Wesley OBU Talk

What it means to be a Wesleyite

I joined Wesley College in 1959 in the Lower Kindergarten. It is so long ago but my memory recalls standing in a line with my mother and a number of other boys with their mothers to be greeted by Miss Norma de Silva. We marched in to our class behind the boarders dining hall to the music of a military march played on the piano by Mrs Dulcie de Mel. I had no choice as to what school I would attend but later on it made sense why my parents had chosen Wesley College. In those days it was a tradition that the son attended his father’s school when it was his turn. My father attended Wesley College when the “Saint of Karlsruhe”- Rev Henry Highfields was Principal. On reflection it was a great decision, one which I grasped and went on to make the most of the opportunities available.

From those formative years, due to its racial mix of students there was an English, Sinhalese and Tamil stream. I was a Burgher and I was in the English stream as were all the Burgher boys. Whilst this delineation served its aims, it did generate a respect and tolerance of fellow students of different racial and religious backgrounds. Wesley College inculcated in each of us the fundamental values of respect for your fellow man and regardless of colour, race or creed they were all our equal, values that have stood the test in my lifetime. I still have many friends from all backgrounds as during my time at Wesley we participated in Sport and extra-curricular activities, we travelled on the school bus and some of us lived in the same neighbourhood.

Another great value that Wesley College gave me was the devotion to religion. Being a Methodist school, Christian worship at the start of the day was a great discipline that we were regimented in. We sang wonderful hymns of praise, listened to the bible readings and prayed for God’s guidance and blessing as we began each school day. It gave each of us an opportunity to fulfil our school motto “Ora et labora” which means to Pray and Work. To this day, my Christian faith and prayers have been a great strength and comfort to me as I have journeyed through life and its many challenges, especially in recent years where I have endured many health issues.

Whilst Wesley College had modest facilities, it did not deter any student from developing their talents and expanding their horizons whether it was in academia, sport, oratory, debating, choral and drama productions and quiz competitions. I had the opportunity to play sport – hockey, rugby and athletics. I represented Wesley in inter-school elocution contests. I also participated in inter-school drama contests. But my greatest love was being in the choir which has kept my love for music in particular Christian choral music to this day. I still sing in a choir that I formed in 1998 for the Christmas festivities, called the Combined Colleges of Sri Lanka Choir.

Education was another strong facet of Wesley College. The group of teachers during my time were dedicated to their craft and were loyal teachers who had served Wesley College for many years. They did not watch the clock and think more about their private tuition classes after school. Each of us are blessed with many talents and I was fortunate that I was a good student and was ranked around the top of the class till I left for Australia in 1970, not sitting for my O/Level exams. During our journey through Wesley we encountered many teachers with varying personalities and rapport with their students. I have fond memories of my teachers and the solid grounding I received in the three R’s - reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic that have held me in good stead to this day. Corporal punishment was acceptable in those times and some delivered it more harshly than others. However what it instilled in each of us was that that we had to observe the rules of the school and meet the expected standards of behaviour, something which we would take with us for later on in life as we had to abide by the rules and laws of the state and be decent citizens of our country.

Whilst Wesley did not have a “big match” it did not diminish our status as a good school. The social demographic of the student population did not lean toward students from wealthy families, though there were some who did not show off their wealth. The core principles were that regardless of one’s social standing we were all equal and we learned to respect those who were less well-off or fortunate by teaching us inclusiveness, ensuring that they were included in all our activities and were not made to feel different or inferior.

As you can gather from my previous comments, Wesley College sought to provide each of us with a holistic education. I can confidently state that I received such an education which has stood the test of time and has given me the life skills and confidence to go about my daily duties. Wesley College brought together various races, religions and cultures that reflected a rich mosaic of life in Sri Lanka. Wesley College also gave us a simple set of values that would act like a moral compass to help and guide us along life’s journey. Pouring through the history of Wesley College, the beacon on the Karlsruhe hill has beamed her magnificence in all facets of Sri Lankan society, producing many distinguished scholars, sportsmen and eminent citizens.

I am eternally grateful for the eleven wonderful years at Wesley and my passion stems from this love of my alma mater. That is why “I am proud to be a Wesleyite”.

Keith de Kretser
Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
September 2017