14 August, 2022


In Fond Memory Of Professor Chandra Gunawardena: A Role Model For The Teaching Profession

By C. Kariyawasam –

It is with deep sorrow that I write about my dear friend, the great educationist and scholar Emeritus Professor Chandra Gunawardena who left us quite unexpectedly three months ago on 30.11.21.

Professor Chandra Gunawardena

I met Chandra when the pioneering Faculty of Education in Sri Lanka was established in the University of Colombo in 1975, by amalgamating the Departments of Education that existed in the Universities of Peradeniya, Vidyalankara and Vidyodaya, While Chandra came from Peradeniya, I came from Vidyodaya University with several other colleagues. Even though we came from different universities, all of us blended together like the ‘EKA ITTE MAL’.  We shared are joys and sorrows and discussed professional, social and personal issues mostly together. Thereby a productive work culture and an ethic of care were developed. Not only we were friends but our families were also friends. Chandra joined the Open University of Sri Lanka and became the founding Dean of the second Faculty of Education in 2003. Yet, our friendship continued until her untimely demise.

Chandra was a Pride to all of us in the profession with her remarkable intellectual ability and wide-cross disciplinary knowledge. She knew that all significant knowledge is naturally multi -disciplinary. She was a role model to both educationists and educands and dedicated herself to the professional socialization of the teaching profession, to develop values and attitudes which are much in want at present. Chandra had pluck and courage to take decisions in an objective manner

Chandra was a researcher par excellence with her research ranging from Education for All, gender equity, the mismatch between education and employability, University Education, Open and Distance Education to many more fields in Education. Her forte was Social Sciences and contributed her share to UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF, ADB and the World Bank programmes.

Chandra was a ‘Kalyana Mithra’ to many of her friends who sought her insightful advice. She was duty conscious and grateful to the core. When our dear Emeritus Professor W.A. de Silva died very close to her own demise, she attended the funeral even though she herself was not in good health.

Chandra’s family was a family of Professionals. Her husband Dr. G.B. Gunawardena who predeceased her was an educationist who contributed his services to both national and international level. Her two dear children Indunil and Lasitha are eminent personalities in their own disciplines.

The eternal truth is that all life is impermanent. “Chan” as I used to call her was a very dear friend to me. All of us who associated her feel her loss and the vacuum created.

Chan, may you attain the Bliss of Nibbana!

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Prof. Chandra Gunawardene truly made research a pleasure for others. When I was teaching at the Open University and later as I was doing research on Primary Education Reforms at Plan Sri Lanka she was gracious enough not only to help me with the data I asked from her, but also to point out other information that could help me in true mentor style. Her eyes would light up on hearing about my research topic even though my discipline is quite different. I could see she was happy for me. Her enthusiasm for my work highly encouraged me. There are few such people anywhere who are angels on the path of young academics.

    It is really sad for the whole student and academic community. May her family be comforted that her life is worthy of emulation.

  • 2

    I was doing research on Primary Education Reforms while at Save the Children, Sri Lanka not Plan, Sri Lanka. It was concurrently in parallel to Prof. Gunawardene’s study for the Government on the same topic under Dr. Ms. Tara de Mel. I was however speaking from the stand point of the primary school children from the receiving end. Yet she was very open about the scope of her research. Thus we could both ascertain that we were not repeating the same thing at great cost to our own separate institutions. An honest scholar she was. She was also referee on all my SLAAS papers on the educational rights of children including the one asking for protocols for using children as research subjects. It soon became useful during the tsunami for in my time such protocols were yet to be formulated in Sri Lanka. She was competent on CEDAW and Human Rights from the start. All women scholars in Sri Lanka owe her for paving the way.

  • 0

    I had worked with Professor Chandra Gunawardena who was a board member of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) at the University of Colombo during late 1990s. Her knowledge and interest on human rights and right to education were substantive and authentic. Her passing away is a sad story. I have known Dr G. B. Gunawardena, her husband, from my student days at Peradeniya where he was doing his Diploma or Master’s in Education during mid-1960s. He was equally a likable person with similar personal qualities. Therefore, their marriage and partnership were natural and unpretentious I believe. It was also sad to hear GBs predecease from this memorial. I have met Chandra and GB at various seminars and other occasions together and separately. Several years back Chandra even called me in Sydney to say hello when she was visiting New South Wales, Australia. That was her friendly quality. May they attain Nibbana.

    • 3

      To that time, I am sure, Prof. C Gunawardhana may be not aware of your propensities towards the promotion of ” high criminals” ?
      Dr Fernando, it is high time you the kind of Rajapkashe henchmen to stand before a mirror and see it right.
      SRILANKEN free education produced professors, but most of them never did their job to the best. They are no different to the monk hidden behind the SIVURU ( SANGA CONSTUME) and misled the nation.
      Laksiri, you should be AMONG THE FEW Prof. that should be highly responsible for the self created mess in our MOTHERLAND.
      I dont think your last Breath WOULD be easier so as that of MAFIA BOSS Mahinda.

  • 1

    A truly wonderful person, and colleague of mine at the Open University, and an outstanding scholar there.

    Moreover, on an official trip to Brunei where her husband was working, we were pleasantly surprised when our Sri Lankan delegation was invited to dinner.

    All Sri Lankan scholars will miss her and the high standards she infused into the system

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