Century of excellence | Daily News

Century of excellence

Visakha who lived in the times of the Buddha, is known to be a person of charm and independent spirit. She was the first female lay disciple of the Buddha and the chief female lay benefactor of the Sangha.

Jeremias Dias

She was well respected for her wisdom, generosity and her managerial skills. She was only seven years old when she encountered the Enlightened One and her wisdom surpassed her tender age as she attained the first stage of sainthood upon hearing the word of the Dhamma. It is this personality in mind that a school established on January 16, 1917 at the premises known as “The Firs” in Turret Road, Colombo was renamed as Visakha Vidyalaya and re-established at Vajira Road, 10 years later. Today, the school marks its Centenary Anniversary, recalling the virtues of its namesake.

Emulating Visakha of the Buddha’s times, young Visakhians are taught the skills as well as virtues, building a much needed female workforce for the country. With the excellent education opportunities at Visakha Vidyalaya, students are taught to be ‘cleansed’ through ‘wisdom,’ being true to the motto of the school – ‘Pannaya Parisujjhati’.

Principal Sandamali Aviruppola

Proudly declaring 100 years of providing a sound education and opportunities to thousands of girls to pursue extra-curricular activities, Visakha Vidyalaya has remained the most sought-after school for girls in the country for many years, and as the school which requires the highest scores for entry through the Grade 5 Scholarship examination. Visakha Vidyalaya also takes pride in having the highest number of achievers and the highest scorers at the GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level examinations, especially in the Bio-Science stream with the largest number of girls entering medical faculties. Apart from the traditional careers, Visakhians are holding top positions and performing well in other non-traditional professions in various sectors, becoming visionaries in their own fields both here and abroad.

“Since 2010 (except for one year), we had the island’s first in Ordinary Level examinations. We also have the highest number of 9 As. According to the Performance Index of the Examinations Department, out of the schools that conduct classes from Grade 1 to Grade 13, Visakha is the first in Ordinary and Advanced Level Examinations. Our students have performed well in all fields especially in the Maths and Science streams,” Visakha Vidyalaya Principal Sandamali Aviruppola told the Daily News.

Visakha thus has reason to celebrate this 100th momentous milestone in style. The first major fund-raiser in the exciting line-up of events for the year is the ‘Visakha Centenary Walk 2017,’ organised by the Visakha Vidyalaya Old Girls’ Association jointly with the School Development Committee. The Walk will be held on February 11 starting from the school premises at 7.30 am. It will proceed along Vajira Road, Galle Road; turn to Bauddhaloka Mawatha at the Bambalapitiya Junction and to Havelock Road at Thunmualla and back to school via Vajira Road. On return to the school, a mini- carnival will be held at the school premises with food and beverages as well as DJ music to keep the crowd toe-tapping until 1 pm. The Organizing Committee has provided a valuable opportunity for present and past Visakhians to reunite and celebrate their school’s 100-year journey. The proceeds of the Walk will be exclusively channeled towards the construction of the new building for the primary school. The proposed three-storey building will enable Grade 3 and 4 classes - currently located within the senior school - to be housed along with the rest of the primary classes, bringing the primary school to one single location. This is one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the Visakha Vidyalaya Old Girls’ Association as a centennial gift to their Alma Mater.

Visakha Walk 2013

Apart from the ‘Visakha Centenary Walk 2017,’ the first programme that marks the school’s 100th birthday is the Bodhi Pooja on January 16, which is officially the school’s date of birth. On January 21, an alms giving for 100 Bhikkunis will be held at the school premises, in keeping with the school’s Buddhist traditions. A special Commemorative Coin will be launched at a ceremony on January 23. An Educational Exhibition is scheduled on March 30, 31 and April 1. Apart from the Visakha Centenary Walk 2017, the second major fund-raiser for the year will be the Visakha Carnival scheduled for April 7 and 8, which is a grander version of the traditional Avurudu Pola that takes place at the school premises annually. A dinner banquet will be held on June 24 while a campfire will be held for past and present girl guides in August. The Visakha Geetha Natakaya will be held in October.

The gamut of opportunities provided for girls with regard to education as well as extra-curricular activities at Visakha Vidyalaya is highly admirable. The performance of students in all fields by reaping the benefits that Visakha provides is even more commendable.

“A girl child is different from a boy child,” says Principal Aviruppola. “But we as a society must ensure that all should be given equal treatment,” she states.

The progress of the school over the years and the prestige it enjoys today as an outstanding seat of learning in the country is indeed a fitting tribute to the founder, the farsighted and philanthropic Jeremias Dias who envisioned the need to educate girls in the Buddhist way of life through this institution. Visakha continues to flourish at the forefront of girls’ education in Sri Lanka, 100 years on.

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