GALLERY OF EVENTS - Valediction Class of 2007


Dear Friends,

I thought you would like to hear about something that took place at Guru last week that stands out as a further sign of hope in the future of this School.

As you are aware, part of the culture of the School in recent years was violence between the Grade 10s and the Grade 11s. This was the case even this year. The last major skirmish was in July afterwhich we met with the two groups and their parents and gave an ultimatum that any repetition would result in immediate expulsion. Subsequently the Bishop met with the Grade 11s when he paid his Pastoral Visit to the School and impressed upon them the need to set a good example to those who were junior to them. After these interventions the conflict ceased. I reluctantly suspended one or two boys who were ring leaders among the Grade 11s for two months in the Third Term and the problems decreased tremendously. (You will be happy to hear that they both returned for the Pilot Exam somewhat changed and gave no trouble to us at all!)

The Grade 11 O/L Pilot Exam was held between the 12th and 17th of November. All the fears and apprehensions of Staff were confounded by the manner in which the children conducted themselves and presented themselves. There was not one problem of significance. Laus Deo!

We decided to have a Valedictory Assembly on Friday 26th, the first of its kind, at which the School had an opportunity to bid farewell to the senior Class. The Assembly itself and what followed will be forever etched in the memories of all those who witnessed it. I give below an account of the events.

'The valedictorians were led in to the Foster Hall by the Headmaster and Staff and seated in the front rows. Mr Panini Edirisinghe then movingly read out Warden Buck's farewell message 'You belong to one of the best Schools in the world...' afterwhich the Headmaster delivered a valedictory address in which he exhorted to the Class of 2007 to be Bearers of Light and Truth when they left the portals of STCG and went to other institutions of learning to complete their education. The Head Prefect replied on behalf of the Class and in an emotional speech not only thanked the Staff for their selfless service but also sought pardon for the many wrongs that had been done by the outgoing group during their stay. Then the Chaplain said a special Prayer of Thanksgiving and pronounced a blessing on the Class afterwhich the Headmaster, Mr. Jacques Huyghbaert, the Chaplain, Fr Harold Goodchild and the Supervisory Staff handed out lighted candles to each of the outgoing class as a symbol of what they were called upon to do on leaving Guru. While they held lighted candles the College Oriental Music Group sang an enchanting lyric specially written for the occassion by one of the outgoing class, the gist of which was a word of thanks to the alma mater for all that had been given to them while they schooled here and a promise to never let her down. It was hard to spot a dry eye among the outgoing Class. Next to the haunting strains of an inspiring piece of music the Headmaster handed the National and College Flags to the outgoing Head Prefect and Senior Sacristan respectively and led by them the Class of 2007, carrying their lighted candles, filed out of the Hall behind the flag bearers and out on to the steps where the Grade 10s, boys who had been their bitter enemies earlier in the year accorded them a Guard of Honour. At the foot of the steps the two flag bearers handed the flags to two representatives of next year's senior class in a symbolic act of passing the baton.

The Headmaster and staff were then offerred betal by the outgoing Class (on their own initiative) and a formal taking of leave in the traditional Sri Lankan manner followed. Once the Staff had dispersed the outgoing Class re-entered the Hall where for the next 30 minutes or so the rest of the Middle & Upper Schools bade them farewell. The expression of camaraderie that we saw in the Hall was amazing. Boys who had beaten each other just a few months ago were tearfully embracing each other as though they were best friends parting.

This was one part of the valedictory events of the day. The second followed that evening when the Headmaster gave a formal dinner in the Dining Hall to the outgoing Class together with the Boarding Staff. The speeches made by both boys and masters reflected just how much attitudes had changed and the culture different. The dinner was followed by a brief time of revelry in which the Masters too joined the dance! At the appointed time the Headmaster rang a bell and the boys decently and orderly retired for the night.

After the last exam paper the following morning the boys were packed and ready to go. One final lunch in the Dining Hall took place where unexpectedly the Grade 11s appeared to take leave of the boys who were staying on. It was a moving time for they not only worshipped their teachers (again!) but this time the Teachers were overwhelmed as well. The students nearly brought the building down by a cheer for the School that was rousing to say the least. There were many tears, many bear-hugs and even the few parents who had come to take their children home were caught up in the emotions. When the first batch of boys, including the Head Prefect, walked to the Main Gate to board their vehicles the entire student body practically lined the path and they were waved off like heroes.' [I have attached some photos. We have many more for those who would like to have them.]

As I reflect on what happened I can only thank God for having worked this miracle, a historic series of events. What happened was a sign that a new culture exists at Guru. Even members of staff who have been here for a very long time told me later that they had never witnessed such events at the departure of an outgoing Class. For me it is a vindication of the belief that both Jacques and I share that what this School needs more than anything else is LOVE and lots of it. Some of the boys who left were boys who we had been advised to sack when we took over the School. These 'bad' boys turned out ok in the end, proving that everyone has the capacity to change if given the chance and the right opportunities to do so. Naming the biggest of our three horses Charity (Love) was apt for that is what was needed. The power of love was amply shown last weekend and I for one thank God for all that was possible. We can only pray that God will give those of us who are here the strength to persevere in love, sometimes amidst challenges that seem incapable of being transformed by love. When the history of the School is updated the Class of 2007 will be remembered above everything else for the healing and reconciliation with which they left this School - no vandalism, no violence, no mayhem! Healing and Reconciliation. May this be the model for the future years as well.

Many of you have been praying for Guru. Thank you. Keep praying, for there is still much that has to be done, many attitudes that need to be changed.

'For all that is past - Thanks! For all that is yet to be - Yes!'

With warm regards,

Marc B.

Rev. Marc Billimoria
S. Thomas' College
Tel/Fax: (0094) 572245202

The National Flag being carried by the Head Prefect
The Senior Sacristan carries the College Flag leading Prefects and school leavers
The National and College Flags taken over by students of Year 10
Staff leaving the hall
The Class of 2007 pose with the staff

About us
Reports and Recommendations
Newsletters & Circulars
Articles / Memoirs / Reflections
News of Old Boys
Gallery of Events
Notice Board / Calendar
Contact us