When a determined, selfless and committed German Educationist selected our country to start a Buddhist Girls’ School over a hundred years ago, she may not have foreseen the kind of challenges her school would face in the 21st century.
At a time, when the people of our country were blindly imbibing western customs, habits, dress code etc Mme Higgins was bold enough to initiate a concept of bringing the west and the east to work together in friendly co-operation. She encouraged her students to uphold their traditional customs, habits and culture while also teaching them western etiquette and style. English was the chosen medium of education and religious activities an integral part of the school curriculum. Discipline was undoubtedly a hallmark of the school, but equally important was individuality of the students and appreciation of the different strengths of each girl child.
‘All work and no play’ was never encouraged in school while the ‘goody two shoes’ and the ‘tom boys’ coexisted in perfect harmony and joy. The same teachers were both loved and hated like the change of the weather, while punishment was taken in its stride with a giggle or a tear. Parents never interfered with school’s decisions except when they wanted to discuss the child’s general progress. Pranks and mischief was always strife. Boyfriends were the most important topic of discussion and love letters freely floated inside books and files within the school walls. Most of us would have been caught for one ‘bad deed’ or another and taken to task. Did anybody complain and hate the school for any of this? I think not.
Did this formula work all these years? Ask the thousands of proud Musaeusites who have walked through the halls of this illustrious school and the answer would be an overwhelmingly positive one.
I too belong to the 3rd generation of Musaeusites, as my grandmother was a grand old lady who was lucky enough to study under Mme Higgins and wouldn’t hear of any other school but Musaeus College when it came to my secondary education. As memories of my school were so pleasant and fun, I am simply appalled and distressed at what is being said and written about it by a few who know and most who don’t. I haven’t stopped thinking what Mme Higgins would have felt if she was alive today. She would surely be a very sad lady.
Kavindi taking her life within the confines of her own school was a complete shock to us all. This undoubtedly surprised and jolted the whole country. As a mother I can feel the pain of her parents. My heart bleeds for them. I can equally empathise with the teachers and students who are numb with grief and shocked at this most unfortunate incident. Unfortunately the present day students are facing the wrath of it all, for no fault of theirs. Many unanswered questions. Many allegations and many more misinterpretations. Most of which are untrue and unwarranted.
Mme Higgins would never have wanted this in her school. She would be very sad that an issue this sensitive was not handled equally sensitively by the school. The school has yet to make a statement to put the facts straight, knowing very well that the facts are being grossly misrepresented. Failure to do so at the outset has led to many different interested parties exploit the situation to each one’s desire. I don’t believe this is what Mme Higgins would have expected of the school authorities if she was alive today.
Journalists have made this a selling story, so have many others with vested interests and some who have axes to grind, due to personal reasons. This has given an ideal canvass for the total defaming of the school.
I for one know that ninety percent of the stories that are doing the rounds are false. I know for a fact that the school did not drive Kavindi to her fatal act of taking her life. I also know that the school never planned nor intended to make statements to bring disrepute and shame on young Kavindi, and/or her group of friends. I know that the other two girls didn’t try to harm themselves either as reported. But how the rumours took flight was simply disgusting. All because the school let it happen! Nobody took the responsibility of laying bare the truth. Simply sat back and watched. The result is a tarnished name for a school that has withstood the test of time. Is this what Mme Higgins would have wished for the school she and generations of dedicated teachers so lovingly nurtured? Methinks she would be distraught by the lack of foresight displayed at the highest levels.
Would the school continue to keep quiet hoping that time will heal everything while the newspapers keep making this a media circus and the e mail infection getting to pandemic levels? Amidst all this chaos, I sincerely hope that the Board of Trustees is hatching a robust damage control plan in silence! I also hope every member of the Board of Trustees (which comprises only Males) introspect on their ability to rise to the challenges facing a ‘Girl’s’ school and stay true to the vision of Mme Higgins?
I for one believe that this is the moment for the school community to do a thorough soul searching and see how it could bring back the virtues that Mme Higgins envisioned for the school which undoubtedly can be adapted to the modern day challenges.
More open dialogue? More interaction between the students / teachers/parents/past pupils? Appointment of a group of professionals who could act as advisors on matters beyond mere education? A Better mix of educationists, intellectuals and a significant female representation on the Board of Trustees? Better in house medical care and first aid facilities? Professional counseling for both children and teachers on an ongoing basis? Better public relations strategies? The list can go on.
There are thousands of past pupils like me, desperate to help restore the virtues of our school. We hope our views and contribution can be harnessed to strengthen the school’s standing and rekindle the spirit of Mme Higgins, which has sustained the school over the past 118 years.