The History of St.Anthony's College, Kayts

The phenomenal progress of the residents of the islands is intimately linked with St.Antony's College, Kayts. The College is located in a natural surrounding in the midst of the town flanked by two arms of the Jaffna lagoon in the western and northern sides. Fresh air blows over the college providing a soothing environment. The ancient harbour, numerous catholic churches, the convent and presbitery, the market, the bank and the post office are all situated in close proximity to the College.

It is Rev.Fr.Boisseau (OMI), whose name is permanently etched in the memory of all Antonians , was a  pious and obedient, priest .With far vision  he founded the college and built it adjoining Kayts St.Antony's Church in 1872. As a Parish Priest, with a dream of providing the children of his Parish the benefit of English education, inaugurated the College with the blessings of the extremely understanding and fully cooperative Episcopal Superior, the vicar apostolic of Jaffna, Rev.Fr.Christopher Bonjean (OMI). 

This is remarkably the first Anglo-vernacular school started out side Jaffna peninsula by the catholic mission. The people of Kayts supporting this enthusiastic  educationist , magnanimously donated six acres of land for the school building and play ground.

Rev.Fr.Boisseau's original idea, it would appear, was to entrust the administration of his School to the Brothers of the Society of  St.Joseph(SSJ), an indigenous teaching order that had been founded in 1864. However the non availability of these brothers in sufficient number compelled him to place the school on the hands of a pious layman Mr.M.Swampillai one of the main promoter of the educational movement here. This exemplary catholic,  gave  a son to the church in the person of the Rev.Fr.Stanislaus (OMI) who became the Rector of the College later.

After many vicissitudes, in 1896, the Parish Priest of the Islands Division, Fr.J.N.Sandrasegara, prevailed upon his Bishop, late Rt.Rev.Dr.Henry Joulain (OMI), to hand the school over to the Josephian fraternity. By the time the school was a small vernacular school  but the Brothers soon brought it to a footings of efficiency, and it was registered on an Anglo Vernacular basis in 1907.The people of the area very much appreciated the rapid growth of the college under the guidance of the SSJ Brothers. The brothers gained a very high reputation among the people for their great service. Remarkably the brothers acquired a ten- acres plot of land adjoining the  college premises where they  built  a commodious house and  planted many coconut trees.

The memories of great principals such as Br. Pakyanathan , Br.Simon,  Br.Cyril Ferdinand are still fresh in the minds of the past students. In 1907 the college was registered as the English school and  the school building  was extended in 1909.The total numbers of the students increased and number on roll in 1918 was  250 .

Year 1921 witnessed the division of the school into an English and Tamil section. The extended school building housed the Tamil class .The Tamil school was headed by Br. Peter with Mr. Gnanapragasam and Mr. Rasaiah as his assistance. Br. Peter Paul was appointed headmaster of the English school and among the lay members of the staff were Mr.Gnanapragasam, Mr. Rayappu and Arulanandam. The main building of the college with its beautiful portico facing St.Anthony's Church and the historic Kayts harbour was completed during the administration of Br.Pakyanathar as the principal. Among the SSJ Brothers Br.Philip, Br.Linus, Br.Siman, Br.Pedrupillai, Br.Titus and Br.Alexis are also well remembered as the educationists who served  at St.Anthony's until 1938.

The late thirties brought a new era into the history of the college. That was the handing over management of the college to the Priest during the period of the then Bishop Rt.Rev.D.R.Guyomar. Rev.Fr.A.S.Joseph , the first Priest Principal of the new era  had a magnetic personality He was one of the three young priests   hand picked the bishop Guyomar  for university education in U.K. Fr.Joseph, born in Sillalai was a saintly a man of sterling qualities, and  stern disciplinarian. He was a man skilled in administration. He died in 1948.

After his untimely death, Fr.William Jesuthasan took over and served as the rector till 1950. Fr.Arulnesan continued his good work with equal vigour and dedication and served till 1952. It should be noted that Fr.Arulnesan, was responsible for the initiation of the science laboratory.He was transferred to St. Patricks College and then Fr.A.J.Karunaharar, his successor completed  the building of the science lab. He also put up the Karunakarar block .

Fr. Karunaharar  was succeeded by FR.P.J.Jeevaratnam who put up another new office block, known as Jeevam's Hall. During his period he promoted science education by the recruiting Indian science graduates for the teaching of Physics, Chemistry, Botany and Zoology.

As a result the College was hailed as a leading institute for science education throughout  northern province . Fr.Jeevaratnam was transferred to St. Patrick's College in 1960.

In 1961, a drastic change in the administration of the private schools was brought in the country and private schools administrated by the various denominations except grade 1 and grade 11 schools were taken over by the state. His Lordship the Bishop of Jaffna opted to retain five schools including St.Anthony's College, Kayts  among the186 schools that were being administred by the catholic mission.

In the period of 1961 Rev.Fr.S.Stanislaus who was the son of Mr.M.Swampillai, the first headmaster, became the Rector of the school. He was a dynamic priest full of enthusiasm and he was able to create a new era of participating in almost all the extra curricular activities of the school including athletics, physical education, soccer, and basketball were distinguished activities. The school teams won a number of awards  in various competitions in local as well as district level. Fr.Stanislaus, left the school to take up the Rectorship of St.Henry's College, Illavalai in 1964 Rev.Fr. M.J. Mariampillai succeeded him. His stewardship was marked by religious activities, literary pursuit and social work.

In 1969 Rev.Fr.Alfred Benjamin accepted the stewardship of the college. He was a pious and mild mannered priest. He was gifted to celebrate the centenary of the college in 1972. It was he who promoted the OBA, Kayts and the OBA, Colombo branch. He also established the Emilianuspillai Technical Institute  to promote technical education for the students of the area.

In this period, the sudden death of His Lordship Bishop Emilianuspillai, the proprietor of the school, occurred .It was a severe blow since this posed new problems in maintaining the school as private. In 1973 Rev.FR.J.A.Stanislaus as returning from his higher education in U.K.once again became the Rector of the school. His stay was very short.

Rev.Fr.B.Soosaipillai was appointed Rector after him. He took great efforts to  equip the laboratory. The Advance Level classes in Arts, Commerce and Science were introduced in 1974. Fr.Soosaipillai left the school in 1976.

The period beginning in 1976, in many ways, is a remarkable one. The administration of the school was given to a  lay man, Mr.S.A.E.Ratnarajah. He was the principal of the school for the next 19 years. In 1974, as a result of the appeal it his Lordship by the parents, girls were also admitted to the Advanced Level classes of the college. Ladies were also appointed to the teaching staff for the first time. On the 1st of February 1978, the college was handed over to the state and became a director-managed school.

On the occasion of the handing over of the college ,the then bishop Rt.Rev.Dr.B.Deogupillai in a letter he wrote to the government  insisted that  St.Anthony's College, should always be maintained with all facilities as in the past and it should be primarily for the catholic children of the areas. He also stressed to the ministry of education that the principal of the school should always be a Roman Catholic and a good number of catholic teachers in the staff should always be maintained. And he also emphasized that the school premises should be used for the purpose for which they were intended. Otherwise they  were  to  revert to the present proprietor.

In 1979, in an another remarkable event, St.Anthony's College was upgraded as a 1AB school .With that status in the Kayts A.G.A division, it was declared as a popular school of the Islands. With the introduction of the cluster system, the Kayts cluster was founded in 1986. St.Anthony's College was as the core school of the cluster and the neighbouring ten schools joined it.

In June 1990, as the civil war started in the North and East of the country, the people in Kayts vacated their residences and the school was closed. On the 6th of August when the Airforce bombers bombed  Kayts town, a bomb fell on the college administrative block and it was compleyely destroyed.  As most of the displaced people were temporarily living at Suruvil, St.Anthony's College was reopened there in a private house with a good numbers of students and teachers in November. While the school was functioning here students from other cluster schools were also admitted. On the 26th of April 1991 when the army operation started towards Saravanai the people were again  displaced , this time to Jaffna.

In Jaffna , St.Anthony's College started functioning at Jaffna Central College as an afternoon school  together with students from other cluster schools . In January 1992, with the good will of St.John's College management St.Anthony's College moved into St. Johns Academy at Chundikuli, Jaffna. All  cluster schools students had full day classes.  There the students continued their education successfully and achieved remarkable success in many fields.

In May 1995 on the retirement of Mr.S.A.E.Ratnarajah,  Mr.K.Ratnasingam was appointed as principal. In November 1995, when the Srilankan forces occupied Jaffna, the college had to face yet another displacement and  it continued to function as a displaced school at Ushan Ramanatha M.V. for a very short period.

In may 1996, when people were permitted to get back to Island, but the college buildings had been so severely damaged it was not possible to conduct classes. Therefore the College was reopened at the primary section of the Little Flower Girls M.V at Karaompon.  In March 3rd 1997,with temporary repairs made to the badly damaged college buildings, St.Anthony's College put its foot back on its soil to celebrate its 125th year celebration in pomp and glory.

This date is remarkable in another way. The college, which was managed by the clergy for more than a century, got a priest in its teaching staff. The buildings which was badly damaged was rebuilt to its former architectural beauty with the assistance of the G.T.Z. which selected St.Anthony's College, Kayts as one of the eight schools selected for the rehabilitation in the first phase. Few people know that this was due to a chance encounter between a member of the team and Bishop Rt.Rev.Dr.Thomas Savundranayagam was the reason for St.Anthony's being selected for rehabilitation. Incidentally the name of the member  was Bishop. What a coincidence !

The Antonian family is always grateful to the foreign aid given by the German government through the G.T.Z organization for the rehabilitation of their Alma Mater.

On the promotion of the Principal Mr.K.Ratnasingam's responsibility as the Assistant Director of Education to the Kayts Divisional Education Office,  Fr.J.A.Jesuthas who joined the staff in 1997 and serving as the Deputy Principal, took over the college as the Rector. It should be recorded that after the period of 25 years of lay man leadership the college was once again headed by a priest to lead the Antonian family to gain its lost fame and glory in the 3rd Millennium.
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