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Short History of Jaffna Central College

James Linch And Thomas Squance - Founders Of Jaffna Central

A group of Methodist missionaries from Britain, first came to Ceylon in the year 1814 arriving on the 29th June which date is observed every year by the Methodist Church in our country as Methodist Day. After they arrived, they learnt that there was also a need to establish English Schools in the country. Rev. James Lynch and Rev. Thomas Squance, two of the original group of six missionaries traveled to Jaffna to start their mission there. They first mixed freely with the local people and started learning the local language and getting acquainted with the local customs.

Old School - Vembadi Site 1825

On 1st August 1816, they purchased a centrally and ideally situated property, opposite the esplanade, that had earlier been used as an Orphanage that had closed down. The buildings and Chapel were quite adequate for their purpose and they established an English School. This School which has a continuous history from that date, was reorganized by Rev.Dr.Peter Percival, a great scholar and Principal who named it Jaffna Central. It was Rev.Dr.Peter Percival, himself a Tamil Scholar, assisted by Arumuka Navalar, the celebrated Tamil scholar who was a student of his at Central that produced a Tamil version of the Scriptures for which elegance and dignity of expression has never been equaled. This School is the oldest Methodist Mission Institution in South East Asia and has a long line of missionary Principals who were also educationalists of their time and they worked untiringly and with indomitable will and sprit to leave the place much better than when they entered it. The Staff too worked with devotion and dedication. The School grew from strength to strength. Academic education was unbeatable for quality and standards. The goal was excellence.

College during mid 1990s

The School progressed, achieved Collegiate status, became affiliated to the Calcutta University preparing students for the FA Examinations of Calcutta and Madras, Junior and Senior Cambridge, London Matriculation and Commerce examinations. The School continued to grow and expand. New buildings were started on the original site and the school expanded. Several students attained academic distinction and went on for higher studies to the University in Colombo or abroad. In the forties of this century, after the University of Ceylon came into being, the first batch of students prepared for the medical entrance examination, all were successful and all of them entered the medical faculty. University entrance to all faculties has been a regular feature with very good results in the entrance examinations.

Side by side Sports and extra curricular activities also flourished and many students excelled in these as well, going further to represent the School in outside competitions. Cricket, Football, Athletics, Scouting, Debating, Oratory, Elocution, Music were all fields in which students excelled themselves. More than a hundred years passed by. In the House system, all houses, namely Percival, Romaine, Wilkes and Bullough are all named after former Principals and there is healthy rivalry between houses, especially on the sports field.

In 1945 the School entered the free education scheme and numbers increased. Rev.C.A.Smith, the Principal at that time, added more buildings to the school and hostel. In 1960 when Rev.Dr D.T.Niles was principal, the school was handed over to the state along with several other Methodist Mission Schools. The Methodist Mission retained only one Boys School and one girls School, both in Colombo, to be run privately. Thereafter, Jaffna Central had local Principals many of whom were Old Boys who continued to maintain the standards and traditions that had been established. Now the School has the status of a “National School” with about 3000 children on the Roll. The School still continues to keep the flame burning.

But there are many constraints. Many old boys of all communities -Singhalese, Muslims, Burghers, Tamils have all happily studied together in this school and have also lived together in the Rigg Hall Hostel as one happy family without differences or problems. The Parent Body OBA is in Jaffna and is very closely associated with the school, while there are branches in Colombo as well as overseas in UK, Canada, Australia, France and Germany all showing great and active interest in the welfare of their Alma Mater.

Professors and lecturers in Universities here and abroad, Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Civil Servants, Legislators, Politicians, Businessmen have all been products of this school, that have taken their due place in society, served and continue to serve their their country with honor, distinction and pride. The motto of the school is “In Gloriam Dei Optimi Maximi” which means “Unto the Glory of God, the Best and the Highest” and this the school has continued to observe down the years. The college song and college Hymn were composed by Rev.Percy T.Cash, a former Principal and set to music by Mrs.Cash. Centralities are proud to sing the college song whenever they get together.

The school buildings, furniture and equipment have been badly damaged and plenty of repair and rehabilitation works needs to be done. Basic requirements of books and writing materials have to be found and provided. Students and teachers who were grouped in combined schools spread here and there are slowly coming back and work is being resumed. A great deal has to be done. That is the present state of affairs. 180 years is a long and glorious period for Jaffna Central. The sprit of Central still grows and glows. We Centralities are justly proud of the past. But now we know and realize that the past should challenge the present and bring hope and fulfillment to the future. Long Live Central !