The first school started by the Rev. Benjamin Clough in Galle continued to prosper during this period of thirty six years. There are more than 200 voluminous img, each running into 500 pages upwards, relating to Mission activities published during this period. Some of the publications were of all societies in Ceylon whilst some were exclusively of the Wesleyan mission. Most of these publications were about the missionary achievements than about the schools and it is understandable. Whatever was found about the school in Galle is given here. Our interest is in the first Wesleyan Methodist school started in Galle and its evolvement to what it is today.
According to the year 1816 registry on Galle school, there has been on its roll more than 40 students learning English. The 1816 Missionary Register published in that year bears testimony to the fact.
The reporting of the progress of each station has been done on a quarterly basis and the first such documented report is the one issued on 1st October, 1817; three years after the first school was started. In its section concerning Galle Rev. McKeeny who was then the Superintending reverend in Galle has this to say: “I am thankful to say that my prospects, as to schools, are very flattering indeed. I think I can fairly calculate, at present, on four independent of the Galle school: viz., one at Cumbalwella (Kumbalwella), one at Dadalla…“
According to the year 1818 Mission register, page 130, there has been more than 70 students in the Galle circuit schools.
The same register at page 132 gives the breakdown for the Galle circuit.
The Missionary Register published in 1818 on page 133 gives the state of the school by then.
Click above image for an enlarged view
Sir James Emerson Tennent the Colonial Secretary between 1845 and 1850 authored the book “Christianity in Ceylon” (1850). On Page 295 he states that Vernacular education by the Wesleyan Mission was started in 1817. Thus this explains the many schools in Galle which were vernacular in addition to the first school and the school conducted in Galle Fort which were English Schools. The figures given below are for all the Mission Schools in the entire country.
Click above image for an enlarged view and here for the cover of Christianity in Ceylon
The Wesleyan Missionary Magazine of 1822 has included a letter from Rev. Callaway dated October 9, 1821. There in it is stated that the school in Galle was conducted on the British system and also mentions of a parent school which is conducted in English and another school. This according to Rev. Callaway a new arrangement and gives the indication that all other schools in Galle were branches of the parent school. Logically a parent school cannot be an elementary school with classes from first to the fifth standard. A parent school would be something that has three more standards going up to the eighth standard.
The “Ceylon Wesleyan Mission School Report” for 1822 gives some interesting information. The report on “Minuagoddy” (Minuwangoda) school lists the attainment of 14 students of the school. One of the students named Don Simon de Silva, being appointed as the first teacher, and another as the second teacher of the Central School (All Saints’ College of today) in Galle. It goes to prove that the school has progressed well to the extent of producing a teacher fit to be appointed to the Central School of the Anglican Mission. One may argue that the school was only 8 years by 1822 and how it could possibly produce someone fit to be a teacher. The school by this time was an English School and an Anglo-vernacular school with classes up to the eight standard. Since those days many adults were tutored in schools which is confirmed by the opening lines of the report, which speaks of ‘fourteen grown up boys’. It is further confirmed as it is mentioned therein of a married student.
Four years later the school continued to function. The 1825 register on page 90 records of seven (7) schools with 346 boys and 42 girls. This shows that other schools too have been opened and it is on record that there were schools functioning in Kumbalwella, Fort, Kalegana, Kalahe and Dadalla and the Minuwangoda School.
Click above image for an enlarged view
Even by the year 1835 the school stood where it started. This extract from a letter sent by Rev. McKenny as appearing in the “Wesleyan Methodist Magazine” for 1835 speaks of a school about a mile from Galle Fort. Of the schools mentioned before the one that was a mile from Fort is the Minuwangoda School (Dickson Road).
Later reports mentions of many other schools that has sprung up with more people seeking tutoring in English. The first school established is sometimes referred to as the Minuwangoda School and at times as School No. 1. It is interesting to note that classes were conducted for the purpose of teaching industrial subjects, languages and even sewing is referred to as Schools meaning that girls were on the roll. Right up to the time the Kumbalwella property was purchased these classes or schools operated at different places but were finally all moved to the hill, except the Kalegana and Dadalla schools.
In 1834 all schools in the country were taken over by the government as a result of the recomendations by the Colbrooke-Camaroon Commission, for the purpose of administration in a uniform manner. All schools were given an annual grant; the Missionaries were allowed to superintend the schools. Thus the first school too underwent this transformation and the English Section of the school was taken over whilst the Anglo-Vernacular school continued to functioned. It should be noted that the superintendence of the schools taken over remained with the respective missions. An effort is still being made to obtain some more registers to unearth any significant information.
Rev. Spence Hardy say of Galle School(s) in his Jubilee memorials that ‘What can be said of one year applies to the next year‘. Archived copies of the mission registries for most years between 1814 and 1877 were read. We do have those img in full in our computers. Majority of the img make reference to the Galle school, but nothing of significance of its activities were found. This exercise was undertaken to ensure that the school continued all these years without a break. Had we failed to establish this fact would have meant all our research of nearly four years would have been in vain.
It is of interest to note that the first ever Sunday School system was introduced to Ceylon and Asia in 1815 by Rev. Clough.