One hundred and twenty five years is a milestone in the life of any institution. It is remarkable when the institution happens to be an educational one, which plays a leading role in moulding future citizens with a sound sense of responsibility, honesty, tolerance, discipline, equality and other worthy characteristics necessary to build a just and free society.
Drieberg College, my alma mater can proudly claim that she had lived up to these ideals during the past 125 years. The motto ‘The Lamp of Life” and the emblem, the ‘Shield of Love’ are well embedded in the hearts and souls of her sons and daughters who had the privilege of passing through her portals.
Realising the necessity of educating the children of the residents in and around Chavakachcheri in the English medium, the then magistrate of the area, the late Mr. Drieberg started a small unit of learning. The American Missionaries welcomed this idea and founded Drieberg English School in 1875. This was really a God-send to many residents of Thenmaradchy. Despite many odds and handicaps, Drieberg English School blossomed into Drieberg College.
At the beginning there was no primary section. Classes were held from the first year to Senior School Certificate (SSC), equivalent to the present G.C.E (Ordinary) Level. English was the medium of instruction. The emphasis in the curriculum was more on three ‘R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic.
In the late Forties, Sinnathamby Memorial Training College, which was situated adjacent to Drieberg was shifted to Nallur, Jaffna. This move resulted in the amalgamation of the Practising School with Drieberg College. This section became the primary school known as the Lower School. Here classes from lower kindergarten to fifth standard were held under the administration of the principal. The first headmaster of the primary section of the college, the late V. V. Kandiah, contributed greatly towards the development of the college.
My association with Drieberg College as student, assistant teacher and deputy principal spans a period of almost half a century (1940 – 1990). I am happy that the major part of my life was spent in serving her to the best of my ability which she so richly deserved. Santham, my wife was on the staff of the college and our wedding reception was held at the College quadrangle. My children are alumni of Drieberg. Hence my respect, affection, loyalty and concern for Drieberg are natural, and I consider her as my second mother.
As students at Drieberg, we enjoyed the fun, frolic, fellowship and schoolboy pranks. The boarding house for staff and students had been a blessing to many, particularly for those who came from distant places such as Vavuiuniya, Medawachchiya, Karachi, Mannar, and Pachilaipallai districts.
A major drawback then and now is the lack of a proper playground for sports and games. Mahilankerni grounds about a quarter of a mile from the college was formerly used. Children had to march to the ground daily during sports season. Temporary cadjan sheds were put up and the necessary sports equipment, furniture, drinking water had to be transported up and down daily which was cumbersome and expensive. Nevertheless the enthusiasm and sporting spirit of the participants overcame these drawbacks and the standard of their achievement was rewarding.
Of late, encroachment by poachers has deprived the college of this playground. I hope the present administration will give priority to finding a playground for the college in the near future.
An article on Drieberg is not complete without a reference to the late K.S. Saravanamuthu (K.S.S), who served as Principal for nearly 25 years. His vision, down-to-earth approach to problems and genuine compassion and concern towards students, endeared him to all, both teachers and students.
Let the ” Lamp of Life” continue to shine brightly.