Zahira’s first 100 years


Zahira College was “restored” to Maradana Mosque committee with effect from 01st January, 1967. The Muslim Community should ever remain grateful to the Maradana Mosque Committee and the Old Boys Association headed by Mr. A. C. M. Ameer, QC for successfully campaigning against the “take over” of the College and for the successful legal steps taken to win back the College for the Muslim community.


Mr. S. L. M. Shafie Marikar assumed duties as Principal Zahira College on the 1st of January, 1967. 1967 was the 75th Anniversary year of the College and celebrations were organised by the College OBA and PTA. In his report presented at the 75th Anniversary Prize Giving held on 5.8.1968 with Mr. Dudley Senanayake, Prime Minister as Chief Guest, the Principal remarked: “Zahira College came under government control on 21st August, 1961. We got back the school as from 01st January, 1967. This six-years interruption had very sad and unexpected results. In January, 1967 when the school once more came under Muslim management, conditions were indeed chaotic and the school resembled a deserted bottle field. To crown it all a mob of 1500 students schooled in indiscipline, frustration and unhappy was ready to riot at the drop of a pin. When I took charge of the school as Principal on 01st January, 1967 I was confronted with a heart breaking task. All around I saw neglect, disorder and indiscipline. I had no organization – only one teacher on the staff and not one rupee in the school funds. I had inherited instead a heavy liability – 1500 students to be sorted out into classes and work provided for them on a Time Table. Against all this on the other hand I had one great heartening asset – the solid golden goodwill of the Muslim Community, our well wishers and Old Boys. With their support within the short period of three weeks we had the staff, the money and the school running smoothly.

This to some extent describes the position in which the school was when it was restored on 01.01.1967 quite a contrast indeed to the orderly, well-disciplined, adequately staffed and well-equipped school left behind by Dr. T. B. Jayah to his successor Mr. Azeez in August, 1948. However within the shortest possible time the necessary teaching and non-teaching staff for an entire institution were recruited and all activities of the College – religious, academic and sports organized. Arrangements were made to commence one by one the completion of the building projects left unfinished during the previous two decades commencing with the hostel.

Priority was necessarily given to the measures to improve speedily the discipline of the school. Curricular changes were made to ensure an Islamic environment in the school. Attendance at Luhar prayers at the correct time (Assar Jammaath), termination of all sports practices in time for Maghrib prayers, attendance for Jummah service on Fridays and two periods of class-work thereafter, hostel time table centred round the observance of five times daily prayers, religious talks in the mosque monthly after Luhar prayers – were some of the steps taken to ensure Islamic discipline. Prefects to be “models” of good behaviour to the rest.

With the freezing of the English stream in keeping with the policy of the government, Sinhala – medium classes were introduced; Tamil – medium classes extended to GCE (A/L) classes.

  • In 1968 six of the students passed the University Entrance Examination. From 1970 onwards admission to the University came to be based on District quotas. This definitely affected adversely the admission of students from Colombo District even though they scored high aggregates. However even under this scheme Zahira had a fair number of admissions year after year.
  • In 1972 Scholarship scheme to award ten to fifteen scholarships to GCE (A/L) students for two years with free hostel facilities was established. This was a great boom to Muslim students particularly from the schools in the outstations which lacked A/L classes.
  • In 1971 Practical Workshop Building was completed.
  • ON 3.5.1972 Zahira College was able to have its own Printing Press – very few schools can boast of Subsequently “The Crescent” re-appeared as a monthly publication as from July, 1978.
  • January, 1973 – classes in printing and weaving were started.
  • 1975 – Batik printing was introduced.
  • Thanks to the OBA which provided the necessary building for a Motor Garage. Motor Mechanism was introduced as a subject on 8.1.1976. Radio Electronics and Gemology followed.
  • September, 1977 – The Library Building was completed.
  • The Tamil Society produced “The Crescent” in Tamil in 1978. This publication produced by Mr. A. M. Nahiya was well received.

As a result of more student seeking admission to the College from the outstation the number of Boarders increased to over 200 including 60 Junior Boarders. Work on the new hostel building – of which only the basement had been completed in 1950, was taken in hand on 12.03.1967 and the new hostel building was declared open on 11th of July, 1969 by Hon. Dudley Senanayake, Prime Minister.

In the meantime arrangements were made for necessary legislation to be introduced for the incorporation of the Board of Governors. Through the enthusiasm and dedication of Al Haj M. Falil A Caffoor MP the Board of Trustees and Mosque Jammath were convinced of the need to broad base the management of the College and Mr. Falil Caffoor gave notice on 29.09.1969 of a bill to incorporate the Board of Governors.

Subsequently as the Bill lapsed due to dissolution of Parliament, on 26th November, 1976 Mr. M. H. M. Naina Marikar, MP presented a Bill to incorporate the Board.

In the meantime the 85th Anniversary Celebration of the College took place from 9 to 17 October, 1977 to commemorate the 10th Anniversary since the “Take-Back” of the College from the Government. The celebrations included on international Islamic Seminar which was attended by several distinguished educationists and intellectuals of the contemporary Muslim world.

On 18.9.1980 Hon. Prime Minister R. Premadasa declared open the Orabi Pasha Memorial Building, an income-earning project financed largely by Messrs. Jafferjee Brothers.

In the meantime work on a 16 classrooms block was commenced on 29.5.1981 and eight of the classrooms were occupied as from 1.1.1982.

As from 1.1.1980 Zahira College became a state aided non-fee levying private school, the government deciding to meet the cost of salaries of “eligible” staff.

During the period of 1967 to 1982 sports activities showed steady progress. Hockey was introduced for the first time and great improvement was shown in Athletics, Boxing Cricket, Rugger, Soccer, Wrestling, Table Tennis, Badminton and Swimming. The Scout Troop was reorganized.

The Old Zahirian’s Sports Club was inaugurated in 1968 with A. H. A. Sameed as President and S. M. M. Namiz as Secretary.

In 1967 B. Amit captained the Colombo North Schools Cricket Team to Victory in the Observer Cup Tournament. T. F. Samath represented Ceylon at the Asian Youth Tournament in Bangkok in 1967. In 1969 Ameer Mukthar represented Ceylon at the same championship tournament.

1969 M. J. Bawa and M. Ameera Mukthar played for Ceylon Schools in Soccer Tournament in India. In Soccer Zahira College won the Brazil Cup for five consecutive years from 1967-1971. In Boxing Zahira won the Stubs Shield for three successive years 1969-1971 and Zahira had the unique distinction of being the only College, club or institution in Ceylon to become both Juvenile Adult Champions for two successive years. All this was due to the dedication of Coach M. D. Fonseka.

Branches of the OBA were organized in Puttalam, Dharga Town and Kurunegala.

In the meantime the Zahira College, Board of Governors (Incorporation) Act No. 18 of 1982 was certified on the 20th of May 1982. When the Maradana Mosque Committee made arrangements to hand over the management and administration to the new Board of Governors, Mr. S. L. M. Shafie Marikar retired from 1.7.1982 and the new Board took over as from 9.7.1982 with Mr. A. C. M. Ameer, QC as first Chairman. Mr. M. S. Allapitchai continued to function as Acting Principal. When the new Board took over on 9.7.1982 the amount laying to the credit of the College was Rs. 1,691,322.90 and with the donation of US$ 30,000, amounting to Rs. 600,000/- received through the former Principal, the total amount available to the Board was nearly 2.3 million, besides the income from Orabi Pasha Building, Motor Garage and Hayleys shares.

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