ST.JOSEPH
" Politicians must rise above politics
for Peace & Development in the country "

Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe,

Rector of St. Joseph's College, Colombo
[ Fr. Sunil De Silva - 24.02.2012 ]
Honourable Justice Priyasath Gerard Dep, Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, presided at the Annual Prize Ginving at St. Joseph's College, Colombo on 24th February 2012 together with Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe, the Rector of the College. Rev. Fr. Sylvester addressing the gathering said :

" Honourable Sir, Rev. Fathers, Rev. Sisters, Members of the Staff distinguished Old Boys, Parents and my dear Students.

It is an occasion of happiness for all of us to welcome the Honourable Justice Priyasath Gerard Dep, Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. If you ask me the reason for the happiness, all I could say is that this College has consistently produced a long line of distinguished legal luminaries starting with the late Sir Francis Soertsz, and, Justice Dep is yet another adornment in that galaxy.

Your being amongst us today, will I am certain bring back nostalgic memories of this great and much loved school in which I am certain you spent many, many happy hours enjoying all the fun a schoolboy indulged in, yet, imbibing the “Fruits of Virtue and of Knowledge” which are “Peace and Power” Your mentors were all illustrious men who would certainly have left a lasting impression on you which you cherish to this day.

You received your primary and secondary education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo where you excelled in academia and sports. You combined the maxim of “A healthy mind in a healthy body” and represented College in Athletics, Rugby Football and Soccer. Thereafter you proceeded to the University of Colombo where you obtained BA Special degree in Development Studies. You represented the University of Colombo in rugby football and cricket.

Sir, you joined the legal fraternity and was enrolled as an Attorney-at-Law in October 1976 and joined the Attorney- General’s Department as a State Counsel in 1978. You were promoted as a Senior State Counsel in 1989 and made Deputy Solicitor General in 1996. Your meteoric rise continued when you were appointed Additional Solicitor General in 1999 and made a President’s Counsel in the year 2000.

Many are the cases Sir in which you have appeared for the State with great distinction wherein your lucid arguments, your extensive display of the intricacies of the law have made the decision making of the Bench that much easier. The facile manner in which you handled criminal, civil and constitutional matters did not go unnoticed, for as Solicitor General you were in charge of the Civil Division, supervised Fundamental Rights applications and matters such as Public International Law, Bills, Rule and Extradition.

You represented the Government in bilateral and multilateral negotiations and participated in negotiations pertaining to extradition and mutual legal assistance. You led the delegation to the 48th and 49th sessions of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization in Malaysia and Tanzania and was elected Vice President of that Organization. You left your stamp at the International conferences you attended. Your 33 years in the Attorney General’s Department were in many ways memorable.

Your Masters Degree in International Relations and your Post Graduate Diploma in Forensic Science has marked many a turning point in cases involving these subjects. June 13th 2011, the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua will be etched in your memory as it was on that day that His Excellency elevated you to the rank of a Judge of the Supreme Court of this country.

You have Sir been a role model for the students of this College. We wish you all the success you richly deserve and thank you sincerely for your presence this afternoon in spite of your busy schedule. God Bless you.

PEACE IN OUR COUNTRY

The “Peace” which was won at a bitter cost is being bandied about as the panacea for all our ills. But true peace in the Christian sense is not confined to ending a war. It includes firstly the healing of the hearts and minds of those on both sides of the conflict. This calls for statesmanship which is on a far higher level than politics. The civil war ended three years ago. How many still live in resettlement camps? How many war widows and orphans are there? How many maimed and disabled are there? By stating promises that are yet to be fulfilled is only trying to give respectability and make a complex situation look simplistic. Will we have politicians who will rise above politics and answer these questions honestly. The silencing of guns is not peace, nor, is the taking of arms from the hands of those who used it during war. Peace is something that has to dwell in the hearts and minds of the highest in the land down to the citizen in the furthest corners of our island.

UNIQUENESS OF EACH PERSON

As you are already aware, St. Joseph’s College is the premier Catholic Boys School in the country. We take pride in the fact that we are the flagship of Catholic education. Our alumni are adornments in the various walks of life they have chosen, and, have come back to acknowledge that what they imbibed in this great school is what has stood then in life. We shall continue to hold aloft and keep the flame of that torch burning brightly which our founding fathers have handed to us over the last 116 years. Our unique heritage and rich culture of “Virtue and of Knowledge” have and will continue to produce its fruits of “Peace and Power” for generations yet unborn.

Teaching and learning are the primary purpose at St. Joseph’s College . We aim at excellence in all that we undertake, whether it be in the class room, in extracurricular activities or in the development of the individual within the community.

Our primary focus is on the individual. We believe in the uniqueness of each person. Excellence is achieved by recognizing and meeting individual needs and by helping each pupil to reach their true potential. This cannot be done for its own sake. Spiritual values lie at the heart of school life which enables our students to develop both morally and spiritually within a Christian environment in preparation for the challenges, opportunities and responsibilities of adult life.

In keeping with the tenets of our faith, we always have and will continue to make every endeavour to produce students deeply committed to harmonious cultural diversity as an essential element of the learning environment in order that all Josephians will develop as effective and enlightened citizens by which we have encouraged physical, social, ethical and spiritual development as well as intellectual development.

We do not merely endeavour but insist upon producing students of quality. Producing quantity merely for the sake of achieving results is shallow, and, very possibly the reason for the type of students who enter universities which has resulted in the unrest. At present universities have developed into uncontrollable proportions where the flames are being fanned by politicians who use such gullible students both in schools and universities to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency riding piggy back on this situation.

University Education

The tradition of our schools today is a system of a teacher surrounded by his pupils. But University Education is something different. It consists of several teachers surrounded by their pupils and all of them in mutual interaction. The beginning of this type of University Education was certainly influenced by the Christian Church.

University Education is viewed as an end in itself and as a pursuit of knowledge for its own sake though they are not altogether tenable in the modern world. There is a need to adapt & transform traditional motifs of University Education, to be relevant and practicable in the Socio – Economic Environment of Sri Lanka.

Catholic Education

According to Blessed John Henry Newman (Cardinal Newman) was the best exponent of these concepts, in his well known treatise, “The idea of University”. According to him there are three fundermental concepts which form the very foundation of University Education.
1. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.
2. The need to captive the multi disciplinary charactor of knowledge.
3. University is a congregation of learned men interacting with one another.

University Education must equip a student in 3 ways
1. A university student must have an in-depth knowledge in the field of study he/she opts to follow.
2. University Education must enrich in a student that quality of mind which enables and encourages the student to approach the world which he sees in a Scientific Manner.
3. The acquisition of knowledge with whatever degree that a student possesses should have humbled the student.

University Education must lead a student to have an integral form of Education by enhancing his/her abilities, qualities of leadership and capacity to work in a team for the betterment of the society.

Sri Lankan Universities

Sri Lankan University Education seems to be getting more & more into a mess. Certainly there is a tragic downward trend.

A survey carried out in 2010 by the Department of Manpower & Employment, indentified three main reasons for the depletion of the quality of University education, namely,

I. Politicization of University System
II. Indiscipline
III. Lack of State of Art Technologies & facilities.

Apart from these three are other minor reasons for the deterioration of the University system.

I. Politically sponsored and organized actions by parties in the University.
II. Politically organized ragging & violent opposition to legitimate authority.
III. Non Academic trade unions disruptions.
IV. Lack of a state policy in education.
V. Will fully organized strikes to disrupt the Lectures & Exam.

FREE EDUCATION.

Free Higher Education is a luxury that a poor country such as ours cannot afford. It is very expensive to provide quality higher education. No other country in the world offers free university education. There is an opinion that when something is given free, university students tend to take it for granted as a legitimate right and misuse the purpose for which the facility is given. Instead a few of them brainwashed and misled by power hungry politicians engage in organizing strikes and disturbing lecturers thereby destroying the entire system.

My personal view is that students should be screened thoroughly prior to giving them free education in the higher echelons of education, since, they will in the future be an asset to the country rather than a burden they presently are.

ENTRANCE TO UNIVERSITY.

After a highly competitive examination of the GCE Advanced Level with rigorous Z scores, only 20% of these candidates are admitted to local universities while others are left to find their own avenues of higher education. Their parents pay exorbitant, amounts of money to foreign universities to educate their children. Since local universities cannot provide admission to all qualified students, the establishing of private universities becomes necessary if we are to avoid a brain drain.

By he recent crisis of the Advanced Level Z score results, the credibility of the Department of Examinations had suffered more than ever.

SOLUTIONS.

It must be understood that to create solutions you must have total quality people involved in education and not half baked academics or charlatan who have cures for every ill. You have to get quality lecturers, principals, teachers, education policy formulating personnel, knowledgeable and those who are educational visionaries.

The cry continues to go up daily. When will those in authority heed the cry and have the firmness of purpose to address their minds to finding a solution. It is patently clear that the administrative set up in education is top heavy resulting in an overlapping of functions just to accommodate a political destitute who wishes to hitch his wagon to a star.

Whilst all this is of paramount importance, the methods used to bring about the change must also be examined bearing in mind that every child is a unique entity and must be taken care of starting from his or her formative years into adolescence when they have finished their schooling.

To find out why some schools succeed while others do not the McKensey report studied 25 of the world’s school systems. After through examination they have suggested three salient features most. I sited this features in 2008 prize day report which I implemented and have gain success.

(1) Getting the right people to become teachers.
(2) Developing them into effective instructors and
(3) Ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.

I am certain that if we apply these three factors into our university system and the country as a whole will benefit tremendously.

(1) Getting the right people to become lecturers.

The quality of a university system cannot exceed the quality of its lectures. one must have the qualifications to become a lecturers. You have to be able to motivate the students by being a real mentor and teach students real life values.

Have counselors. Train the lectures to become role models rather than distracting students. The negative impact of the low performing lecturers are severe. We require dedicated and committed lecturers who are led by the ideal that theirs is a vocation and not merely a profession. That lecturers handle the most precious mental in the world, the mind of a student which is put on the anvil of learning and shaped by the lecturers.

(2) Developing them into effective instructors

Improve the quality of instruction in class room. Lecturer must get away from the idea that he knows everything and the student must listen & reproduce what the lecturer has said. Use a lot of practical & research work and new methodology with technology.

(3) deliver the best possible instruction for every child.

Today’s trend in our country is to force students follow a few courses. It is very important that students offer what they like & potential We have a must allow students to take the initiative & responsibility for their action.

It is of paramount importance that every school must strive to produce quality students. By this is meant a complete student, not just a student who has acquired book knowledge and knows nothing else about the values of life. The universities must make every endeavour to produce a well rounded personality who can take his rightful place in society and not be myopic in views.

There is separation of the school education & university education. In college we produce quality students who have acquired excellence in education. If we take individuals who go to university from our colleges they come out excellently as integral persons. But because of a few the whole university system suffer. Let us then ensure that we continue the same system of integral education given in college should be continued in universities.

Politicization is easily the root cause of all the unrest in universities Like in foreign universities, politics & politicians must not use the students for their gains.

Strict discipline should be enforce with religious back ground.

SCHOOLS NEED TO BE A LIGHTHOUSE.

If humanity has to be saved from its present darkness, change in direction is needed, not just change. The question is where in society does one begin a process of change? There are three classroom of a child – the first classroom of the child is the home, the second is his school and the third is society. The destiny of a man and mankind is shaped in three classrooms. The increase in brutality, criminality, disunity and inhumanity in the world are by products of an inadequate education in these three classrooms of a child.

No other institution is capable of influencing the future more than a school. This is because a school is a controlled environment with the future inside it. In its leadership role, a school must become a lighthouse of society. It must lead others in society. An enlightened education capable of serving humanity must ensure the balanced development of material, human and divine realities of life. This is because a child has three realities , i.e. material, human and divine and for a child’s balanced development, a broader education must address all these three realities. There has been an over emphasis on materialism at the cost of human and spiritual education, the negative results of which are apparent. A 20th century model of education is inadequate for the needs of the 21st century. Change in direction is needed, not just change at the margins of education."

Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe
St. Joseph’s College, Colombo 10

EDITOR'S CHOICE