100 years of outstanding performance | Sunday Observer

100 years of outstanding performance

One of the leading schools in Sri Lanka’s famed gem city, a school that prides itself for being an institution imparting early education to the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike or Sirima Ratwatte as she was then known, is poised to celebrate its centenary this year.

The Ferguson High School, Ratnapura, a missionary English medium school established on March 27, 1917 had only three students at its inception. With a population of 4,200 students today, and an outstanding performance record, the school has grown into a beacon of light in the heart of Ratnapura beckoning a young generation to a promising future of accomplishment.

Before Mrs.Bandaranaike’s departure to St. Bridget’s Convent in Colombo in 1924, she was enrolled at Ferguson High School which was a reputed school in Ratnapura, by her father Barnes Ratwatte, the ‘Ratemahatmaya of Balangoda’ at the time.

As a seven year old, she was enrolled in the school in 1923 after a brief period at a private school in Balangoda. Since its inception, as a leading school in the country it has produced, prominent lady politicians, celebrated civil servants, magistrates, doctors, engineers, and brave patriotic women.

To name a few, Badra Kamaladasa, first Irrigation Director General, Yamuna Batangala, first woman Air Commodore, award winning author Sunethra Rajakarunanayake, leading politician and Minister Thalatha Athukorala as well as, Parliamentarian Dr. Thusitha Wijemanna and Rosy Senanayake of Mrs World fame are proud products of the leading school.

Under the direction of the school Principal and the dedication of the staff, parents and past pupils, Fergusonites organized and held a number of colourful events leading to their D-day to celebrate its grand centenary which falls on March 27 this year.

Among the key events were an anniversary walk held in September last year, pirith chanting and alms giving, blood donation campaign and a Sheershabarana ceremony to honor Sri Lanka’s heritage. In the Sheershabharana or Paimpath ceremony, which is equivalent to ‘Wes bendeema’ of male Kandyan dancers, 100 students of the school who have reached the highest standard of the Kandyan form of dancing were honoured. The paimpath ceremony for girls was introduced to the Kandyan tradition in the modern era.

According to the school facebook page,’ this colourful paimpath ceremony was held on 18 and 19 January 2017 at the Ratnapura Maha Saman Dewalaya premises and Seewali grounds. Many rituals connected to the tradition of placing the headgear on the student was an educational experience too.’

‘It needs to be noted that the girls who took part in the ceremony and their parents have been on a vegetarian diet for three months enhancing the value of this ritualistic tradition which symbolizes the richness of the Sri Lankan culture.’

The school still welcomes both, boys and girls up to Grade 5, but from the junior high upwards it functions as a girls’ school.

The current Principal of the school, Mercy Galagama is also a Fergusonite who had studied at the school from Grade 1 till the end of her school education.

“I am the 12th Principal of the school,” she said proudly, adding that she is the only Principal who is a 100% product of Ferguson High School. She arrived at school as a Deputy Principal in 2013.

After her SLEAS, she was working as a Director at the Provincial

Education office. She shifted career taking up the position as the school Principal partly due to her parents’ bidding, “My parents wanted me to take up a school career. I said if I ever go to a school as Principal, it should be at my alma mater.”

True to its motto, “Live Pure, Speak True, Right Wrong”, and its vision “To produce a knowledgeable, moral and dignified female generation,” the school had been creating the path for future leaders for the past 100 years.

Ferguson High School offers Sinhala and Tamil media study streams with English medium starting from Grade Six onward. It has maintained a steady performance record with over 99% pass rate at the GCE O/L in 2015 and 83% pass rate at the GCE A/L in 2016. Last year, 38 students out of 432 received three As at the A/L examination.

The school has an outstanding Languages stream, offering Japanese and French language learning facilities for students in the junior high school and A/L classes. The Fergusonites excel in the Japanese language and every year her students qualify to pursue higher studies in Japan. Three of the 2016 A/L students qualified in this manner to travel to Japan. Under the prestigious AFS student exchange programs, the Head Girl of the school, Pasasna Amarasinghe (Grade 12 student) will also be leaving for Japan, for a year.

In 1917, the school was established by the Baptist Missionary Society. At the inception it was called Baptist Missionary English School until 1928, when it was renamed in honor of Rev. John Ferguson.

The school has a humble beginning. It was started in a mud hut with a thatched roof, close to the ‘Etherington House’, perched on a small hill in the heart of Ratnapura. With its all modern amenities the school is still located at the same place. The first Principal of the school was the wife of the Baptist missionary Rev. J.B.Radley who pioneered the school, while the first teacher was Elizabeth Maldeniya. Ogasta Perera has been recorded as the first student of the school.

From December 1, 1960, Ferguson High School became a director-managed government school and the first Sri Lankan Principal, Pearl Perera was appointed in 1960.

As the school passes its 100th milestone, after braving many changes along the way, let us hope and pray that it will continue to be a beacon of hope guiding the younger generation in the region to a promising future.

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