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Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 | Sri Lanka Watch
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Jaffna College faces a challenge to blaze new trails in education PDF Print E-mail

By Victor Karunairajan

Jaffna College is not a mere Fortress Vaddukoddai or a relic of the past freewheeling in her past glory. Neither has any one prescriptive claim on her.

A legally incorporated body, she is vested in the community by its founding fathers to propagate its educational needs and well being. The school, managed by a Board of Directors has developed traditions and values unique to her just like famous and well known educational institutions in the various parts of the world.
Jaffna College without exception of any kind is alma mater to every student who went through her portals for nearly fourteen decades. She is our shared, sacred mother and we cherish, love and honour her.
Vibrant and dynamic, despite some dark patches in her history, she has remained a citadel of meaningful educational vision and hope for the community. An educational arena founded in the 19th century to meet the educational and development needs of the time of the people of the Jaffna District, she has remained unsullied and untarnished by socio-cultural and spiritual prejudices and differences that prevailed in the society.
This founding ideal championed by the people of the district was different to the initiative and the plan for which Batticotta Seminary was founded by the American missionaries in 1823 and closed as a failure in 1855.
Today Jaffna College and Uduvil Girls College two of the only five private schools in the north have a much larger challenge which not only involves widening the educational expanse but also their borders to absorb and engulf the entire province of the north.
What is needed is to bring the whole population of the north into an educational system to spark a rapid development programme focused primarily on agriculture, agro-industries, livestock breeding, ground water management and conservation, forestry, boat building and fisheries and supporting infrastructures vital to offset the devastation caused by the 30-year civil war and set the community on the path to progress and peaceful coexistence.
Furthermore, over a period of two centuries or even more going back to the 16th century, these valuable assets have been neglected and our educational options have been to support the highly exploitive colonial interests. This diverted our valuable human assets elsewhere at great cost to us. 
Mere formal academic education is not enough; it will hardly meet the challenges that confront us now.  We need skilled personnel to take care of our grass roots that will not only be knowledgeable of our assets but also appreciative of them and help build self-supporting strong communities living in harmonious relationship with what nature has richly bestowed on us.
The Jaffna College authorities have had the foresight especially during the time when Dr Luther Jeyasingam was the president of the college to launch out the Jaffna College Technical Institute and the Jaffna College School of Agriculture and we should have proceeded on from there to open up campuses in the rest of the province especially in Wanni bringing skilled and meaningful education and rural leadership training programmes to encourage and motivate the productive sectors especially in the fields of agriculture and fisheries.
In other words, Jaffna College along with Uduvil Girls College must become truly Community Colleges and it is a sign of much promise that the Board of Directors of Jaffna College have begun to address themselves to such outreach programmes and take these two institutions to the next stage of their development in the service to the community.
Speaking to this writer, the Rt Rev Dr Daniel Thiagarajah, the Chairman of the Jaffna College Board of Directors and the head of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India whose predecessors founded Jaffna College said the time has dawned for us to commit ourselves fully to nation building and the bonding of the communities and this can be achieved when our educational programmes are consequential for socio-cultural and economic development.
“Jaffna College and Uduvil Girls College are great assets to us. Already both institutions are taking care of needy young people, large numbers of them innocent war victims and there will be many more that will need our help. We see them as our future hope with their commitment to become the faithful stewards of our land and its assets,” said Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah on the eve the JDCSI’s Kilinochchi Church was going to have its worship and thanksgiving service after its renovation. The re-dedication of the church was a welcome and inspirational signal to the people of the area that life is getting back to normal after at least thirty terrible years.
Bishop Thiagarajah also reminded that in 1872 the local people had the vision to found Jaffna College when they saw a need for an educational institution that would meet the needs of the time and even reach the level of a university eventually. “The church,” he said, “played a major role in making this possible and also encouraged the setting up of a trust to help Jaffna College which later became the Trustees of Jaffna College Funds in the US. During the 1970s, the effective intervention of the church saved Jaffna College from being taken over by the government.
“Today we are faced with another phase of development that is essential to make our region become a rich productive land by providing the necessary skills and knowledge for our children and young people along with formal academic education. What we are seeking is a passive, peaceful and purposeful economic revolution.”
Mr Noel Wimalendran, the principal of Jaffna College, the most beautiful school campus in Sri Lanka and considered a bastion of democracy, during my recent conversations with him stressed the need to provide meaningful formal and non-formal all-round educational opportunities and options to our war-battered community. Rehabilitation, reconciliation and reconstruction according to him must figure primarily in our educational goals.
 
Jaffna College has an enormous responsibility to take care of children who are victims of the civil war. Thousands have been traumatized and many have lost both their parents and several more are maimed.
 
Victor Jeyakumar a member of the Church of South India Synod, who was appointed as one of the junior vice principals of Jaffna College said that north’s development is urgent and central to the wellbeing of our people, and our educational outreach must be basically concentrated on our own resources and assets. He cited that while the ocean around us is plentiful with fishery banks, our lands have been known as rich and highly potent in agriculture and forestry from the ancient of times. He lauded the JDCSI and its leadership for prioritizing care of children, work among needy young people, education and leadership training as important aspects in its rural ministry. His other recently appointed administrative colleagues as junior vice principals are the Rev Solomons and Chandran Francis.
 
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