The Ceylon School for the Blind turns 100
The Ceylon School for the Blind comprising three schools, the School
for the Blind and the School for the Deaf Ratmalana, and Nuffield School
for the Deaf and Blind Kaithady Jaffna, celebrates 100 years of selfless
service to the deaf and blind this year. A series of programs have been
planned to commemorate the historic event.
Computer assisted teaching
The celebrations commenced with a Centenary Walk held in February
where a large number including the Bishop of Colombo participated and a
well attended variety entertainment "Siyavasaka Ridmaya" was held at
Ladies College. The main centenary celebrations will be held on June 17
at the school premises Ratmalana with a series of events starting with a
Service of thanksgiving at 8 a.m. followed by the issue of a special
commemoration stamp and an educational, arts and crafts exhibition by
The School for the Deaf and Blind initially started as one school,
was founded by Miss Mary Chapman, a missionary belonging to the Church
of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZMS).
In response to her appeal for funds, many well wishers gave donations
generously - worthy of mention is the gift of A.J.R. de Soysa who,
within hours of the appeal, offered a free site of six acres at
Kandawala where the School for the Blind is located. Miss Chapman rented
a small building at Dehiwala and started the school in 1912 with just
four children; by 1913, it increased to 18 deaf and 6 blind children. In
July 1914, the school was shifted to Ratmalana. In 1926 an additional
four acres of land adjoining the existing land where the Deaf School is
now located was given to the school by Abdul Caffoor.
In 1933 the CEZMS, which hitherto managed the school, decided to hand
over the management of the school to the Diocese of Colombo. A Board of
Governors, later named the Board of Trustees, with the Bishop as
Chairperson, was appointed to manage the school.
In 1945 with the permission of the Education Department the Ratmalana
School was divided into two and named as the School for the Deaf and
School for the Blind.
The school at Kaithady Jaffna in the Tamil medium started initially
with a generous gift from Viscount Nuffield, and just 18 students; it
expanded quite rapidly. During the war, the school had to be evacuated
to St. John's College. With temporary restoration of peace in 2003,
extensive repairs were carried out to school buildings with aid from
international aid agencies and the school moved back to Kaithady towards
the end of 2004. Since the war ended in 2009, the school has been
All three schools provide 600 students with an education, which
follows the syllabus used in government schools.
In addition, food and lodging, healthcare, recreational facilities,
and vocational training are provided free of charge. Though managed by
the Diocese of Colombo, the students are mostly non-Christians and all
facilities are given to them for their religious activities.
The students are taught up to the GCE 'O' Level; while deaf students
find it difficult to pass the 'O' Level examination, many in the School
for the Blind succeed at the 'O' Levels, and they proceeded to
mainstream schools to do their 'A' Levels. Some of them have entered
universities and well over 100 have obtained their degrees. There have
also been a few who have become lawyers and have found work in various
At the School for the Blind nearly 70 p.c. of the students are
partially sighted and have benefited from computer assisted classroom
teaching and multi-media techniques. The library is equipped with vision
enhancing equipment while the totally blind have to rely on Braille
A Braille printing section has been established, to enable school
text-books and other books to be translated to Braille. In the School
for the Deaf, classroom teaching employs both sign language and lip
While sign language is effective for communication within the deaf
community, it has been found to isolate the hearing-impaired. The school
has now introduced Computer Assisted Classroom Teaching and Multimedia
Vocational training which traditionally included training in fields
such as pottery, weaving, basket weaving, sewing, carpentry, printing,
hair dressing, and other handicrafts such as patchwork, card making,
vegetable carving, need to be updated to include more job oriented
skills such as tailoring, computer graphics, modern printing and
catering. The school invites the public and private sector participants
and stakeholders to help them develop such courses.
As in any other school, sports such as cricket and athletics and
other extra-curricular activities are given much emphasis. While
inter-house sports activities take place, the children also participate
in competitions at zonal, provincial, and national level. Students have
even been sent abroad for sports competitions.
Drama and music are very much encouraged. The School for the Blind at
Ratmalana and the Blind unit at Kaithady have western and oriental
school bands. Music is taught to the students and the students of the
Blind School at Ratmalana have even won prizes in Western music and
The students are also taught dancing and drama and dance troupes have
been formed in both the Deaf and Blind schools.
The blind students at Ratmalana and Kaithady have produced and held
public drama performances. Cubs, Scouts, Little Friends; Guides are very
active and participate in rallies at provincial and national levels and
give the opportunity for students to interact with others and engage in
community service projects
Today there are many schools in the island, modelled on the Ratmalana
and Kaithady schools. The deaf and blind are no longer called
"disabled", but "differently abled" as they have demonstrated that being
handicapped and impaired visually or through hearing deficiencies is no
barrier to their development as they have shown their capabilities and
talents in different ways.