T B Jaya and the role of minorities, By Dr. Sarath Amunugama

TBJayahI think very few now know of the abysmal level of education among the Muslim community prior to Independence. In fact it would not be wrong to say that at that time Muslim leaders were more interested in training children for commercial activities; education for women was actively discouraged. There were so many barriers to be crossed. So, what Dr. Jayah undertook was a superhuman task. He had to change the mindset of a whole generation of Muslims who did not put so much of emphasis on education. So we can see him as one of the first to receive higher education, to derive a benefit from education and to go to the highest levels of society through education. Having got there he saw the value of that education not only for his community but for all the other communities in this country. That is how he became a teacher at Ananda College.
In that book we have some very interesting anecdotes about Jayah and future left leaders. He taught N M Perera, Philip Gunawardena, Robert Gunawardena and many other Anandians who later joined the LSSP. According to Jayah’s biographer Philip Gunawardena was a bright but difficult student. He challenged his teachers, Mr. P De S Kularatne who was the principal at that time decided to sack him. He told Dr. Jayah, who was then Philip’s teacher, ‘I’ll have to get rid of this boy’, but Jayah had told the Principal, “Sir give him one more chance. If he causes trouble one more time not only will he be expelled, I give you my word, I will give up teaching in this school and find another job”. So on that compassionate plea the Principal gave another chance, and of course we later know what a wonderful and brilliant contribution Philip Gunawardena made. This is in addition to the contribution he made by producing our outstanding and decent collegue Mr. Dinesh Gunawardene. So that was the calibre of person Jayah was and I think all of us will remember great teachers like that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *