Reverend Dushantha Rodrigo, the new Headmaster of S. Thomas’ Preparatory School, Kollupitiya from 1 January, brings with him a wealth of experience as chaplain and teacher, having served in different parts of the island.
An Old Thomian, having had received his entire education at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, he sees his Prep School posting as a challenge not to be missed.
It was an opportunity to start anew since he knew only a few students of Prep School, in contrast to S. Thomas’ College where he had taught and been chaplain, and in parishes he had worked where many of the children were Thomians at Mount.
“So going into a school that did not know you and you did not know as a school I felt gave me an opportunity to make an impact,” Fr. Dushantha, 46, says. Already, he has thrown a challenge to the staff, encouraging them to pay more attention to individual students.
“A class is made up of children at different levels of understanding, aptitude, capabilities and strengths,” he explains. “And, while you are teaching a class, you must not forget the individual student - that there may be students who need the space to grow faster - and are capable of doing that - and others who are much slower. But, at the same time, while working with different levels of students, you give students equal exposure.”
Teachers must not only help students grow and acquire knowledge but also build character. “For that, you’ve got to be deeply involved with students,” he says. “You have to take the child seriously, you enable the child to grow, look at his potential and work to bring out the best in him. And if there is a sincere effort and the child knows there is a sincere effort, the child will definitely respond.”
Fr Dushantha recalls how he learnt early on, when he began working with children, that students “needed a friend - that you have got to convert yourself to being a chaplain, tutor, ground master and friend.”
Working with young children is a partnership between the school and the parents, he believes.
“If we are to bring out the best in the child, there has to be a healthy relationship between school and home that works towards a common goal of preparing the child for life,” he says.
“I told parents we are not doing it alone, there can’t be indifference on the part of parents, so that this partnership must be strengthened and grow in a health manner.”
Fr. Dushantha believes a small school like Prep can be turned into a model to promote integration, with children of different ethnic communities learning and being sensitive to each other’s languages. A language lab is something he would like to start along with a maths lab where students lagging behind others can learn at their own pace from another teacher in the school itself.
“Within this year we would like to stop students from going for extra tuition outside school,” he says. “For me, tuition is like a bed sore - often you get bed sores due to bad nursing. Today, the whole time students are running from one tuition class to another. They come home dead beat. That should change and they should use that time - and have the space - to develop other skills outside the school curriculum.”
Improving Prep School’s sports activities, right now constrained by a lack of space, is another aim. He wants to make better use of available space and is thinking of having a badminton court and a basketball court and even developing the playground for school rugby. In most schools he has served as chaplain, Fr. Dushantha has also worked as a teacher, usually teaching Christianity and English.
Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo was ordained a deacon in 1994 with his first posting in Holy Trinity Nuwara Eliya and Christ Church Ragala from where he was transferred to S. Thomas’ College Gurutalawa as chaplain. Another outstation posting was at St. Mary’s Convent, Matara which he served for about two years before being sent as a Vicar to Christ Church in Mutwal.
In 2008 he became Vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Polwatte and chaplain of Bishop’s College. Four years later he went as Chaplain of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, where he taught several upper school classes and also had a brief stint as Acting Warden.
Next, he became parish priest at SS Mary and John Church Nugegoda, a post he will continue to hold for the time being while serving as Headmaster of Prep School.
Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo will be inducted as the Headmaster of S. Thomas’ Preparatory School, Kollupitiya at a special service to be held on Monday, 26Th January 2015 at 8.00.a.m. at the school premises, where the Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Diloraj Canagasabey will be the Celebrant.