18 April, 2024

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Lying About Age Of Protestant Mission Schools: Is Age Quality?

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

I have written about untruthful histories by Protestant Christian Missions. The matter is coming to a head as they celebrate 200 years rooted in lies.

On 20.02.2023 Jaffna College under the leadership of the new Jaffna Bishop of the Church of South India had a grand function celebrating what they called the school’s 200 years. But what is the true age of the school?

In 1823 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) established Battcotta Seminary. A seminary is for training priests. They actually wanted the name College but the British reserved it for their intended Anglican College at Kotte which they never got to starting. (A former Principal, Cyrus Mills’ grave at Mills College in Oakland, CA says he was Principal of Batticotta College). The Colonial Secretary Emerson Tennent describes Batticotta in his book thus after his visit in 1850: 

“The knowledge exhibited by the pupils was astonishing and it is no exaggeration to say that in the course of instruction and in the success of the system for communicating it, the collegiate institution of Batticotta is entitled to rank with many an European University.” 

However, the delegation from Boston under Rufus Anderson that visited in 1855, determined that the expenditures incurred by the school were not commensurate with the new members joining the church, and that education ought to be in Tamil and not English. There was little enthusiasm in Jaffna for studying in Tamil as colonial service jobs came mainly with English fluency. So, the school was closed in 1855. (A good overview of the Seminary, its pupils, why many mission schools were closed, and the Anderson Report is given by C.N.V. Fernando in the University of Ceylon Review). 

Later around 1873 in deference to demands by the people, the American Mission started Jaffna College at the same location. Funds were principally from American sources although it is claimed occasionally that the people of Jaffna raised the funds. It was a different institution. It was not a seminary for training priests nor a university. It was a high school. The Directors were not Missionaries but Trustees in Boston although some missionaries were also Trustees. This was a new Institution.

Likewise, the Seminary started by the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (WMMS), now called Jaffna Central College. Its students were trained, as the Methodists hoped, to be priests (Ministers to use the Methodist term). These included Arumuga Navalar who according to Dr. P. Poolohasingham was sent to Madras to learn how to convert Hindus. 

Central College was started in 1834 by The Rev. Mr. (later Dr.) Peter Percival. As written by him in his letter to the WMMS on 7 Jan. 1835,

“In October, my intention to open an English school in Jaffna, for native pupils principally, was very extensively circulated in Jaffna and its vicinity. […] I was able soon to estimate the probable interest it might excite among the natives. During the month of October upwards of one hundred and fifty boys were entered upon my book. […] On the 4th of November the boys assembled, to the number of one hundred and eighty six.” 

I have a copy of that letter. Therefore the first assembly of students was on 4.11.1834. Tennent describes the seminary standards as similar to Batticotta’s – comparable to those of the best European Universities.

In 1934 WMMS celebrated the Seminary’s first century and issued an inch-thick commemoration volume. I have it in my personal library. There is really no need to make the school older as is vainly done by Methodist authorities who put together a committee of a professor, a judge and Church President to claim untruthfully 1 Aug. 1814 as the start date. They used the fact that the Methodists purchased a plot for a school that day. 

The fact is that all missions had many small schools when they started their premier seminaries to which the small schools fed their promising students. President Maithripala Sirisena was suckered into issuing an anniversary postage stamp giving 1816 as Jaffna Central’s start year,  forgetting the school’s own report’s 1814 date. How easy it is to get politicians to play along with our games as we sustain each other’s politics.

So also the now tainted history of St. John’s College, my alma mater. The founding institution, The Church Missionary Society or CMS, has a formal record of their first 100 years in the book J.W. Balding, One hundred years in Ceylon; or, The centenary volume of the Church Missionary Society in Ceylon, 1818- 1918, London: CMS, 1922. The publisher is the CMS. The press is the CMS. Balding was the senior-most CMS Missionary in Ceylon. So from the horse’s mouth (page 57 of the book) we have the words

“An important high class boys’ school was begun at Chundicully in 1851, which is now known as St. John’s College.”

This book may be read in many places including the Church diocesan library. Because of its popularity it was recently reprinted. It is also available on the Internet for free. At the annual Diocesan Council, I have pointed out many times before over 300 bishops, priests, deacons and parish representatives that the school is well below 200 years old. I have even told the church that the Bishop has only to walk from his office to the diocesan library in the same building if he wants to know the truth. But that would spoil the 200-year birthday party, wouldn’t it? 

St. John’ also like Central relies on an old school, this the CMS school in Nallur, claiming it was St. John’s although that name St. John’s was used well after 1851, making it possible to claim any school as the original St. John’s. The Nallur CMS school according to CMS records was closed in the 1830s because of a cholera epidemic. The misclaimed founder, Joseph Knight had left Ceylon as also his successor. It was later reopened and shifted to Chundikuli where again the CMS says in its Balding book (p. 103): 

“In 1841 the [Nellore] seminary was removed to Chundicully and in 1851 as a boarding establishment it was abolished. From its foundation to its close upwards of two hundred lads passed through the regular course, and seventy became converts to Christianity [emphases mine].”

No spinning can make this closed school St. John’s. When I raised the true age at the OBA the Principal said it should have been corrected when we celebrated 175 years 25 years ago and not now – as if distortions once acted on must not be changed. 

The Bishop will be in Jaffna for the 2-century party. Hundreds of old boys are coming from aboard. These include famous old boys from Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. Air-tickets have been bought. Jaffna’ hotels are booked.  On the way they will have a dinner-dance at Colombo’s Kingsbury Hotel on 7 March because liquor is not allowed on campus. They will pay Rs. 15,000 each. 

The “Big Match” against the rival school Central with its own crooked history is scheduled for 9-11 March. The Local Government Elections scheduled for 9 March would have saved the school from the ignominy of lying to the world by forcing a shut down of the party, but the elections are postponed. Alas, alas!

The opening of a new Robert Williams Memorial Bicentenary Block is scheduled for 14 March. The Bishop of Colombo, The Rt. Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo would have untruthfully declared on the Tablet that the school is 200 years old, despite my warnings over 3 years. After I raked it up, the Bishop it seems has backed off unveiling the tablet and, according to still fluid plans, has asked CMS Chairperson Thanja Peiris to practice the deception of the age on his behalf while he only offers a blessing. The tablet is not plastered in yet (26 Feb. as I write) for me to say who will unveil it.

That same day, following Central College’s fakery, we will also issue an untruthful bicentennial postage stamp after the building is declared open.

A dinner plate will cost Rs. 6000 (but 8000 for a couple). The bishop as guest will eat free and, perhaps, does not wish to spoil his own feast by questioning the dates. 

We Anglicans boast that our faith stands on a three legged stool, the legs of scripture, reason and tradition. After the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed to bless homosexual unions, the leg of scripture is gone. When the church refuses to read its own history to reject the claim of 200 years, the leg of reason is gone. Now with the Bishop breaking the Lenten Fast, even the remaining leg of tradition goes as we feast during Lent with the Bishop saying grace from the head table. Scripture, Tradition and Reason are all gone now. Our Anglican stool has no legs!

It is good to note that this bending of the truth began after our missionaries left and our mission schools were taken over by national principals. Consider the implications. The schools were started to train clergy and grow the church, and indeed, to bring up upright, God-fearing and truthful citizens who would serve the nation. But today church membership is collapsing. We Anglicans have gone down from over 100,000 at independence to about 20,000 today.

Our schools always have a few sharp students who read and think. They surely will see through us elders’ lies and tell their friends. When a Board in a school hall lists principals who were never principals and there was no school, when there are blanks for names of principals as at the Central College Board because we cannot dig up names to put in, we will have a skeptical student body which will not respect the truth, learning the art of Goebbelsian Mendacity from us. Already Facebook has ongoing debates on the true age of our schools. That is healthy when they see through the Goebbels-like face of us elders and indeed of the church and therefore reject our leadership. 

A vivid example of church deceptiveness is the purchased doctorates of our bishops, clergymen aspiring to be bishop, aspirants to be Principal when a vacancy arose, CMS Chairs and CMS Managers. What horrid role models we are! Most culprits are Christians (except the peon at Jaffna University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies who bought himself a doctorate). Should the Missions not take internal action when the truth is bent at the highest levels? When questionable doctorates are used to justify appointments to favorites as Bishops, Principals and Managers?  In the secular world, the UGC has a Rs. 100,000 fine for using false degrees. Should the church not be better?

After the first or second generation of converts, I wonder if there ever were Christian principles in our schools as students came for jobs and social mobility. Our Bishop will return soon after the party to Jaffna on 24 April 2023 to confirm our children in the faith. What faith?

In contrast to the Protestants, the Roman Catholics have a leadership with real doctorates from the West. The girls’ schools have the really oldest (whether male or female) in Jaffna (not counting pre-British Catholic schools which really are the oldest). It is my grandmother’s Uduvil Girls’ College. Without any need to lie, it is dated 1824. 

I thank God for Roman Catholics and Uduvil for not claiming quality by age. Indeed, a real diamond is not valued by its age.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    4

    Thanks, Jeevan.
    .
    This is a wonderful article which reveals the bitter truth about what is happening in our country. You have focussed on the Anglican Church. That’s fine by me.
    .
    Almost all citizens of our country regard me as an Anglican – baptised as an infant by Reverend Charlie Thomas, and confirmed around age thirteen by Rt Rev Archibald Rollo Graham-Campbell. It is true that I’m agnostic about many aspects of “My Christianity” but I have never dabbled with other religions. However, I’m very conscious that Christianity was brought here by Colonialism about 500 years ago. I know much less about “other eschatologies” which got imported earlier.. All that is not worth bothering about.
    .
    I’ve been a teacher, and the sincere Jeevan’s scathing criticism of Anglican education practices is fully justified. I’ll say more. Our viewpoints are somewhat different, but how can we disagree on the fundamental fact that there is cheating?
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

    • 2
      0

      Comments almost over, and almost no response.
      .
      Please google these two words: ‘Thomian Pharisees”
      .
      You will find five articles written by me with lots of comments, some hating me, but unable to state anything which has substance. If I type for too many minutes here it is likely that I will be told that “sorry, comments for this item have closed:”
      .
      those are thr rules, and there’s nothing wrong with such rules; the problem lies with those members of the public who either don’t understand, or don’t care.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

  • 4
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    Prof. Hoole is an idealist. He does not understand reality (Yathaartham). It is clear, all schools lie. St. John’s cannot afford to be truthful. It is like lying in competitive marriage proposals. No serious harm. But he is harming St. John’s.

    One way to deal with him is like four pastors from Trinco. The Principal was questioning their use of funds. A laywoman cannot question pastors. So they went to Mr. S. Chandrasiri, a lawyer friendly with District Judge M. Ganesharajah. Chandrasiri wrote up charges against her claiming she stole the college motorbike, coconut scraper, etc., and slandered the school on Facebook and WhatsApp. No proof was offered. They did not even have to sign affidavits which were blank, avoiding defamation.

    Ganesharajah was obliging. He gave a stay order which he has kept in force for a year now prohibiting her from using WhatsApp or email. Without email and WhatsApp during Covid, the college has been closed. The 4 pastors run the college without awkward accusations from the Principal.

    Perhaps St. John’s and the Bishop should go to Mr. Chandrasiri with a good fee and get a stay order against Prof. Hoole writing. Ganesharajah will oblige. This is Yathaartham.

  • 2
    1

    I’ve just submitted a comment to make sure that you, the readers are ultimately responsible for the state of affairs in this country.
    .
    You should all realise how the entire country is in a mess because of what Ranil Wickremasinghe has done. The man who has close to zero support masquerades as President.
    .
    “Almost zero”, I said because a few votes did trickle in to the UNP, led by him at the General elections on the 5th of August 2020. Enough for him to get in to Parliament (after a year of pretending that he didn’t want to), and then manipulate himself into the Presidency. If you don’t protest, it s you who are responsible for the resultant mess.
    .
    Similarly with education. I know that these private schools cater only to a privileged minority, but when there is downright cheating, anywhere in the country, you’ve got to protest. I have been talking about how elections to the Board of Governors of the four S. Thomas’ Schools are fraudulently conducted so that the mostly indifferent governors (there for the sake of prestige) and the Heads of the schools, who are not accountable to anybody exploit the schools for their own benefit.

  • 3
    0

    Here, I have generalised, but I have gone into detail in articles like the last of my five:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/challenging-three-cheating-thomian-pharisees-and-not-doing-it-from-behind/
    .
    Some of the articles are more detailed. But what’s the use. You complain about how education has deteriorated, but what do you do about it?
    .
    Briefly, the staffs of the three branch schools of S. Thomas, at Kollupitiya, Bandarawela, and Gurutalawa have to elect a Board of Governors member. They are not allowed to do it; the Heads of the three schools manipulate a sycophant (or even a downright scoundrel) into the position and ultmately it is the children who suffer.
    .
    The next election is due a whole year from now, but we need discussion of how it is to be done, starting now. Two of the Heads are quite new; the third? – a bit more complicated.
    .
    I will submit and continue, because of the word limit.

  • 2
    1

    I met the Bishop, Dushantha Rodrigo, on the 12th of January 2023, and asked him about how we were going to get this done in February or March 2024. He said that he appoints Heads, and if they cheat, what can be done. I decided not to get into an argument.
    .
    I gave it thought, asked his Bauddhaloka Mawatha (Bullers Road) Office and they suggested that if I wanted a quiet one to one chat on his mobile phone, it would be best if I called after office hours. And so I did. At 5.39 pm on the 17th of February 2023, for nine minutes.
    .
    He repeated his “excuse”. I told him that he was the Bishop precisely to ensure that there is fair-play, and not cheating. No shouting from me (or from him – that also is strategy on his part) but I told him firmly that he had to get started on the process which he knew all about since he had been the Headmaster (that means “Principal) at Kollupitiya in 2020. The worst cheating did not come from him – look at the article that I have linked you to, above).
    .
    I told him, quietly but firmly that if this was his attitude, then he was a “humbug”. Repeated “humbug” even more firmly, asked him quietly to think about it, and then wished him “Good Night”. “Good Night from him, too.

  • 2
    0

    I’m now 74 years old – it won’t be difficult for you to find out about me. Even easier for you to find out about Professor Jeevan Hoole, only don’t confuse him with his brother, Dr Rajan Hoole.
    .
    We are now ready to depart this life. What I want is a properly conducted election; who gets elected is very much a secondary matter. See what Ranil Wickremasinghe is doing to the country a a whole. The two Anglican Bishops of the “Church of Ceylon” (one for Colombo, the other for Kurunegala), have issued a statement condemning the postponement of the Local Government elections on the 9th of March 2023, but see what they do themselves.
    .
    When you allow such hypocrisy in our society, you are allowing cheating to become endemic in our country. I don’t agree with every little detail with Professor Hoole, but that’s one of the few persons in our society who has the courage and the honesty to speak out, and even act.

    • 5
      0

      Sinhala_Man, You are on a mission against your mission. I cannot be a judge on matters I am ignorant of. So, you are safe there with me.
      But, not everywhere.
      Speaking of Jeevan who you say, ‘who has the courage and the honesty to speak out’.
      Courage, I understand. Honesty, not.
      Tell me what you want me understand from it.
      (In my estimate, (to be brutally honest) you strive to be honest.)

      • 1
        0

        Thanks, Nathan,
        .
        I certainly don’t agree with all the things that Jeevan says, but he is one of the few who have the courage to speak out against a range of injustices.
        .
        As for honesty: yes, I’d say he’s basically an honest and generous man.
        .
        If you want to be honest, why not delve a little into how the Church cheats. They probably have ways of telling themselves that it is justified – well it isn’t!
        .
        No, I don’t expect you to spend a lifetime trying to join me in this non-violent war (crusade is definitely the wrong word) against the dishonesty of the Church.
        .
        I’m making this comment in a hurry, and it may end up being poorly worded, but please accept my gratitude for the faint praise that you intend to convey.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe

        • 3
          0

          Sinhala_Man,
          It is time for a jaunt!
          There are a few things that are over valued.
          For instance, milk as a source of protein.
          Except for breast milk every other milk is just another source of protein.
          Kindness is over valued.
          It doesn’t pay to be kind. Nobody truly appreciates kindness.
          Honesty is over valued.
          Being honest may be good as a principle. But, is burdensome.
          Likewise, there are a few things that are under valued..
          Take for instance, lying!
          Lying for deceiving is horrendous; lying for keeping peace is not.
          You should let sleeping dogs lie. Jeevan awakes them.
          I do not wish to be more honest than this.

          • 2
            0

            As regards to cheating by the Church. I follow my own advice. I’ll let the dog sleep!

          • 0
            0

            Thanks, Nathan.
            .
            I think that I get what you mean.
            .
            Now I’ve got to do some thinking – something that very few people do.
            .
            Those visiting this page may find it easy to understand some issues that are very clearly presented. And that may be sufficient. Others may want details which I’m not really sure about.
            .
            Yet others may be puzzled by the sequence in which these comments appear; and their submission is possible only for five days. Sometimes I type something in, but I’m told, when I try to submit, that certain robots (aren’t “algorithms” another word that takes away individual responsibility?) have decided that comments must cease.
            .
            Or one has exceeded permissible length.
            .
            So, if I have the time, I will say more at the very bottom; but keep in mind how these comments interact with one another.

  • 2
    0

    We can go into the details of how the services provided by these schools can be improved, etc, later; but first we must stop this downright cheating.
    .
    Should we allow Private School education at all? Does it help perpetuate unhealthy class differences, etc. All subjects that deserve discussion if we are to have a healthy society twenty or thirty years down the line when we are no more.
    .
    The teachers themselves are pathetic lot. To start with many of them may have joined these schools because they felt that it would be rising in society, where they would hob nob with the “elite”. Nothing of the sort, of course. It’s a system of slavery, where the Establishment buys individuals over with small favours to those who betray all standards and principles. This entire system has to change, and we have to do it!
    .
    Unlike my usual practice, I have typed these comments in fast. It may be that the spontaneity will make for easier reading!
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V)

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