Heartiest congratulations to Kingswood for winning the ‘B’ Division (Division II) championship at the Under 19 level. By no means is this an achievement that can be written off, as Kingswood soccer has, for a long time, been in the sidelines; and is now making a fresh break at a competitive level.
However, our concern is not with the team’s great achievement, but the banner. This banner, first of all, is misleading. It quite clearly implies that Kingswood has won the “All Island Championship”, which — by default — implies the ‘A’ Division (or, Division I). This is not the case. With the current win, Kingswood will be promoted to Division I. This, in other words, is the banner they should have put if they won Division I next year.
By this banner, whoever put this is misleading the school as well as the society. It may even appear that Kingswood is trying to claim a glory that is definitely not theirs.
If, this is indeed a “Division II” win, the next question is: should this banner be put here in the first place? Kingswood Matters, as you may have noticed, is against hanging banners in the fences of the school. The school’s fence is not there to display banners, but should be respected as the outer boundary of the school. Achievements, we believe, should be recognized and appreciated in a silent, noble way; and not by making tamashas out of them.
Even if you want to REALLY celebrate a victory by putting a flag, you ought to choose the victory carefully: a “Division II” win, or a Junior Level achievement at Music is not worthy enough achievements to litter the front yard of the school. You simply lower the prestige of the school and pull it down to the level of a school without taste or a sense of dignity.
Several lessons to learn: one — be truthful and accurate in what you proclaim. Then, second — learn to celebrate in a decent, silent, noble, humble way. Third — prioratize what you celebrate. Don’t put up a banner for winning a “B Division” prize, or a music event at Under 14. Kingswood has won hundreds and hundreds of such events in its hundred and twenty years. Do not boast of anything underneath the very topmost best. Even when you achieve the top — don’t boast.
Blaze’s statue stood tall
But his words had flown away like
Birds that for the Winter take flight.
The homely green was dust, the moisture all brown
And at mid day it looked already mid night.
Senior boys, like ghosts, marched from class to class
Their brains dripping like thick fluid from their arse.
Trees had no crowns, May flowers no longer fell
And in paradise it looked like a day carved out from hell.
In an empty, desolate landscape one heard a chiming bell.
Characterless men who came here
Always learned a lesson their character to lift. Fide et Virtute lie with broken ribs and sides
With no one with courage or manliness swift
To carry it to safety from where it has fallen from heights.
A silent, eerily silent wind buzzed:
And that was the New Kingswood that
In a garish dream last night I saw:
A land laid out to rust and wither,
A universe divorced of gravitation’s law.
Through the 1990s, when I was a student at the school, there were a host of “memorial prizes” given out at the Annual Prize Giving, which added prestige and meaning to the event. Among these many prizes were Senior School prizes such as the Devadasan Memorial Trophy and the Jayawickrama Silver Medal (awarded to the most Outstanding Student). Other notable awards included the Luterz Challenge Shield awarded for inter-house scholarship, the Crowether Shield (inter-house sports) and the Randles Shield (for the best overall House). These were, growing up, significant prizes which added to the glory and sense of tradition of the school. Unfortunately, today, we have a situation where one by one these prizes have either been discontinued or removed. Very few people seem to care or be bothered by this.
Going by Prize Giving records that I have access to, we see many “memorial prizes” that come and go — which, perhaps, depending on the donations and donors, is understandable. But, there are some prizes that are traditionally given that demand a level of commitment to be made consistently available and continued. The last three individual prizes given at the Prize Giving are those of Leadership (awarded to the outgoing Senior Prefect), the most Outstanding Sposrtman and the Most Outstanding Student. These prizes, in the traditional prize list, are followed by sports and extra-curricular prizes given out to Houses. Together, these form a much looked forward to elite cluster in the traditional prize list.
Any Prize Giving souvenir or prize list before 2001 will indicate a very well maintained and mediated list of prizes that reflect a school concerned with tradition and colour. The “Most outstanding student” is generally a student who is deemed to have displayed an all round capability. In the earliest prize list records I have access to, this student is presented with a trophy and a medal: the Devadsan Challenge Trophy and the Jayawickrama Silver Medal. Then, in 1995, the Jayawickrama Medal leaves the prize list. Yet, the Devadasan trophy — along with prizes such as the Shanmugam Memorial Trophy for the Best Sportsman/Athlete — and other memorial shields for the Houses continue to be given out.
Then, in 2001, a radical 180 degree shift takes place. In this year we have a curious Prize List where the said three prizes are downscaled and removed of their traditional tags as (simply), (a) Leadership, (b) Best Athlete and (c) Best Student. The last to receive the Devadasan Memorial Trophy for the Best Student is NC Dias in 2000. From 2001 on, this prize was simplified as “Best Student”. Anjana Seneviratne was the first to receive this scaled down award in 2001. In more recent years, not only are some of the traditional shields been removed (or displaced) from the Prize Giving, but even their importance have been disregarded. Names such as Luterz, Crowther and Randles (after whom those premier shields were baptized) are ancestral figures of the school who have contributed in an immortal way to the sustaining of the college a hundred years ago.
Similarly, I recall how some of the inter-house sports prizes were named after diehard names in Kingswood history such as Arthur McGill, Winston Hoole — and more recently — DC Matharage. The fate of these prizes today, or of their historical significance to the current boys, is best left to speculation. A few months ago, I suggested to some of the past boys the importance of restoring these prestigious awards, not in order to undermine anybody, but to put back on track the erasure of the glory that is Kingswood. Imagine a Trinity College that does not award a Lion or a Ryde Medal; but, a crude, downsized nameless equivalent of them? However, I am yet to receive any positive or progressive response to my suggestion. These are, indeed, not very difficult to correct. It would require a good few hours of dedicated reading and research, and a mind committed to the betterment of the school.
Between 2003 and 2009, myself and my two brothers have had the rare honour of being garlended with the “Most Outstanding Student” accolade. Of the three, it is my belief that I deserved it the least, given the aptitude and achievement my brothers have displayed in a wide range of activities. In my year, I remember WD Nathavitharana walking off with the prize for “Leadership” and weightlifting international Ransilu Jayathilake trotting off with “Best Athlete”. Ransilu’s achievement, specially, was eye-catching as he was two grades my junior at college. He had, however, won an international recognition that year, which made matters quite final. However, in the certificate I received, my story was written as “Best All Rounder”. It surely was a long journey from the Devadasan Trophy and the Jayawickrama Medal to….Best All Rounder.
What these prizes are called today — and as to what they ought to be called — are exclusively the purview of those in charge of Randles Hill activities and those close to the school. But, with people talking all high and mighty of the prospects of 125, I felt that I should submit this to Kingswood Matters.
Jersies and T-shirts of every size, colour, grammar and spelling. Some shirts with the crest violated, others with the name violated. “Kings”? Who are Kings in a school that is modest and humble? A school that was made to house all walks of life?
King’s rugby: even more interesting. Too bad — the queen dies in the middle of the game.
Surely, an extremely talented young Kingswoodian: someone who has made it this far in a talent contest. We wish him all the best in the competition, even though these type of competitions are bad for youngsters (“Superstar” mentality is not a quality a school should promote).
But, the more important question is —- does this board belong here? Does this “begging board” belong in front of the college?
If the stories are true, in the late 1980s, when state-sponsored crackdowns on young men and women was at their height, many Kingswood boys would opt to spend the night at school, without going back to their homes. At times like that, some of the Prefects who were active in the years 1987 and 1988 are also said to have stayed back with the boys. The name of one of the Senior Prefects of the “Bheeshana Samaya” is specially mentioned in his commitment to curb violence from entering school — both from the government paramilitary and the JVP.
In the early 1990s, when I was a young student of Kingswood College, we had a very exclusive Prefects’ Court which we looked up to with a sense of awe. In one of these Prefects’ Courts I remember a very small made “aiya” by the name of Wijesiri, who was an artist and was very good at drawings and such. He used to live close to the house I lived in back then for a few years, and lived the life of an artiste, living simple and with the people. He often drew boards and signs for villagers without a charge. Wijesiri, as I remember, died sometime in the late 1990s.
In the 1990s, up to about the late 2000s, the practice was to have 20 Prefects, wearing gold plated badges. They were promoted from a group not exceeding 30, who were Monitors for a year. Kingswood’s Prefects were generally from after the A/L year — unlike the Prefects of some other schools whose “duty” ended a few months before their A/L exam — and were required to be in office for a year after studies. Until this changed in the late 2000s, the system worked quite well, except for 1994, where there are three Senior Prefects: Nagahapitiya, Ekanayake and Ranil De Silva. One version of the story is that Nagahapitiya stepped down and Ekanayake — who was then elected — had to back off in favour of a study opportunity that came his way. Ranil De Silva was one of the best loved and best feared of Senior Prefects of the last two decades.
Why was this system changed? One argument is that by requiring the Prefects to stay back another year or half a year at school, they were being asked to sacrifice a few months from their young lives, whereas they can be elsewhere doing a job or preparing for higher studies. With the changing times and changing expectations, maybe this argument sounds valid. But, isn’t this where the decay of Kingswood starts? The office of Prefect should not be a stud or a jewellery item you wear — but an office you take for the love of the school. It should not be something you take up to make your CV look pretty, but a commitment you make in the name of the school that nursed you. In that sense, the “additional year” is not a punishment or a burden, but a commitment of love and honour. Of course, the Prefect — before applying for the job — knows what the job is going to be; and for how long. Therefore, there is no reason for the administration to worry too much about Prefects “growing old” at school.
In a recent seminar at school, the Senior Prefect of 2003 WD Nathavitharana, shared with the senior boys the advantages of being “after ALs” when being a Prefect. According to him, being “after AL”s makes the Prefects biologically the oldest group of students in college and free of any other commitments but to serve the school full time. He also said that, as such, the Kingswood Prefects — wherever they went — were looked up to based on their seniority. The “training” they got in people management, event organization, crisis management and decision making, according to Nathavitharana, was worth the extra year spent in school. I feel that the change brought about in the late 2000s has made the Prefects’ Court both “soft” and vulnerable. This was one step that was taken to bring the Prefects to heel, and on the long run the strength and quality of the Prefects’ Court has come under comment.
In recent years, the Prefects seem to have some confusions regarding their “duty” and way of conduct. This is not the Prefects’ fault, entirely. The problem seems to be the “violation” of a “tradition” the Prefects’ Court had, in very short-sighted, dictatorial ways. In recent Big Matches we saw Prefects donning cowboy hats and dancing while on Big Match duty. We even saw some teachers (who, I am sure, are unaware of the traditions of the school and the Prefects’ Court) justifying this behaviour. Today, the cowboy hat seems to have come to stay and become a “tradition” of the Prefects’ Court. This is lamentable, to say the least and this policy has to be thought of again, considering the Past. At rugger matches we see Monitors holding a gigantic maroon and blue flag/banner of the school. They generally spread this on the railing of the main stand. But, we also see some Prefects who are in coloured clothing, while no Prefects are seen on duty at the game. These are drastic changes from the 1990s where Prefects were the leading force in maintaining order. They were never “spectators” in games or outings.
There were many Prefects during the time who were not the favourites of teachers. But, a good Prefect (in the way he conducted himself) always prompted the teachers and the administration to tidy up their game. In a time where the school was going through a very precarious passage — when the school had many internal issues and discipline was rocking like a boat in bad waters — the Prefects of 2001, in my view, gave the best as anyone could give for the school’s welfare. Back then, as a senior student, I remember feeling antagonistic towards these Prefects for the “harshness” of their policing, at times. But, I also realized that that kind of ruthlessness was needed to push Kingswood through the threat the school was facing at that time.
The 2001 Prefects were led by Asiri Attanayake, with Milinda Attanayake and Malalasekara as Scribes. The ruthlessness of the discipline they exacted off the students didn’t even spare boys of their own Grade. From top to bottom, from Siberia to the Primary, these Prefects combed the school of its lice and bugs — and were not always preferred by some of the teachers, too. But, their “duty” knew very little barriers and the foundation they laid that year, I am told, made the work of the Prefects of 2002 and 2003 a whole lot easier.
Today, the school needs boys who are ready to serve Kingswood, and not wear the name Kingswood as a jewel or a tie pin. We need boys who are ready to study the past, sustain the tradition and to give the best for a quality Kingswood that will live its 125 year old spirit and dignity. It is going to be hard — but, we need people who are ready to stop and re-think where we are, and where we are heading. The Prefects, I feel, have much to do in setting the standards for Kingswood to flourish and stand tall.
“Country or school may call, Play the game forward all” — The Kingswood Song.
A few months ago, we cautioned that Kingswood has arrived at the most crucial juncture of its history. With overnight transfers to nearly 50 teachers and with a new Principal coming in, Kingswood’s foundation was tested as never before. Among the problems we saw are the following:
1) The removal of 50 senior teachers interrupts the transmission of the Kingswood culture and traditions to the incoming teacher cadre.
2) Kingswood having a number of unique rituals and traditions would require a person some time to study and anlyze them. The removal of the entire top tier of the teacher population blocks a smooth transition of the traditions and culture.
3) The Old Boys (who know and value school traditions) not being closely involved with school.
Today, 10 months later, the consequences of the fears we had are still valid. Only that some of the school students and (older) teachers find that Kingswood is placed in a very tricky tight-rope; with no walking back. We hear stories of internal disunions and disgareements in the staffroom and among the top admin chairs. We hear of little “factions” operating in isolation, not being able to cooperate to the larger unity of the school welfare. We hear of teachers not knowing of the school traditions, coming up with their own ideas of what Kingswood “should be”, parading around.
When we, in January, analysed Kingswood — our alma mater of 123 years — to be placed in the most decisive spot it has been since the government takeover in 1958, we spoke to some of the responsible Old Boys who hold influential positions in the legit Old Boys Body. We tabled our fears and anxieties in person and thoroughly analyzed the situation for their benefit. We beseech them, the situation has not remedied yet. There are serious measures to be enforced, and as the loyal Union of Blaze’s open-minded school of yore, its Union needs to pay close heed to how matters develop from here.