A Golden Period

In 1995, A.P. Gunaratne completed 60 years and had to retire, but on an appeal by the Ananda College Old Boys’ Association and the College Parent–Teachers’ Association, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga gave an extension of service for three years.

It was the first time that a school Principal in a National School had been granted a service extension, but the official letter of extension of service was not received by him. After verifying the position from the Secretary of the Ministry of Education, he was informed that the letter had been issued, but the Minister of Education had wanted to personally grant the letter to him.

Gunaratne had informed the Secretary that he was not willing to meet the Minister personally to accept the letter of service extension as the Minister was not on good terms with him for not obliging his personal requests for school admissions.

Gunaratne had not received the letter of service extension on the due date and he informed the Secretary of the Ministry of Education immediately that he will resign. He handed over the College keys and all other responsibilities to the Deputy Principal by a log entry and retired from the service in 1995.

Ahangama Gamage Don Piyasena Gunaratne popularly known among his colleagues as A.P. Gunaratne was born on April, 18, 1935. He was the eldest of family of nine children born to A. G. Don Pedrick Gunaratne, a businessman and Ahangama Vithanage Somawathie.

Young A.P. Gunaratne started his primary education at the Sripada College, Hatton and was later admitted to the Dharmaraja College, Kandy to Standard Three. After completing his secondary education he entered the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, reading Economics, History and Sinhala for a Bachelor of Arts Degree. After reading the Degree examination in 1960, A.P. Gunaratne joined the staff of Maliyadeva College, Kurunegala, as a teacher to which profession he would devote his life.

In 1968, Gunaratne received an appointment as a Lecturer at the Teachers’ College, Katukurunda and subsequently he was promoted to Grade 1 Special Post and in 1971, he returned to Dharmaraja College as Vice Principal and in due course was appointed as Principal. He served in this capacity for nearly 14 years. He was selected to the Sri Lanka Educational Service Class 1 in 1986.

In 1987, Gunaratne’s abilities as the teacher of a high calibre and a good administrator were recognized by the Ministry of Education and he was selected to succeed Colonel V.S. Kudaligama as the Principal of Ananda College. In doing so Gunaratne earned the honour of being the sixth Dharmaraja Principal to become the principal of Ananda College.

At Ananda, a major programme of school development activities was undertaken under A.P. Gunaratne’s leadership such as constructing a Principal’s quarters within the College premises, renovation projects to repair and restore old buildings including the Olcott Hall, the hostel, the Buddha Jayanthi Mandiraya, the five-storeyed science building, the Year Six section and the Commerce section.

The Ananda College Old Boys’ Association had initiated a plan to acquire the Mackwoods Company land for a long time without much support from the company, but during this period a senior State official took the initiative and signed the necessary documents and in no time Mackwoods left the premises handing over the land to the College.

The OBA under Dr. H.S. Perera immediately planned the College swimming pool and launched a fund and in no time the project became a reality and the Ananda College swimming pool was opened by President R. Premadasa on April 2, 1993. One of the Mackwoods factory buildings was renovated and converted to a gymnasium.

Grade 6 students of Ananda College

During Gunaratne’s era, the College prize giving was re-organized and it was held annually in a grand style. Also the College sports activities were bought under the newly organized Sports Council where the Prefect of Games, all masters in charge and College Team Captains came under one umbrella. Ananda won numerous championships in athletics, cricket, cadetting, tennis and swimming during this period.

Also the College obtained the Runners-up position in the President’s Trophy for Rugby in 1991 and 1992 beating all schools except Isipathana Vidyalaya. Another hallmark of Gunaratne’s period was awarding College colours for outstanding sportsmen and the ‘Colours Nite’ was started and this event became a very colourful and popular annual event amongst the students, teachers, parents and old boys.

The College Scout movement wasn’t that organized and it was revived and later introduced Cub Scouting from Grade 3. The concept of adventure was introduced and the College Scouts Himalayan Hill Climb Adventure programme became very popular and received much publicity.

Gunaratne’s main idea was to form Ananda College Past Teacher’s Association in 1992 and today it is a well-organized and powerful association.

In 1971, Gunaratne married Sunethra Illeperuma and she was an English teacher. Their happy union was blessed with two children. Son Daham is a Managing Director of a firm and the daughter is still studying. After retirement in 1995, Gunaratne worked in a UNICEF project, a World Bank Project, and in an Asian Development Bank project. He assisted university education in a number of programmes and in training of school principals in school management. He was a Council Member of the University of Colombo and also member of the Academic Syndicate of the Institute of Human Resources Advancement from 1996 to 2015.

– Daily News Sri Lanka

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