The 1960s can be described as a decade which brought about revolutionary changes in the educational sphere in Sri Lanka . During this period, most of the better schools in the island which were privately managed came under state control. These schools which hitherto catered to the elite, now opened out to the masses. With the numbers of students increasing, the administration became difficult and unwieldy. As a result, standards began to deteriorate in most of the schools which were taken over.
Richmond was an exception. While it expanded and progressed to suit the changing needs, it still maintained its traditional high standards. This was due in large measure to the astute leadership and administrative capability or Mr. D. G. Welikala, the first principal of Richmond under state management. Though he had no previous links with the school, he was quick to learn its traditions. Perhaps, he would have been acquainted with the culture of Richmond through his old principal at Ananda, Mr. P. de S. Kularatne, who was an illustrious old boy of Richmond .
Mr. Welikala had his preliminary education at Ananda College , Colombo . After obtaining his B. Sc. ( London ), he served for some time on the staff of Maliyadeva college, Kurunegala, before being appointed as principal of Richmond .
Mr. Welikala himself attributed two reasons for Richmond so successfully facing to the challenges of transition. Firstly, it fulfilled the government’s objective by transforming itself from a missionary school serving a limited section of the population, to a government school, administered within the framework of government policy and catering to the wider public.
Secondly, while it adapted to the changing social structure, the school never lost touch with its historical traditions and culture. One of the biggest problems which the school faced immediately after the take over was the provision of extra accommodation necessitated by the increased intake.
Mr. Welikala displayed tremendous ability and efficiency by putting up a number of multi storeyed buildings in a very short span of time. He personally directed the construction of these buildings, and it stands to his credit that they were built in such a way so that the aesthetic beauty of the surroundings was unaffected.
During this period the Methodist vernacular school on Richmond Hill merged with Richmond .
Mr. Welikala introduced to Richmond the comprehensive school system which was prevalent in England at this time. Under this set up, the school became a centre for many activities not found in any other school in the island. Carpenters, masons and barbers were trained, and a farm was started with the aid of the Asia Foundation. A bakery too was installed in the school premises.
The school curriculum itself was expanded. Commerce and technical subjects were started in the secondary section. Facilities for science education were considerably improved. A separate laboratory for the Advanced Level students and two other laboratories for the students in the 0. L. classes and the junior section were established. Laboratory Assistants too were appointed to each of these labs.
Mr. Welikala was a great lover of art and aesthetics. During his period, an open air auditorium and an open air lab were constructed within the school premises, and many sculptures and monuments came up, beautifying the environment.
The College farm functioned as a unit of this science section, providing practical training in such subjects as Botany and Agriculture. Richmond was in fact the first school in the island to include Agriculture in the school curriculum.
The introduction of the Class Record Book was another innovation of Mr. Welikala, which was adopted in schools throughout the country. A record book maintained by a teacher at Richmond was even displayed in Parliament as an example.
The then Minister of Education, Mr. Iriyagolla, commended Richmond on many occasions as an exemplary school, making evident the high position Richmond held during that period among all schools in the island.
Another remarkable feature of the principal-ship of Mr, Welikala was that three teachers who served on his staff, later became principals of Richmond . They are Mr. S. Kariyawasam, Mr. B. Suriarachchi and Mr. S. llayperuma.
Mr. Welikala death on 10th January 1994 was sad news to every one who was near and dear to the College. The funeral was attended by a large number of Richmondites bestowing full honors with the College flag on the occasion.