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St. Paul's Girls' School - Milagiriya completes 115 years

by I P Alahakoon  - Daily News Jan 14 2002

St. Paul's Girls' School - Milagiriya, with a glorious history of 115 years behind it, steps into yet another year together with great aspirations for the future. At a time when the school, which was founded on the 14th of January 1887 as a Parish school attached to the St. Paul's Church of Milagiriya with just 24 students and 4 teachers, completes 115 years, it is worthy of special mention that it has a student population of approximately 4000 students, a tutorial staff of 140 members and a non-academic staff of 25 members.

It is now a leading National School which renders an invaluable service to the people of this country. The distinct characteristic of the school is that it strives towards achieving common education objectives with no religious or ethnic bias among the students and the members of the staff.

In the early years of the school's long history, the majority of students belonged to the Burgher community and the medium of instruction was English. As time progressed, both Sinhala and English medium education was offered to students. The school was taken over by the State on the 15th of December 1961.

The school reached an important milestone in February 1993 during the time of the former principal, Mrs. Gothami Fernando, when it was elevated to National School status.

The commitment and untiring efforts of the first principal, Miss Stella Coban (1887-1922) and the other principals, Miss Eda Ondatchi (1992-1937), Mrs. Agnes Spittel (1937-1940), Mrs. Honor Rover (1940-1947), Mrs. Thelma Bud Jansz (1947-1955), Mrs. E.P. Roper (1955-1958), Mrs. Grace Paul (1958-1964), Mrs. Pearl Ratnayake (1964-1967), Mrs. Barbara Gunasekera (1967-1985), Miss K. Pitigala (1985-1989), Mrs. Hema Wellalage (1989-1990), Mrs. Gothami Fernando (1990-1995) helped largely to lay a strong foundation on which to build. The present principal Mrs. I.P. Alahakoon (1995 to date) steers the school towards progress with her effective administration and excellent leadership.

The school whilst, gradually developing its resources and providing facilities, buildings, laboratories, home science rooms, sports rooms, auditoriums, computer unit, audio visual unit etc. afforded opportunities for students to pursue studies in Arts, Commerce, Languages and Science subjects.

St. Paul's has accordingly endowed the nation with a generation of accomplished ladies including medical, engineering, law, science and arts graduates and professionals in every field. The school has gifted a number of artistes with great prowess to the nation from the time of the jewel of the history of arts Dona Isabella, alias "Gajaman Nona" to date.

One of the most memorable events in the history of the school was the construction of the Shrine Room in the school premises, during the period of the former principal Mrs. Barbara Gunasekera. The planting of the Bo sapling, another significant event of the school, took place during the time of the former principal, Miss. K. Pitigala. The school comprises of a multi-religious community and all students, irrespective of their religion, come together and organise Buddhist, Christian and Islamic religious programs daily and annually.

In keeping with the theme of the school motto "Per Aspera Ad Astra" (Through hard work to the stars), the school organises many programs in order to meet the educational requirements of the era and to offer the country a generation of highly motivated women.

There are over 40 clubs and societies relating to sports and co-curricular activities among them. In addition to formal class work, students participate in at least one of these extra and co-curricular activities and this involvement enhances character and personality development. The school's Western and Oriental bands, Karate and Basketball teams have continued to bring fame to the School by winning at national level. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebration organised by the primary section in the preceding years were outstanding.

It is strongly believed that every student possesses an inherent talent, and in that context, students are given every encouragement to exhibit their talents in every possible discipline. The Sinhala musical "Deepa Udana" which was staged in 2001, was indeed an occasion for the students to display their talents and skills. Well organised assembly, class tabloids, class magazines and inculcating leadership qualities in every student are also part of the school curriculum.

This exercise has eliminated frustration and stress caused by the competitive atmosphere prevailing in the field of education. The school has been made a pleasant place for students, enabling them to attain achievable goals, develop self-confidence and gain due recognition.

Parents and members of the staff are well informed of the school's activities and teacher development workshops are conducted and thus every endeavour becomes a collective effort which is praiseworthy.

Since the last six years, St. Paul's has taken a new direction. Due to the clear vision, there has been a noticeable progress in every field during this period. In the academic field, the number of students obtaining good results at the G.C.E Ordinary Level and Advanced Level Examinations and gaining admission to universities is on the rise.

English medium classes are offered to students of the Advanced Level Science stream from 2001. Since of late, student participation in extra and co-curricular activities has increased considerably.

Moreover there has been a vast improvement in library facilities. Separate well-equipped libraries are maintained for the primary and upper schools. A new building is under construction to accommodate a school archives. The addition of new classrooms, staff rooms, sanitary units, auditorium, room for indoor sports exhibits the school's development in physical resources.

At the beginning of the new millennium, the school received the long awaited principal's quarters with in the premises of the school.

The foundation stone has been laid for a four storeyed building to house a new computer unit and aesthetic unit. Furthermore the school's administration has focused its attention on making the maximum use of the limited land. the mini botanical garden, green house, and the orchid house which add to the beauty of the school.

Active participation in the Medicinal Plant Project (Osu Uyana) of about 2000 plants belonging to over 200 varieties provides an opportunity to teachers, parents and students to get an insight into indigenous plants.

Special mention must be made of the vegetable cultivation in the green house which is an asset to the school. The Hundred Day Accelerated Development Program has been launched. The main goals of this project are to improve student attendance, to construct an archives, to grow vegetable patches at class level, to expand student welfare etc.

Active participation, creative ideas and constructive criticism of the Management Committee, the School Development Society, the Past Pupils' Association, the teachers and parents have brought about a progress which gives new life to the school. On the completion of 115 golden years, may we all wish that St. Paul's Girls' School Milagiriya, succeeds in all its endeavours and continues to produce useful citizens and shine among the best schools in Sri Lanka.