Pride of Uva, that completes a centenary
Centenary of St.Joseph’s College, Bandarawela falls
The revival of education was a prominent feature throughout Sri Lanka
at the dawn of the 20th century. Even during the British administration
much of their attention was paid to child education. Among the many
Christian sects engaged in this unsurpassed endeavour one sect in the
forefront was “De La Salle Brothers”. They were also known as “Brothers
of the Christian schools”.
The small school, St.Joseph’ College was commenced on 1st February
1909 by De Lal Salle Brothers. The first principal of the school was
Rev. Brother Simon Mathew, an Irish (his first name was Patrick Purchell).
As recorded in the old registers of the College, the first student
who sought the warmth of the embrace of this bounteous mother was
Though the number in roll was 17 at the beginning it grew up to 93 at
the end of 1909. This increase clearly indicated the popularity of the
school among both urban and rural folks. The first school inspection was
carried out on 24th March 1911 and found it was progressing.
However a number of obstacles forestalled the forward journey of the
school and being unable to find solutions to their soaring problems the
De La Salle brothers sold the land in 1914 to one Bastion Fernando, a
resident in Colombo. But still the school was functioning and its
administration was handed over to the Catholic mission in Bandarawela.
The land was again sold to one C.H.L. Fernando and fortunately no one
could stop the forward march of the school. As Mr. Fernando purchased
another land in the Bandarawela, he decided to sell this land.
With the bliss of God, the land again fell into the hands of the
Christian community when Marist Brothers purchased the land in 1928.
In January 1928 Mr. Mailvaganam did a praiseworthy and memorable
service to uplift the standard of education of the school. The number of
pupils increased faster and in September 1928 two Marist brothers
assumed duties with firm determination. The principal during the second
stage was Rev. Brother Lewis along with Brother Andrew as his assistant.
At the departure of Brother Lewis in 1934 number of students was 250.
Some of the names of Rev. brothers, who walked an uphill journey and
worked laboriously, are inerasably written in the hearts of all old
“Semper fidelis” is the motto of the school. They were always
faithful. They did what they said and vice versa, but never boasted or
blared. Brothers Elias, Pascal, Clement, Rudolf and James are undying
names in the memory of all old Josephians.
In 1961 the school was taken over by the government and the first
principal under the new administration was Arthur Deegalle. His
successer Peraliya K. Harischandra, a member of Helahaula, named the
school as “Sudu Juse Viduhala”. But that name did not last long. During
the period of principal Ven. Kanumuldeniye Ganarathana Thera, a Tamil
section was added to St.Mary’s Tamil College and widened the gates for
girl students too.
After the school was taken over by the government several principals
worked hard to make it an up and coming institution in the Uva Province.
They were Arthur Deegalle, Pereliya K. Harschandra, S. W. Fernando, C.
W. L. Mendis, Ven. K. Ganaratana thera, R. M. A. Rathnayake, D. M.
Gunaratna and W. M. Karunasena. Messrs A. M. Jayasekara, R. M. Gunadasa
and Withanage Wijesingha had shouldered the responsibilities of
administration as acting principals when no permanent principal was
appointed by the department.An officer of Education Administrative
Service K. H. P. Jayatissa is the present principal. He has been blessed
to be the first past pupil to become the principal.
Now the student population is over 2000 with the tutorial staff
Facilities are available for the A/L students in all the four
streams: Science, Maths, Arts and Commerce. Up to O/L, subjects are
taught in Sinhala and the English mediums.
Steps are being taken to construct an auditorium which will cost
around 40 million. With the patronage of Deputy Minister of Education,
Sachithanandan, a renowned old boy of S. J. C. Buddhist shrine with
contribution from students, parents and old boys is under construction.
Text and Pix: Alex Perera, Special Corr. and U. Dharmasena.