CWW Kannanagara – Father of Free Education


CWW Kannanagara – Father of Free Education

( Recently published article by Ariya in “NewsLanka” weekly news paper in London)

“Skill is a marvellous thing. It can adorn a humble man as much as it graces a king. The poorest can acquire skill through hard work and constant Practice, which a prince may not acquire despite much coaching” (Maha Baratha)

Full many a gem of purest ray serene – The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear Full many a flower is born to blush unseen – And waste its sweetness on the desert air. (Thomas Gray – elegy)

Early Life

Christopher William Wijekoon Kannangara (CWW kannangara), ‘The Father of Free Education in Sri Lanka’ was born on October 13th, in 1884 and passed away on 23rd September 1969.

His father, John Daniel Wijekoon was a Fiscal officer attached to the Magistrate court Balapitiya but lost his job causing enormous financial difficulties to the ‘Kannangara family’.

In fact, in later life Mr CWW Kananagara, addressing a gathering of distinguished men had remarked ‘I do not think, anyone else here knows about poverty as much as I do. Sometimes we only had one meal a day and slept on mats’.

Though his father recognised the intellectual brilliance of the prodigious young son, he could not afford to send him to an Elite school and sent him to a Wesleyan Missionary School in his village, Randombe, Ambalangoda, (Southern province)

Undaunted by the difficulties and the ‘abysmal hand’ he had been served, young Kannangara impressed his teachers and peers with academic brilliance and impeccable discipline. When he was in Grade 5, at annual prize giving, Kannangara collected about fourteen prizes. This accomplishment and his mannerism, immensely impressed the chief guest, Rev. Darell, who was the principle of the Elite institution of education in the Southern province, Richmond College, Galle.

Rev. Darrel pleasingly remarked in view of young boy’s brilliance, ‘son you will need a cart to take all your prizes home’. As the saying goes, ‘a gem cannot be hidden for long,’ CWW Kannangara was given a chance to sit for a Richmond College Foundation scholarship exam. to study as a resident student at Richmond College Galle. Excelling in Mathematics he won the scholarship, an award for free board and lodging at Richmond College.

This benevolent encounter became a fortunate turning point, not only for young Kannangara also of the future of education of Sri Lanka.

Richmond College at that stage was meant exclusively for the rich and Kannangara had to face many difficulties and embarrassments from his peers at the school.

However, Kannangara’s brilliance was not limited to studies; he played cricket and soccer and in 1903 captained Richmond College First XI and played for Galle Cricket Club as well. He was also a member of the school soccer team and won Richmond College Colours for both sports in 1903.

In addition young Kannangara was a very fine orator and an actor and became the captain of college the debating team as well.

Though poor in wealth, he was a gifted child not only in the academic and sporting prowess, he had the determination and tenacity to reach high, overcoming obstacles.

He carried away the largest number of prizes at every prize giving during his tenure at Richmond and also held the prestigious position as the ‘Head Prefect’ of the college.

In 1903 he passed Cambridge Senior examination and was placed in the first division obtaining the highest marks for Mathematics. Having superseded all other candidates of the British Commonwealth, brought honour not only to Richmond College but to the entire country and tears of joy to the eyes of his great mentor, Rev. Darrel.

Young Kannangara would have never known that experiences gained as a poverty stricken child in Richmond College would induce in him such determination and valour to battle so valiantly for free education for us all, later in his political life.

Professional life

Rev. Darrel invited Kannangara to join the tutorial staff and teach Mathematics at Richmond College, which he duly obliged.

When his ‘God Father’ Rev. Darrel passed away suddenly in 1904, Kannangara could not bear the grief and moved out of Richmond to join Prince of Wales, Moratuwa. Later joined the tutorial staff of Wesley College, Colombo, where Sir Oliver Goonatilleke was one of his pupils. Having moved to Colombo he had opportunity to study further and attended the law college and qualified in 1910 as a lawyer.

He returned to Galle to establish his law practice and stoutly defended innocent people, without receiving any remuneration. who were accused and arrested by the colonial regime as involved in the unfortunate 1915 riots.

Entering into politics

CWW Kannangara joined as an active member of the Temperance movement which was initiated by patriots, F R Senanayake, Sir Baron Jayatilleke, Arthur V Dias. He was a founder member of the Ceylon National Congress which was working to obtain independence for Ceylon. In 1924 he was elected to Legislative Council and represented Galle District. He held the office as the Minister of Education in the State Council from 1931 to 1947.

The Bill for ‘Free education scheme

Opposition to the concept and elements of the proposed ‘Free education Scheme for all’ came from two contrasting strata of the then society in Ceylon. The privileged class with influence and power fought tooth and nail to abort the ideal as they felt education as the right of the ‘haves’’ Much greater opposition at least in numbers came from the poor majority, objecting that door to free education should not be available for the well to do people. CWW Kannangara , who had faced many difficulties and discriminations did not want to have class segregation in education and create an ongoing conflict not only among the students and staff insisted on free education concept for all.

University education previously was available almost exclusively to the most privileged layer of the society. The proposal to make it open for to all children irrespective of their wealth or social class was made by the committee headed by CWW Kannanagara. To be undaunted against powerful antagonists, to fight for the right cause, to amplify the voice of the unheard and press on tenaciously to reach the just destination, to create a window of opportunity to the needy, at the right place and at the right time for sake of the down trodden masses, there was the right man with determination, wisdom, compassion at heart an eloquence to win the debate. CWW Kannangara spearheading the campaign with above qualities in abundance, was indeed our good fortune.

The great educationalist, sportsman and a politician of honesty and integrity, presented the free education Bill on June 6, 1945 and it became effective on October 1, 1945.

Dr Kannangara’s vision

Poverty stricken yet clever children had no opening for education and the concept of Central School was also a ‘brainchild’ of this ‘great grand master’ educationalist. He wanted these institutions of learning to imitate that of Royal College, Colombo. The first three being at Akuramboda, Weeraketiya and Matugama. He insisted the importance of teaching science and English across the communities.

There had been more than fifty Government Central Colleges in Sri Lanka.

Introduced free mid-day meal for school children

Responsible for rapid development in Pirivena education

Inauguration of University of Peradeniya (University Bill passed in 1942 and the majestic University complex was completed in Peradeniya in 1952 with Sir Ivor Jennings as its first Vice Chancellor). At first convocation of The University of Ceylon, the Father of Free education, CWW Kannangara was conferred an Honorary Doctorate (PhD) in recognition to his services to education.

Fruits of his vision

Due to the efforts and vision of this great son of Sri lanka, doors opened evenly in every corner of the nine provinces and opportunities, a great boon enriched our mother Lanka.

There are today, very senior administrative officers, Doctors, Engineers, accountants, architects, lawyers and judges including a former chief justice, and many brilliant politicians have benefitted by his great vision and the concept of free education from kindergarten to University.

Though he was a tough man, had he lived to see one of the most auspicious days in the political history of our beloved motherland (9th January 2015) to see a prestigious product of a ‘central college’ (Polonnaruwa Royal Central College) reaching the peak of achievement and becoming not only the first citizen of Sri lanka, but being honoured and admired by the world leaders, I am certain, we would have witnessed tears of joy in the eyes of the ‘Father of Free education; Dr CWW Kannangara.

As a product of a Central College via 5th standard scholarship (Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala and a recipient of 8th standard science scholarship) and received free education up to medical entrance examination at Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda) this writer salute Dr CWW Kannangara for his great vision and the strength to make the concept of ‘Free education’ a reality. 

The name, Dr CWW Kannangara should be etched in the hearts of all Sri Lankans as the father of free education in Sri lanka. It is pleasing that at least past pupils of Central colleges have formed an association in Sri Lanka and a UK branch over the last few years do commemorate and celebrate the contribution to education by this great hero. Writer takes this opportunity to appeal to all both in motherland and abroad who benefitted by ‘Free education in Sri Lanka’ to join hands to celebrate together the wisdom and contribution of this great son of Sri Lanka.

His vision to have wide spread educational institutions in all nine provinces was the right one if that concept was carried out with same vigour and vitality by the latter day politicians the disparity in education standards and contents (including science and maths) between the so called elite schools in the capital cities of the provinces and the rural land mass would have so distinct. Perhaps that would have even removed some factors which nourished division among communities leading into a full-fledged ugly war.

Finally, a gentle appeal to the good and the great ruling our blessed motherland to consider some steps within Schools and colleges to commemorate annually Dr CWW Kannangara’s contribution towards free education uniformly across the four corners of our country.

When I look back Dr Kannangara’s illustrious life as a student and a public servant, not only gave us the boon of free education but his life taught us the value of hard work, discipline and determination to win over powerful obstructions and handicaps. His example should reverberate in the heart and mind of every child every citizen and of course every ruler of our pleasant land.

‘The heights of great men reached and kept – were not attained by sudden flight But they while their companions slept – were toiling upwards in the night’ American poet, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow;


Dr Ariya De Silva OBE, MBBS (Colombo), FRCOG, FC OG (SL), FRCS Glas. FRCS Edin. FRCP (Lond.). Former Visiting Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Sri Lanka

Nostalgia – in Praxy’s own words


It was a year ago to the date that we met
To celebrate RU 50 that we cannot forget
My decision was to keep in touch,
With every batch mate I love so much.
But alas has age taken its toll on my grey cells I wonder,
That I’ve not been able to keep in touch with friends from yonder.
But never mind another year will come
When we could meet and greet everyone.
So we shall patiently wait for that day
When we can meet and greet once again I pray.
Love and best wishes


Praxy de Saram

Please do not tell me how great you are!

1. Tell me all your gains and triumphs
Also your weaknesses and set backs
Make victories sound as much pompous
But stop short of making me bored or envious

2. Tell me all about your grown up offsprings
But not how clever they are or what they earn
Say as much of their greatness and virtues
Not forgetting their shortcomings and vices

3. Tell me about your achievements as loud as you can
Let me also hear weaknesses, mistakes and failings
Tell me all about your mansions and productive estates
But appeal you to spare me the moan over the paid prices

4. Tell me about your difficulties and problems
But please do not plan to take my whole day
Tell me of your adventures, travels and cruises
But would welcome, if you put the photos away”

5. Tell me all about your spouse and other keeps
But spare the nature and details of your fights
Please do come home for a chat and a spot of dinner
As long as you would be patient with my insipid dishes

6. Tell me about your extravagant love life
But please choose the time and the place
CertInly not when I am busy looking to park
Or when I am in a rush and trying to get back

7. Tell me about your siblings and parents
Whether or not they are healthy and alive,
But not how they ruined chances of your love
When you were way over the hill, at fifty five

8. Please talk as much about the prevailing weather
Grateful if you cut gossip about my friends, very dear
Tell me how generous and disciplined you are
But not a lecture on the greatness of your mentor

9. Tell me how lucky you have been in life
But be a tad sensitive of my wretched life
Praise your God or parents for been on your side
Bearing in mind that all are not equally fortunate



To fuel my Ego – Ariya




For my desire to live – and fuel my EGO

NO other reason every day I swallow a Rainbow


I am pretty old, passed the sell by date and legs are bent and bow

My Body is broken in so many places, back is hurting, yet has my ego!

To keep it going, I do not know for whose sake, try to prolong I do

Without fail, daily swallow pills, colours of a complete ‘Rainbow

The violet pill, religiously do take, first thing in the morning

To keep my ticker without missing a beat, harmoniously beating

Two tablets which I hate to take, but must do, of colour indigo

Just to keep me sufficiently dry and avoid rush in the night to the loo

The blue pill made by Pfizer, pop in the mouth, since reaching sixty,

Out of affection to make my darling wife happy, contended and jolly

Green pill is a life saver stops my horrible cough, sneeze and the wheeze

Since I started it, allergy and asthma gone, at least can breathe in peace

The capsule yellow, I daily swallow to keep my memory alive

Orange pill is a must to take to minimize hands and feet shake

And it also help to steady my gait so I can walk and be tactile

The red pill, prevents gallstones and improves the flow of bile

                                          Ariya                                                173

Food For Thought, by Ariya



To thrive in life one needs to be smart

One needs to know, the law of cause and effect

If we overlook the effects of our thoughts, speech or actions

We will set forth our ways wrong

Say wrong and certainly will do wrong

For every effect there is a cause

The law of cause and effect,

Is similar to sowing and reaping

Laws of sowing and reaping are universal

One must have the desire to sow first

Desire, thus is the starting point

Desire we know, is mind made

What one thinks, so one will reap

If you sow good quality potatoes

You will reap a good harvest of potatoes

Similarly the quality of your thoughts

Determines the quality of your words and deeds

You are judged in the society

By your words and deeds

As in both these instances

Good or bad depend on thoughts

You must sow before you reap

Thus you must give, before you get

Fire place will not give heat

Unless you put fuel first

A great ill in the society

Is the fact that some do expect

To get before giving

It does not work this way

Rather than looking inwards

For their failure or the loss

Most do tend to find faults

With the system or the society

You cannot pass an exam, by luck

You must put in the hard work

Blaming the fate or ill luck

Is it not the habit of the lazy flock?

You sow a thought, you reap an action

You sow an action, you reap a habit

You sow a habit, you reap a character

Your character will brand you,

A devil or angel, all started with a thought

Dear batch mates, it must be my good deeds

Done somewhere in my distant past

Made it possible for me to be a part of the ‘64 batch

To spend five years amongst mates of profound thoughts

Unselfish deeds and endearing words.

They say every action has a reaction

Happiness and Health do not just come

Remember, life is never a bed of roses

Ardently we have to work for it, my friend!

                                        173                            Ariya

Update from Deepthi

IMG_0352 - Copy-cc






I just returned from a great expedition trip to
the Canadian Sub Arctic – Northern Newfoundland and Labrador-
Met up with Indira and Ananda on the way- spend two days with them- before
I boarded the ship at St Johns’ Newfoundland- for the 13 day adventure .

It was a great experience to trek in that wet soft boggy tundra of the
Torngat Mountain National Park- with ” Mr Google ” mapping our trek .
Google sent a Rep to map the area we were trekking .

Here are a few pics of that adventure – enjoy !
Deepthi1 copy Deepthi2 Deepthi3-3 Deepthi4

“Letting Go”



From affection arises grief
From affection arises fear
To him who is free of affection
There is no grief, much less fear

Letting GO……

I have turned to ‘philosophy’ once again,
Have written few verses on ‘letting go’
Which is easier to say, difficult to adhere
Yet with determination and wisdom
What is left of our lives, we should steer

If we cannot let go ‘things we love’
At least must try to let go our anger
Anger and hatred are useless imposters
Sticking to us as friends, throughout our live



A  dung beetle, within its dung ball
With efforts rolls down and uphill
A mixture of dung, sand and pebbles at least weighing
A thousand times its bodyweight, with a great struggle

If it can leave out pebbles and sand in that ball
Which it cannot consume, will halve its struggle
Yet desirous of making and rolling a big ball
Its ‘ego’ does not allow it to make it small
Alas! its whole life is wasted and perish sadly
And become a greedy Raven’s tasty meal
From craving arises grief



From craving arises grief

From craving arises fear

To him who is free from craving

There is no grief, much less fear

How different and calm our lives be

If we really learn to let things go

If things which are current and active

Are difficult to part, first

Let go things which have left us, as a start

Mimicking the dumb, dung beetle

We too carry in our silly heads,

Past grudges, regrets and even jealousies

Relationships old broken and long gone

The fact that everything has its own shelf – life,

cannot be overlooked by septuagenarians like us

Why not let go our lingering hatreds

To aid our minds be calm and heal

The greatest sage, clearly elucidated

All our suffering is ‘ownership’ based

Everything the sensory organs come into contact

Get connected to ‘us’ and lasts as a bit of ‘our own’

Hence lessening the load is the way forward

The fallacy is unless one is mindful

we do not even know it

However the moment you see, hear or feel

We tend to hoard experiences, every sordid bit

And they remain and colour our thoughts




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