The traditional prizes and awards that were awarded from the earliest years such as the Crowther, Luterz, and Randles Shields, the Devadasan and Shanmugam tophies were taken off out of whim. Some prizes were not judged properly. The Prologue was presented without proper understanding. Whistling in the main hall became usual.
by Adeeb Jibran
As a small kid just starting to find his way about the house, for the first time I heard the word ‘Kingswood’. My grandfather told me about Kingswood and so did my father. The Kingswood that my grandfather told me about was Mr.Blaze’s last years at College, as he was standing at the final assembly which he had attended with a walking stick. The Kingswood that my father told me about was a bit different than what my grandfather told me. Back in the day, even the lady who washed the dishes in the hostel apparently spoke in English. But, by my father’s period Kingswood was already adapting to the culture of a typical school managed by the government; that, somewhere in the mid-1980s it had even be proposed that Kingswood be renamed as Mulgampola Maha Vidyalaya. But, even these testing times would not have been as difficult as what Kingswood began facing after 2012. By the time I left the school in 2015, the “Old Kingswood” we all knew and loved had come down a different road where it now stands uncertainly.
The Kingswood that I experienced felt firm, confident and assured till 2012, the year I sat for my O/Ls. But, this was also the time where a certain degree of uncertainty and difficulty came in the way of my school. Things began to slowly deviate from what had, over the years, become traditions of the school. One small area I felt this was when the school’s rugby jersey started changing every year, taking various designs and sporting crazy patterns. The Kingswood rugby jersey had always been a uniform product. But, now, things had begun to change.
We still sang the soothing words – “Hill-throne where nature is gracious and Kind”, words which easily help us to visualize the landscape of the school we entered and exited every day – but… though the school song was repeated every day before school started, the school had started to change — I felt that the students had suddenly lost a vital part of that strong feeling of being a part of Kingswood: Blaze’s school. I saw this transformation as I had heard how it had once been. The Kingswood which Blaze visualized has by now deteriorated, not because of anything else, but because we have no written tradition anywhere. Yes, Blaze didn’t want it to be written. He thought it will be followed by heart by the generations to comes who will be the “gentlemen” he thought the school would be proud of. But sadly things had changed drastically, and I felt that by 2012 it couldn’t have got any worse.
Between 2012 and 2014 we at Kingswood did not have a Principal. The school was administrated by the Deputy Principals to the best of their experience and knowledge.
Everything was scattered. The central grip that seemed to have held the school together was loosened. Students roaming here and there like free cattle became a common, daily sight. Till the last day I left school, as a habit, I used to leave school late, at about 6 PM. Till about 2012, Kingswood was a very busy place during and after school. Things were so hectic that in the ground we often didn’t have a suitable space for Under-14 rugger practices. The main hall was a den of activity with either drama, eastern music, western music or debating. The gym used to be packed with karate and boxing players. The Primary band along with the Senior band and cadets marching and running around were common sights for anyone who hung around after school.
But, then, between 2012 and 2014 came changes that hit the school system at the base. First, over 60 senior teachers were transferred to other schools almost overnight, and in one movement. These were said to be transfers that had not happen for a long time, but the removal of all the senior staff in that manner meant that the front-line of the school was taken away leaving no time for the practices, norms, traditions and customs of the school to be gradually passed down to the new-comers. These teachers were sent to other national schools in Kandy, while some were sent away from the city. This happened on top of the long serving Principal Chandrasekara also being promoted to a Ministry post.
In what may be a rare incident in the school’s history a Grade 11 student beats a Prefect and the Senior Prefect resigns, along with the entire court. This was a major drawback, as now the Grade 12s were promoted to the Prefects’ Court even though they didn’t have the experience that usually comes by working for a year as Monitors and learning the traditions and customs of the school. However, they tried their best to oversee the school and its 3500-odd students. Kingswood also lacked the depth and gravity that used to be attached to its traditions. The main days of the school calendar – such as the Prize Giving – was done (as some of us felt it) for the sake of having them. The traditional prizes and awards that were awarded from the earliest years such as the Crowther, Luterz, and Randles Shields, the Devadasan and Shanmugam Prizes were taken off out of whim. Some prizes were not judged properly. The Prologue was presented without proper understanding. Whistling in the main hall became usual, while the tradition of the staircases leading to the administration offices from Commerce section and the one leading from the Science section to the main hall being not used by students lost significance. These staircases not being used used to result in some kind of order and discipline in these heavily populated blocks. That culture was now lost and Kingswood, gradually, started on the sad path of being “any other school”.
Moreover, “being Kingswoodian” was an itch that only real Kingswoodians felt. There is a famous story when a young Kingswoodian named Brian Leslie de Vos who signed up for World War-I duty took along with him the score of the Kingswood Song. There are other Kingswoodians who used to come back to school every year for events like the prize giving or the sports meet from far away places like England, South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore. Even in the times we know, Kingswoodians carried with pride a knowledge of the school’s values, its family-like culture and the inclusive pulse that didn’t care for religious or ethnic divisions in developing a “Kingswood identity”. But today that itch has, sadly, become a tickle which makes others laugh at the so-called Gentlemen of Kingswood.
But, I still hope that there is a way that we could revive that itch in every heart which enters Randles hill. After all, difficult times cannot last forever; and as some people share and reshare on social media – impossible is nothing.
Adeeb Jibran is a third generation Kingswoodian, a Prefects’ Scribe, school debater, announcer and First XV rugby coloursman.