In his stay of 12 years (2000-Present) Mr. Ranjith Chandrasekara has become the longest serving Kingswood Principal since the late Harold Nonis (1942-57). Chandrasekara took over the reigns of Randles’ Hill in a decisive point of the school’s recent history, where two Principals had been in and out in quick succession. If the Rambukwella era (1989-97) was known for “discipline, discipline and discipline”, what followed the Boon-mustached man’s exit was a spell of uncertainty.
Rambukwella exits in 1997 after the unfortunate incident where a “riot” breaks out at school, following a motor accident in front of the gate as a school van runs over a 12 year old boy named MN Perera. The Principal is absent from school on this day and during his absence there is a lapse of order which (some argue) was encouraged by certain vested elements from within. The school van is set on fire and a group of students were actually involved in the act of arson. Rambukwella resigns soon after. His action and measurement of dignity, most might agree, is a good example for most top knot administrators today, for in it the fellow demonstrates a solid case of “responsibility” and “dignity”.
The Rambukwella period is postdated by the arrival of Mr BA Abeyratne (later of Ananda) in 1998, who is soon replaced by Mr. Nelson Rathnayake. The decisive spell between 1997-1998 is overseen by the then Deputy principal Mr. HK Upasena — the much feared, but respected 2nd in command to Rambukwella, whose expressionless face would light up at the slightest breach of conduct; to be followed by a few slapping sounds. Mr. Upasena, on hindsight, is yet another example for the “old school administrator” who did his duty and did not expect pomp or pageantry to follow it. When he retired a few years later, I remember that his final speech was as solemn as the man himself and it carried much weight of a man who had done his job well enough; and had a good estimate of it himself.
When Mr. Chandrasekara arrives in 2000, the school had de-evolved from its proverbial “disciplinarian” status, as the uncertainty and ambivalence of the unsteady administration set up had eaten into the other areas of the school as well. Mr. Rathnayake had his own fair share of issues with past students and sections of the staff and it was well amplified when these latter elements, along with a faction of the students, staged a demonstration against the head of the institute. Soon after this, the office is vacated of Mr. Rathnayake and this ball of fire is passed into a young Chandrasekara’s court.
What Ranjith Chandrasekara has done for Kingswood between 2000 and now is history. In spite of various opinions and different views held by the heterogeneity of Kingswood’s community, one thing is unanimously agreed on: the “Boss” has given a boost to the infrastructure and material lay of the college, spinning it around from what the physical lay of things were ten years ago. One might say that Chandrasekara upgraded the college to the “modern requirement” from an institute as established as Kingswood is. He, perhaps, opened out the school a bit more, daring to take the risks — both calculated and otherwise –, giving a run for novelty and experimentation.
Chandrasekara, too, has had his own share of issues. He was twice “transferred” upon the whim of the bureaucracy and has been alleged with the usual list of allegations administrators are bombarded with. But, he has been quite firm on both instances, making his way through all troubled seas to stay upfront at the helm. In the process, he has been a solid ambassador for the school, being heavily engaged in associations and societies and being an influential hand in sports, extra-curricular and co-curricular development. Twelve years on, he has
(1) extended the Kingswood ground to include a pool complex, gymnasium and basketball court
(2) refurbished the “Siberia End” of the school with a new complex of classroom blocks and extended the Primary Section; built a new library, now located in the spacious building originally meant to be a “language lab”.
(4) initiated a “students’ Center” where the old (but memorable Bandula Aiya’s) dilapidated canteen building was.
(5) upgraded the landscaping and outdoor maintenance.
(6) refurbished the Main Hall under numerous stages, including the seating spaces.
(7) upgraded the sanitary facilities which, a decade ago, was quite deplorable.
These are just a few superficial material aspects which meets the eye, as one enters school. The surface of things thus perked up, it has given the student of the day a better launching pad to pick up on studies and extra-curricular work: and it is the student’s responsibility to work out his end of things, being thus facilitated.
Whether Chandrasekara has been equally appreciated for his work is yet another issue; and perhaps it is too premature to think of such “return”. But, true to the Kingswood slogan “none for himself but all for the school”, the lanky administrator has moved from step to step gathering momentum.
Kingswood is, in fact, undergoing yet another phase of definite change. Today, one finds that the staff at the school is, on the main, “new” (to Kingswood) and of a different “beat” (to the Upasenas, Kariyapperumas, Thalgaspitiyas ten years ago). Compared with my day — bearly ten years ago — nearly 80%-90% of the senior school staff are of recent appointment. With these shifts taking place, what it means to be “Kingswoodian” and as to how the “traditions” and “spirit” of Kingswood will be embraced / interpreted by a whole new generation also has to be seen.
When Blaze retired from the top office in 1923, there was a continuation in the little “traditions” and “oddities” that marked Kingswood for its own. History has much evidence how these were considered deeply by the likes of Nonis, De Lanerolle, Nihal Herath, Rambukwella and Chandrasekara. Even the teachers and administrative staff boast of members who with effort studied / tried to understand the “past” of the school, in order to make the present and future more meaningful. In an age of different priorities one has to see how far such efforts will be undertaken by the “young” Kingswood staff. But, for Chandrasekara’s good work to go on and for his efforts to sustain he needs a vibrant community around him, one who is committed to Kingswood and contributes without reservation to the commonwealth.