungalow.

After dropping in at the AUC we went to the Education office for a seminar, in which we had also involved a few of the Anuradhapura AUC staff, for I thought it important to replicate the methods and materials we had piloted there. WE got them to work too with the AUC students in Vavuniya, for I was still worried about the teaching there.

The seminar continued next day, and we stayed over and then went to the Anuradhapura AUC on the Sunday, when however we did several classes before lunch with the Wehelles and then leaving for Colombo. Next morning after meetings at USJP I went to the Western Province AUC and then the UGC, after which I had to speak at a seminar the Council for Liberal Democracy had arranged, the first I think after the immensely successful series on Constitutional Reform which had made our reputation some years earlier.

On the Tuesday I took Rapthi too to the UGC for a seminar for GELT academic coordinators, when we also had some interviews since my initial observations had suggested that some changes had to be made. Before the second course we ran, we closed some centres, such as Giriulla where I had found six students and more teachers, and changed some of the coordinators with strict instructions that they should not continue with teachers who were unable to inspire students and guide them helpfully.

Rajiva Wijesinha


August 2022
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